The Secret Life of Bees

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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 self-hatred, which he takes out on his daughter. Throughout the novel, Kidd shows T. Ray to be a petty, vindictive man, and she contrasts his small-mindedness with Lily’s constantly evolving outlook on life. In the end, Lily’s impressions of T. Ray haven’t changed greatly: she still regards him as a foolish, mean old man. Nevertheless, Lily comes to feel sorry for T. Ray for his misfortunes in life—a clear sign of her maturation.

T. Ray Owens Quotes in The Secret Life of Bees

The The Secret Life of Bees quotes below are all either spoken by T. Ray Owens or refer to T. Ray Owens . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Race, America, and the 1960s Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Secret Life of Bees published in 2003.
Chapter 1 Quotes

I used to have daydreams in which she was white and married T. Ray, and became my real mother. Other times I was a Negro orphan she found in a cornfield and adopted.

Related Characters: Lily Owens (speaker), Rosaleen , T. Ray Owens
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

Lily has a lonely life with her father, T. Ray. In her imagination, she fantasizes about escaping her home and "starting over." For Lily, Rosaleen--the black woman who usually takes care of her--represents a path to escape. As far as Lily can tell, Rosaleen is a proud, confident woman--practically a role model for Lily, who seems neither proud nor confident.

The quotation is important because it suggests Lily's deep need for a maternal figure--a need that trumps the racial mores of the era. Despite the fact that blacks were still treated as second-class citizens in the South during the 1960s (the era in which the novel is set), Lily gravitates to Rosaleen without hesitation. Her need for a mother is so great that she ignores the racist sentiments of her father and friends (although Lily still has a racist worldview at this point). Lily's fantasies of becoming a "negro orphan" also foreshadow the plot of the novel. As we'll see, Lily will run away and join a family of black women.

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Chapter 14 Quotes

In a weird way I must have loved my little collection of hurts and wounds. They provided me with some real nice sympathy, with the feeling I was exceptional. I was the girl abandoned by her mother. I was the girl who kneeled on grits. What a special case I was.

Related Characters: Lily Owens (speaker), Deborah Fontanel Owens , T. Ray Owens
Page Number: 278
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Lily thinks about her mother, Deborah, and her father, T. Ray. She also considers the way her feelings have changed with regard to her parents. Lily comes to the surprising conclusion that she partly enjoyed her own guilt and suffering--after a certain point, she came to relish feeling sorry for herself, because doing so made her feel special.

Lily's epiphany suggests that her pain and guilt regarding her parents is mostly self-imposed. Lily could feel happier if she really wanted to--but on some level she prefers to feel miserable about T. Ray hurting her and Deborah abandoning her. For Lily to realize that her pain is self-imposed is, by definition, the first step in escaping her own pain.

He stood over me. “Deborah,” I heard him mumble. “You’re not leaving me again.” His eyes looked frantic, scared. I wondered if I’d heard him right.

Related Characters: Lily Owens (speaker), T. Ray Owens (speaker), Deborah Fontanel Owens
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of the novel, T. Ray arrives at the Boatwrights' house and tries to forcibly take his daughter, Lily, back to his home, miles away. As T. Ray and Lily wrestle with each other, he speaks Deborah's name and insists that she'll never leave him again. Lily is confused--T. Ray knows perfectly well that Deborah, his wife, is dead and gone.

As Lily comes to realize, T. Ray sees Deborah's "spirit" in Lily--he 's already been abandoned by his wife, and therefore can't stand to be abandoned by his daughter, too. Lily's abrupt departure from T. Ray's life (she ran away) has reminded T. Ray of the feelings of abandonment he had to deal with when Deborah walked out on him. He tracks down Lily and tries to drag her home in a desperate attempt to alleviate his own suffering.

Surprisingly, T. Ray comes across as a sympathetic character in this quotation. He's certainly not a kind, loving man, but he's clearly been going through a lot of sadness--perhaps his anger at Deborah's departure helps explain why he was always so mean to Lily (without excusing his actions). Moreover, T. Ray's behavior shows how dangerous sin can be. T. Ray has allowed Deborah's sin to twist him into a bitter old man. Lily, fortunately has now refused to allow the same thing to happen to her--instead of remaining angry with her mother, Lily forgives her. In an equal act of forgiveness, she forgives T. Ray for his own cruelty, too.

