Prof. Robert Weber
April 14, 2009
The Secret Life of Bees Critical Essay Sue Monk Kidd has carefully crafted a book rich in symbolism with special emphasis on bees. Each section’s heading features the inner workings of this communal society (Emanuel, Catherine, B. 3). An epigraph at the beginning relating to bees sets the tone for the each chapter. The first chapter epigraph states: The Queen, for her part, is the unifying force of the community; if she is removed from the hive, the workers very quickly sense her absence. After a few hours, or even less, they show unmistakable signs of queenlessness.” Man and Insects.
The Queen bee is the novel’s symbol of a mother figure and is used throughout Lily’s journey for identity and the conflicts she faces in resolving her “motherlessness” or “queenlessness.”
Here we find Lily, an emotionally lost little girl who longs for a mother’s love. Her life has been dramatically affected by her mother’s absence. The fact that her mother died when she was four and the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death has left her in need of emotional healing. However, she isn’t afforded the opportunity as her father, T Ray, is angry and abusive and simply not there for her emotionally. She suffers from flashbacks of her mother’s death and feels she is somehow responsible. It is not just the mother's absence that haunts Lily as she grows up; it is the fuzzy memory of the circumstances of her mother's death that makes Lily secretly wonder if she is forgivable, lovable, good. (Kephart p 61). Lily is like a bee without a queen and is discontented and unhappy. The bees that visit Lily at night cause her to long for freedom and during the day she hears them in the walls of her bedroom and “imagined them in there turning the walls into honeycombs, with honey seeping out for me to taste.” (Monk Kidd 12). Honey is the only natural food made without destroying any form of life. Honey is also the
Cited: Emanual, Catherine B. The Archetypal, Mother: The Black Madonna in Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. West Virginia University Philological Papers. (Fall 2005). Monk Kidd, Sue. The Secret Life of Bees. Blakely Merall, Melissa. What is a Blessed Bee? Web. 14 April 2009. Brown, Rosellen. Honey Child. The Women’s Review of Books. April 2009. Kephart, Beth. Book. Literature Resource Center. January February 2002