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FREE STUDY GUIDE FOR THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES BY SUE MONK KIDD
As Lily and August are labeling jars of honey, they talk. Lily tells August that she never pictured the Madonna as black. August tells Lily that she first saw the Black Madonna of Breznichar in Bohemia on her motherís religious trading cards. When August went away to school, she read everything she could about the Black Madonna. Lily tells August that she loves the picture of the Black Madonna and August asks her what else she loves. As Lily lists the things she loves, she learns how much she has in common with August. August tells Lily that she uses the Black Madonna on her honey because everyone needs a God that looks like him or her. August tells Lily that the Madonna statue was really the figurehead from an old ship. The people on the ship needed comfort, so the spirit of Mary took over the statue. August tells Lily that Maryís spirit is everywhere. August tells Lily the story of how the statue came into her family.
She also tells Lily that the Boatwright sistersí house belonged to their grandmother. Lily asks to know more about Augustís past. August recounts how her parents met when Augustís mother went to see Augustís father, a dentist, because of a toothache. August studied at a Negro teachersí college in Maryland; however, she could not get a job teaching so she became a housekeeper. Nine years later she found a job teaching history, which she kept until she moved to Tiburon. June would not keep house for white people, so she did hair at a funeral home. Lily asks if August was ever in love. August says she was, but she did not get married because she loved her freedom more than she loved the man. As they are doing bee patrol, Lily asks August why she painted her house pink. August explains that May loved it. August thought it was the tackiest color she had ever seen, but decided to paint the house pink because it made May happy. August tells Lily to listen to the bees, which are making a humming noise. August tells her that the bees are cooling down the hives. Lily asks what other secrets the bees have. August explains what the bees do in the hives. As bees swarm around Lily, August tells her to send them love and they will not bother her. Lily becomes lost in the bees and in her thoughts. August tells Lily they are due for a long talk.
Later that day, Rosaleen and May cook a special lunch because May has not been to the wall in five days. During lunch Zach tells everyone that he heard that Jack Palance, an actor, is coming to Tiburon with an African-American woman and plans to sit in the white section at the movie theater. Zach says that white men are planning to go to the movie theater. After lunch, Lily goes with Zach to Clayton Forrestís law office to leave honey to sell.
At the office, Mr. Forrestís secretary expresses her surprise that Lily is staying with August. When Mr. Forrest and Zach go into Mr. Forrestís office, Lily begins to think of T. Ray. She does not understand why he could not love her. Before she realizes what she is doing, Lily calls T. Ray. Lily tries to ask him if he knows what her favorite color is. T. Ray ignores the question and yells at her until she hangs up on him. When Zach and Mr. Forrest return, Lily tells them that she is having female trouble in order to avoid answering Mr. Forrestís questions about why she is in town.
Later, in the honey house, Lily writes a letter to T. Ray expressing her anger. She tears the letter to pieces when she is finished.
That night, Lily goes into the house to use the bathroom. She stops in front of the Mary statue and asks her for help. Lily touches the statueís heart.
Chapter Eightís epigraph tells us that bees are social creatures and will die if isolated. In this chapter, we learn a great deal about August and she and Lily grow even closer. In this section, we also encounter the source of the novelís title. August tells Lily that ďMost people donít have any idea about all the complicated life going on inside a hive. Bees have a secret life we donít know anything about.Ē This quotation is significant because, developing the metaphor of society as hive and human as bee, it shows that people are typically much more complicated that then appear on the surface. In this chapter, we learn interesting facts about August which complicate any assumptions Lily or the reader may have had about her. For instance, August hates the color of her house; she only picked it because it makes May happy. Also, August is not married not because she never fell in love, but because she desires her freedom.
Zachís discussion of Jack Palance introduces the potential for conflict in the novel. Even though the topic is quickly dismissed, the possibility for confrontation in future chapters exists.Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version