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.
Bees Quotes in The Secret Life of Bees
“What I mean is that the bees weren’t really singing the words from Luke, but still, if you have the right kind of ears, you can listen to a hive and hear the Christmas story somewhere inside yourself.”
“Egg laying is the main thing, Lily. She’s the mother of every bee in the hive, and they all depend on her to keep it going. I don’t care what their job is—they know the queen is their mother. She’s the mother of thousands.”