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T. Ray Owens Character Timeline in The Secret Life of Bees

The timeline below shows where the character T. Ray Owens appears in The Secret Life of Bees. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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...of her own, she thinks of the narrator as her child. The narrator’s father is T. Ray —she never calls him “Daddy.” (full context)
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...in Heaven one day. She also thinks about the misery of living with her father, T. Ray —a mean, bitter man. Although he loved his wife, he hasn’t been the same since... (full context)
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...a swarm of bees entering her room, and she runs to wake her father. When T. Ray surveys the narrator’s room, he finds no bees, and angrily tells the narrator—whose name, we... (full context)
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...death, December 3, 1954. Her mother was walking through the house, packing a suitcase, when T. Ray walked in and began arguing with her. Lily overheard their yelling, but can’t remember what... (full context)
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Lily and T. Ray live in the town of Sylvan, South Carolina. Lily is an unpopular child, partly because... (full context)
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The morning after she wakes T. Ray , Lily tries to catch a bee to prove that she wasn’t lying last night.... (full context)
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Lily’s mother was named Deborah, she recalls. Deborah—whose name T. Ray refuses to say anymore—was born in Virginia. Growing up without a mother, Lily had to... (full context)
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...alone for long hours every day. She tries to read books during her job, but T. Ray sometimes sees her reading, and becomes so angry that she’s forced to spend her time... (full context)
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Lily remembers the day when she was 6, and T. Ray found her sticking a nail in his peaches. To Lily’s surprise, T. Ray didn’t punish... (full context)
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Lily tells T. Ray she remembers the day her mother died. Angry and surprised, T. Ray tells Lily to... (full context)
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At dinner that evening, Lily brings up her birthday to T. Ray . She tells him she’d like to have a silver bracelet as a present, but... (full context)
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The next morning, T. Ray orders Lily to go to the peach stand and “do some work.” Lily nods, but... (full context)
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...the news of the blacks in Mississippi who were murdered for registering, asks Rosaleen if T. Ray knows where she’ll be. Rosaleen replies, “T. Ray don’t know nothing.” (full context)
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...him that she’s going to walk into town with Rosaleen to “buy some sanitary supplies.” T. Ray nods, disgusted, as he assumes Lily is talking about “female puberty.” That night, Lily decides... (full context)
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...town, as planned. They walk past the town’s Baptist Church. Lily’s knees still hurt from T. Ray ’s punishment, and so they decide to rest in the church for a moment. Inside,... (full context)
Chapter 2
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...police officers force Lily and Rosaleen to sit in a cell. Lily is sure that T. Ray will get both of them out. After a time, Gaston tells Lily to come out—T.... (full context)
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Back at home, T. Ray orders Lily not to leave her room. Quietly, Lily replies, “You don’t scare me.” T.... (full context)
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...that her mother could have been so cruel, and then it occurs to her that T. Ray could be lying to her. This possibility makes her feel better. Suddenly she hears a... (full context)
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Lily tells Rosaleen what T. Ray told her about Deborah. Rosaleen agrees with Lily that it’s possible that T. Ray lied.... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...do next, and decides to find out as much as she can about Deborah before T. Ray or the police find her. (full context)
Chapter 8
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...goes to the telephone outside Forrest’s office and uses it to place a call to T. Ray . T. Ray answers the phone and realizes that he’s speaking to his daughter. He... (full context)
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Lily goes home and writes a letter to T. Ray , even though she knows she could never send it. In the letter, she tells... (full context)
Chapter 9
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
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...gets even hotter. Lily rests in the honey house and thinks about her call to T. Ray . She wants to tell Rosaleen about it, but decides against doing so, since this... (full context)
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...open. Lily remembers that her mother used to do exactly the same thing: she remembers T. Ray telling her that her mother would lure roaches with marshmallows. She can’t help but wonder... (full context)
Chapter 12
Mothers and Daughters Theme Icon
Lying, Storytelling, and Confession Theme Icon
...her the truth about her own parents. Lily confesses that she’s been lying: her father, T. Ray , isn’t dead, as she’d claimed. She also tells August that T. Ray told her... (full context)
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...but you.” Deborah moved to South Carolina, but instead of moving to Tiburon, she married T. Ray in Sylvan. Lily can’t understand why Deborah would marry a man like T. Ray, but... (full context)
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...in Tiburon shortly before her death. Deborah told August that she was planning to leave T. Ray soon—she’d been very depressed lately. Lily is sad to hear this about her mother: after... (full context)
Chapter 14
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The next day, there’s a knock at the door. Lily is surprised to find that T. Ray is standing outside. Angrily, T. Ray says that he’s spent half his summer looking for... (full context)
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T. Ray asks where Rosaleen is, and Lily lies and says Rosaleen has already left the house.... (full context)
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T. Ray starts to drag Lily toward the door, calling her Deborah, much to Lily’s confusion. Instead... (full context)
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T. Ray tells Lily that it’s time to go home, but Lily refuses to leave—she explains that... (full context)
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T. Ray walks to his truck, which is parked outside, and prepares to drive away. Suddenly, Lily... (full context)
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...much of her time writing down what’s happened to her. She thinks about the day T. Ray left her, and about the statue of Mary—a woman who lives inside her. Lily concludes... (full context)