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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: LITERARY CRITICISM / NOTES


CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES


CHAPTER 11



Summary


After May’s burial, August shuts down the bee work. She and June take their meals in their rooms and remain distant. Lily wishes she could talk to August to tell her the truth. Instead, Lily spends her time helping Rosaleen in the kitchen and writing in her notebook. Zach visits Lily sometimes. She asks him if things would be different between them if she were black. He tells her that they cannot think of changing their skin, instead they should think of changing the world. Zach constantly talks about race riots and police brutality. Lily yearns for when things were simpler between them.

Just when Lily thinks the mourning will last forever, Rosaleen cooks a big dinner and everyone eats together. For dessert August gives everyone a bottle of Coke and peanuts. August and Lily love to pour their peanuts in the soda. After dinner, everyone gathers around Our Lady. August wedges May’s suicide letter in a crevice on the statue’s neck and says “Well, that’s that.”

Lily, who has been staying in May’s room with Rosaleen, decides to move back into the honey house because she misses having her own room. That night, Lily worries what will happen the next day, when she tells August the truth about why she is there.

Lily wakes the next morning to find August, June and Rosaleen singing in the kitchen and covered with flour. They are baking small cakes for Mary Day. Mary Day is what they call the Feast of the Assumption. May started Mary Day, on which the women reenact the story of Our Lady of Chains. Neil comes in and tells June he was hoping to have a word with her. He wants to take a drive. June says she cannot leave because they are baking. Neil says that he wants to ask her to marry him, for the hundredth time. June agrees and everyone is thrilled. Neil insists they go to the jewelry store that minute to pick out a ring before she changes her mind.


Mary Day is a lot of work. Lily decorates while Zach tidies the yard. June and Neil return with the prettiest ring Lily has ever seen. The Daughters arrive and everyone eats. Following dinner, they reenact the story of Our Lady of Chains. During part of the ceremony in which August talks about the importance of remembering, Lily walks outside because she does not want to remember. Zach follows her. Lily and Zach talk. Lily makes him promise that he will not let the world make him mean. He promises and kisses her. Zach tells her how hard he is going to study so he can be a lawyer and make changes. He tells her that he wants her to know how much he cares for her. He says that even though they cannot be together now, someday he will find her and they will be together then. He gives her his dogtag so she will not forget.


Notes


Chapter Eleven’s epigraph tells us that it takes honeybees millions of trips to make only one pound of honey. The major theme of this chapter is that hard work and persistence pay off.

The first manifestation of this message is June’s acceptance of Neil’s “hundredth” proposal. Had Neil given up on June, whom he truly loves, he would have missed her change of heart.

The second instance of this theme is in Mary Day. The women (and Zach and Otis) work all day for the comparatively short celebration. However, the camaraderie and inspiration that come from these celebrations is exceedingly rewarding.

Finally, we see in Zach a dogged determination to work hard to change the world. Zach firmly believes that if he dedicates his life to change, he will see results. It seems that in ending the chapter with Zach’s promise to Lily, after we have seen the success of hard work throughout the chapter, Kidd is suggesting that Zach’s dreams will be realized.


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