The Secret Life of Bees

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The Secret Life of Bees Characters

Lily Owens

The Secret Life of Bees is the story of how Lily, a 14-year-old girl from South Carolina, struggles to make sense of her relationship with her mother and father, the black community, and the people… (read full character analysis)

August Boatwright

The head of the Boatwright house in Tiburon, South Carolina, August Boatwright is a strong, charismatic, and enormously wise woman. August raises bees and runs her own business selling honey and beeswax products, and she… (read full character analysis)


Rosaleen is a proud, middle-aged woman who works as a maid for T. Ray and Lily Owens in Sylvan, South Carolina. Shortly after Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, Rosaleen goes into town… (read full character analysis)

Deborah Fontanel Owens

Deborah Owens is T. Ray Owens’s wife and Lily Owens’s mother. She’s arguably the most complex character in the novel: because she died years before the time when the novel is set, she’s… (read full character analysis)

T. Ray Owens

T. Ray Owens is Lily Owens’s father, a harsh, cruel man. Although T. Ray was once kinder and gentler, the sudden death of his wife, Deborah Fontanel Owens, throws him into depression and… (read full character analysis)
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May Boatwright

The youngest and strangest of the Boatwright sisters, May is an odd, mentally disturbed woman who becomes deeply depressed whenever anything tragic happens to anyone. Whenever a tragedy occurs, May writes it down on a… (read full character analysis)

Zachary Taylor / Zach

A handsome, intelligent teenager who works for the Boatwrights. Zach is ambitious, and he plans to become a successful lawyer one day (even though he’s black, and so has many more obstacles to face in… (read full character analysis)

June Boatwright

The sister of May, August, and April Boatwright. Like August, June is an intelligent, educated woman, but where August welcomes Lily into their home with open arms, June is suspicious and contemptuous… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
April Boatwright
The twin sister of May Boatwright, who killed herself at the age of 15.
Clayton Forrest
A prominent lawyer in Tiburon, South Carolina, who gives help and advice to Zachary Taylor and the Boatwrights.
Mrs. Henry
A dedicated teacher who encourages Lily Owens to go to college.
Brother Gerald
A priest in Sylvan, South Carolina, who’s shown to be uncomfortable and even contemptuous around African Americans.
Avery Gaston
The police officer who arrests Rosaleen for “fighting” with the trio of racist white men.
Franklin Posey
A racist white man who fights with Rosaleen, and, it’s suggested, plans to kill her.
A tall, handsome man who repeatedly tries and fails to marry June Boatwright.
Willifred Marchant
A (fictional) famous author, born in Tiburon, South Carolina.
Jack Palance
A (historical) famous movie star of the 50s and 60s, celebrated in the black community for having a black girlfriend.
Eddie Hazelwurst
The jailer in Tiburon, South Carolina.
A legendary Greek keeper of bees who inspired the practice of burying the dead in beehive-shaped tombs.
The daughter of Clayton Forrest.
A friend of Zachary Taylor.
Sugar Girl
One of the Daughters of Mary.
A mythical black slave who, according to the Daughters of Mary, was inspired to break free from his chains after finding a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Lyndon B. Johnson
The President of the United States from 1963 to 1969, responsible for signing into law the Civil Rights Acts, which protected the rights of African Americans.