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Free Study Guide for The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

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THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES: FREE CHAPTER SUMMARY / ANALYSIS


CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES


CHAPTER 5


Summary

The first week at the Boatwright house is a relief for Lily. Lily spends her time in the bee house and Rosaleen spends her time with May. May and Rosaleen hit it off right away. Rosaleen figures out that May hums “Oh! Susanna” when things get tense and she is upset. Lily witnesses May go into fits of crying, whereupon August sends her to the stone wall. Lily loves August and May, but she is unsure of what to think about June. June is frequently unkind to Lily. One night Lily overhears June and August talking about Lily. June insists that Lily must leave because she is white. This is the first time Lily understands what it is like to be disliked for one’s skin color.

Lily takes part in the routine of the women. Each night they eat dinner together and then watch TV in the den. After television, they kneel together around the black Mary and pray. Lily asks August if she is Catholic and August explains that she and her sisters mix Catholicism with their own ingredients. August tells Lily a story that August’s mother used to tell. The story is about a nun named Beatrix who left her convent. When she returned many years later, Beatrix learned that the convent never knew she left because Mary was standing in for her. Lily thinks August is telling her that it is OK that she ran away; all Lily has to do is ask Mary for help.

Lily grows closer to August and hopes that August will love her and want to keep her. August explains May’s sadness to Lily. May was a happy child until her twin sister, April, committed suicide. Now May is frequently emotional and writes her sorrows on pieces of paper which she sticks in her wailing wall.


One night while Lily and Rosaleen lie in their beds, Rosaleen expresses her jealously at the time Lily is spending with August. Lily tells Rosaleen that she is hoping that August will know something about her mother. Lily asks Rosaleen if she thinks it is possible that T. Ray was telling the truth when he said Deborah left her. Rosaleen says she does not know; she only hopes that Lily does not get hurt. That night, Lily goes to May’s wall and places a paper inside it that reads “Deborah Owens.”


Notes


The epigraph of the chapter tells us to imagine that we are small enough to follow a bee into its hive. Thus, the theme of this chapter is Lily’s entrance into the Boatwright household. Lily learns the routine of the Boatwright sisters as well as the work required to make Black Madonna Honey. As Lily settles in, she becomes closer to August and wishes August would allow her to stay forever.

In Chapter Five, Kidd offers an interesting perspective on racism. Lily experiences prejudice based on skin color for the first time in her life. While June’s dislike of Lily is nothing compared with the racial hatred Rosaleen experiences earlier, it makes Lily realize how absurd it is to dislike someone for such an arbitrary reason. This moment of realization helps develop the theme of racism as senseless.

Rosaleen’s jealously is an important characterization. This emotion complicates Rosaleen, who so far has been portrayed primarily as a tough, simple woman. When Rosaleen expresses her emotions, the reader is reminded of the mother-daughter relationship she shares with Lily. Rosaleen feels threatened by Lily’s relationship with August.


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