Free Study Guide for The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd|
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The next morning Rosaleen brings Lily a birthday cake, which they eat before they go into town. Rosaleen intends to register to vote--a decision inspired by the recent Civil Rights Amendment. On the way to town, Lily suggests they rest inside her church. Brother Gerald comes into the church and asks Lily why they are there. It is clear that he is not happy Rosaleen is in his church. Rosaleen asks if they can borrow the fans they are using for the rest of their walk. When Brother Gerald says no, Lily tells him Rosaleen was only kidding.
When they get into town Lily and Rosaleen encounter a group of white men who taunt Rosaleen. Rosaleen, who has taken the fans anyway, tells the men she stole them from a church. Rosaleen pours the spit from her snuff jug over the tops of the men’s shoes. The men attack Rosaleen and call the police. The police arrest Rosaleen and tell Lily that they will let her daddy handle her.
This chapter is a classic exposition. The exposition is the section of a novel in which the main characters and main conflict are introduced. Any relevant background information is also given in this section. Here we learn that the protagonist, Lily, leads a miserable life with her father T. Ray. Her life became miserable when her mother, Deborah, mysteriously died. Lily blames herself for Deborah’s death, although she is not sure if she can believe T. Ray’s accusation that it was her fault. Another important conflict that emerges in this chapter is the issue of race in the Civil Rights South. In 1964 Congress passed the Civil Rights Amendment of 1964. The original purpose of the
Amendment was to provide protection for black men from discrimination. However, at the last minute in an attempt to kill the Bill, it was expanded to protect women from discrimination as well. Under this Amendment, Jim Crow laws were abolished and segregation was forced to end. However, as illustrated in this chapter (as well as the rest of the story), many whites were angered by the Amendment and continued to treat African Americans cruelly.
Every chapter in this novel begins with an epigraph, which captures the main theme of the chapter. Each epigraph involves bees, which Kidd uses as a metaphor for humans and their interactions with one another. In this chapter the epigraph discusses how the queen is the unifying force of the community and once she is gone, the worker bees show signs of “queenlessness.” The general theme of this chapter, then, is how Lily’s life has been affected by her mother’s absence. Queen bees will be used as a symbol for mother or mother-figure throughout this novel, which will continue to prod the conflict of Lily’s “motherlessness” and how she learns to substitute other women as mother-figures and thus, overcomes her sense of “queenlessness.”
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. 09 May 2017