The most obvious symbols in The Secret Life of Bees are the bees themselves. Kidd makes it clear from the start that she’s drawing an analogy between the behavior of bees and the behavior of human beings: every chapter begins with an epigraph from a book about bees, and we gradually realize that each one has some thematic significance for the events of that chapter. Specifically, the bees in their beehives symbolize the women in the novel, sheltered in their tiny house in Tiburon, South Carolina. Like bees, the women develop an extremely close, nurturing relationship with each other. At the same time, the sheltered nature of their lives is a constant challenge: like queen bees in a hive, Lily Owens and the Boatwright family are surrounded by “darkness”; i.e., the moral uncertainty they face as they try to decide how to move forward in the face of tragedy.
The Secret Life of Bees
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The timeline below shows where the symbol Bees appears in The Secret Life of Bees. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...their stay later by working in the honey room. May teaches Lily a song about bees, which Lily enjoys singing. Lily quickly learns that life among the Boatwrights revolves around honey.... (full context)
August tells Lily more about her grandmother: she taught August how to take care of bees. Her grandmother claimed that bees hummed the music of Jesus Christ. August clarifies that this... (full context)