The Secret Life of Bees

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The Secret Life of Bees Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In this chapter’s epigraph, we learn that worker bees, despite their small size, can fly carrying objects that weigh more than they do.
Kidd alludes to the idea of a burden as the psychological baggage that Lily carries with her.
Themes
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Religion, Guilt, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Lying, Storytelling, and Confession Theme Icon
Alone in her room, Lily cries into her pillow. She wonders, “where do I go from here?” She decides to pray before the Virgin Mary statue. Downstairs, she sees the statue, glowing in red candlelight. Lily tries to tell herself not to be angry, but of course this doesn’t work: she’s still angry with Deborah for leaving her as a small child. Furious, Lily throws a tin bucket against the wall. Then she throws jars of honey against the wall. She wishes she could crawl inside the statue “in a secret world of consolation.”
In this passage, Lily tries to use the lessons August has taught her to rid herself of anger. But of course, “rid yourself of anger” is easier said than done. Lily knows she’s being childish, but this knowledge by itself doesn’t do anything to make her feel better. The implicit ingredient in August’s “remedy” for self-hatred is time. As with May’s death, it takes time to get over tragedy.
Themes
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Religion, Guilt, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Lying, Storytelling, and Confession Theme Icon
The next morning, Rosaleen wakes Lily up and asks her what happened downstairs—sheepishly, Lily admits she broke some honey jars. Rosaleen points out that Lily is bleeding—she’s cut herself on a jar without realizing it. Rosaleen takes Lily and repairs the cut with Mercurochrome and a Band-Aid. As Rosaleen treats the wound, Lily tells her what she’s learned about August and Deborah. Rosaleen nods—she didn’t know for sure that Deborah was leaving the family on the day she died, but she’d suspected as much. Rosaleen confesses that she remembers Deborah’s three-month absence (the time when she stayed in the honey house, Lily recognizes). Lily demands to know why Rosaleen never told her about this. Rosaleen replies, sadly, that she didn’t want to hurt Lily.
This is one of the only conversations Lily has with Rosaleen in the second half of the book. It’s heartbreaking to read that Rosaleen knew about Lily’s mother this entire time—she preserved the illusion that Deborah was a wonderful parent. There’s a lot of wisdom in Rosaleen’s decision to do so—one could even say that it illustrates the concept of “spiritual truth” once again. Thus, even if Deborah wasn’t always the best parent, Rosaleen acknowledges that Lily’s idea that Deborah was a good mother has its own importance.
Themes
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Religion, Guilt, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Lying, Storytelling, and Confession Theme Icon
Ceremony and Ritual Theme Icon
In the afternoon, the Daughters of Mary come to the Boatwright house bearing food for the second day of the Assumption celebration. At the Daughters’ potluck, Lily asks August to tell Zach about Deborah as soon as she can—August agrees. For the rest of the afternoon, everyone celebrates the Assumption. Lily is grateful for this, because it takes her mind off her mother.
It’s very telling that Lily wants August to pass on the news of Deborah to Zach. This is a mark of Lily’s closeness with Zach, but also a hint that she’s trying to heal herself of her guilt and hatred—rather than keep the information a secret any longer, she wants to “share the load” with as many trusted friends as possible.
Themes
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Religion, Guilt, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Lying, Storytelling, and Confession Theme Icon
Ceremony and Ritual Theme Icon
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The Daughters gather around the Mary statue and bathe it in honey: each woman covers her hands in the honey and then smears the statue with it. August explains that honey is a preservative—by covering the statue with it, the Daughters are symbolically preserving it for another year. Lily enjoys dipping her hands in honey—she feels like she’s wearing a pair of gloves that she can use to preserve whatever she touches.
This is a symbolically loaded moment. In a chapter that’s largely about the importance of moving on and healing, Kidd makes an important distinction: moving past one’s problems does not mean forgetting about them altogether. On the contrary, it’s important to remember tragedy and “preserve” it for the future, in order to learn from it and appreciate one’s emotional progress.
Themes
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Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Religion, Guilt, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Lying, Storytelling, and Confession Theme Icon
Ceremony and Ritual Theme Icon
Later, August comes to Lily’s room with the blue hat she’s promised Lily. She also gives Lily a box containing some of Deborah’s old things. There’s a mirror, along with an old whale pin and a brush that still contains some of Deborah’s hair. Lily decides to wear the whale pin. August also shows Lily a book of poetry that belonged to Deborah. Lily notices one poem in the book, William Blake’s “The Sick Rose,” and she decides that Deborah was a sick rose.
Lily’s decision to wear the whale pin reflects her attempts to make an uneasy peace with her mother. The poem Kidd alludes to in this section involves a mysterious “invisible worm” that destroys a rose’s happiness. If Deborah is the rose, then the worm who disrupts her “crimson joy” is perhaps T. Ray, or even Deborah’s own depression.
Themes
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Religion, Guilt, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Lying, Storytelling, and Confession Theme Icon
Ceremony and Ritual Theme Icon
The final item August gives Lily is a photograph of Lily—as a baby—with Deborah. Lily is awestruck by this image, because it lets her know that her mother loved her greatly. She remembers praying that May would make it to Heaven and tell Deborah to send a sign that Lily was loved. Clearly, Lily’s prayers have been answered.
Kidd’s novel revolves around ambiguous images, and the photograph of Lily with her mother is yet another. It doesn’t eliminate Lily’s fears altogether, and yet it somehow reassures Lily that she wasn’t a burden to Deborah.
Themes
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Religion, Guilt, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Ceremony and Ritual Theme Icon