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Lily waits to speak with August in August’s bedroom. Lily looks around the room and through some books. One book is filled with various pictures of Mary being given a lily by the angel Gabriel. When August enters, Lily shows her the picture of her mother and tells August who she is. August tells Lily that she already knows. August says that as soon as Lily arrived she knew she was Deborah’s daughter because she looks just like her. August tells Lily that when she was a housekeeper in Richmond, she worked for Deborah’s family. Lily explains that she ran away from T. Ray because he said her mother left her when she was a child. Lily cries, and August comforts her. Lily then tells August the truth about what happened to Rosaleen. Finally, Lily tells August that she killed her mother accidentally with a gun. August tells Lily that she is the dearest and most lovable girl she knows. August explains that it took June a while to warm to Lily because she resented Deborah. June could not deal with August being housekeeper for Deborah’s family. August tells Lily that she loves her, just like she loved Deborah.
August and Lily take some ice water out to the back porch to continue their conversation. August asks Lily how she ever figured out to come to her house. Lily shows her the picture of the Back Madonna. August tells Lily all about how she came to know Deborah and what Deborah was like as a child. August describes how T. Ray was a different man when Deborah met him. He treated Deborah like a princess. Deborah refused T. Ray’s first marriage proposal, but then decided to marry him when she found out that she was pregnant with Lily. August says that Deborah was happy for a little while; however, after some time she decided to leave T. Ray and asked if she could stay with August. Lily is devastated to learn that her mother did not bring her to August’s house when she left the farm. When Deborah arrived at the pink house, it was apparent that she was in very bad shape. A doctor came to see her and suggested they place her in a mental institution. August says that she later realized Deborah had a nervous breakdown. When Deborah finally recovered she went back to the farm to get Lily. She even talked to Clayton about filing divorce papers. When Deborah did not return, August called Lily’s house and a neighbor told her what happened. When she is done telling what she knows about Deborah, August takes Lily to the honey house and makes sure she goes to bed.
The epigraph that begins Chapter Twelve comments that the queen never leaves the hive and if she were smarter she would probably be neurotic. She is frequently called the mother of the hive, which is ironic because she has no maternal instincts. In this chapter, Lily learns the truth about her own “queen” and mother, Deborah. Deborah, who apparently was smarter than the queen bee, grew neurotic from being confined to the farm. In her deep depression, she lost her ability to care for Lily. This information greatly disturbs Lily.
This chapter begins the resolution of Lily’s conflict, which is that she must learn the truth about her dead mother in order to understand who she, herself, is. This conflict will not be fully resolved until Lily confronts T. Ray; however, in learning about her mother Lily begins to define herself. In her conversation with August, Lily learns that the myth she has created about her mother is false. Deborah is not the extraordinary woman Lily imagined who would have saved her from her life. Now that Lily’s mother has been removed from her pedestal, she must seek new female role-models and save herself from her life.
After August leaves, Lily cries and cries. In a fit of rage Lily begins throwing things, including jars of honey. Lily is shaken awake by Rosaleen the next morning. Rosaleen fixes up Lily’s cuts and asks what drove her to such anger. Lily recounts the story August told her. Rosaleen had some idea that Deborah had left because she overheard T. Ray talking to their neighbor on the phone. Lily asks why Rosaleen did not tell her this sooner. Rosaleen says she did not want to hurt her. Rosaleen helps Lily clean the honey house.
As the Daughters arrive, Lily asks August to tell Zach the truth about why she is there. Lily cannot bear to do it herself. The Daughters continue the Mary ceremony as June plays the cello. The women rub honey all over the statue.
Later that afternoon August brings Lily a box of her mother’s things, which includes a hair brush, a pin, and a book of poetry among other items. Lily’s favorite memento is a picture of her mother feeding her when she was a baby. Lily believes this is the sign she asked for that she was loved.
This chapter’s epigraph tells us that despite the worker bee’s small size, she can carry a load heavier than herself. In this chapter we begin to see that despite the guilt she carries regarding her mother’s death and her devastation at having been left, Lily will be all right.
The major theme of this chapter is Lily’s negotiation of her feelings since she has found out the truth about her mother. When Lily finds out that her mother did actually love her, she is able to regroup. This chapter sets up the plot for the climax and resolution which follow in Chapter Fourteen.Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version