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Free Online Summary Notes for The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
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THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES BY SUE MONK KIDD

OVERALL ANALYSES

CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Lily Owens

Lily Owens is the only true main character of this novel, in the sense that she is the only character that is developed significantly. Other characters are important, such as T. Ray, Rosaleen and August. However, these other characters only sustain their value in the way they relate to Lily. Furthermore, because the novel is told in the first person, we do not get a very clear picture of these characters apart from what they tell Lily or how she perceives them. This novel is Lily’s voyage and consists, largely, of how she feels and what she is thinking.

Lily is the main character and protagonist of the novel. She must work to overcome the plot’s major conflict, which is that she must learn about her dead mother in order to understand her own life. Lily finally overcomes this conflict when she confronts the novel’s antagonist, T. Ray. The climax occurs when Lily refuses to submit to him--thus ridding herself of his verbal and physical abuse and allowing herself the freedom to discover who she is. In this scene she also finally confronts the truth about her mother--Lily learns that she is truly responsible for killing her mother.

In learning the truth about her mother and freeing herself from T. Ray, Lily can finally begin the process of forgiving. In forgiving, Lily is set free to start fresh. Lily gives herself the opportunity for a bright future and finally learns what it is like to be part of a loving family. Lily, who has been lost without a queen, finds a series of new queens in the new women in her life as well as in Mary.


PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

Exposition

The exposition is the section of a novel in which the main characters and main conflict are introduced. Any relevant background information is also given in this section. The exposition of this novel occurs in Chapter One where we learn that the protagonist, Lily, leads a miserable life with her father T. Ray. Her life became miserable when her mother, Deborah, mysteriously died. Lily blames herself for Deborah’s death, although she is not sure if she can believe T. Ray’s accusation that it was her fault.

Rising Action

Rising action is the action that will lead to the climax (or the major turning point in the plot). In this novel the rising action is everything that happens before Lily confronts T. Ray.

Climax

The climax of a plot is the major turning point that allows the protagonist to resolve the conflict. The climax of The Secret Life of Bees occurs in Chapter Fourteen when Lily confronts T. Ray in the pink house. Throughout the novel, Lily has been struggling with who she is in relation to her mother’s death. In other words, Lily is having difficulty deciding what kind of woman she wants to be without the direction of a mother. As suggested in various epigraphs, Lily is wandering senselessly like a bee without a queen. When Lily confronts T. Ray she makes the decision not to live with him any longer. This decision is different than the one she made when she ran away because it is a permanent decision. It is also an informed decision. Lily realizes that T. Ray is a destructive person and that she cannot live subjected to his close-minded and cruel ways. This is an adult decision. In this scene Lily also learns, definitively, that she was responsible for her mother’s death. That Lily chases T. Ray in order to find out this information suggests she is prepared for the possibility that she has killed her mother. This turning point, in which Lily refuses to submit to T. Ray and prepares to reconcile the guilt she has for killing her mother, allows Lily to resolve her past and begin anew.

Outcome

The outcome, resolution, or denouement of the novel occurs in the final chapter where Lily replaces her “queen” and starts over. Throughout the novel, Lily has been in search of herself as much as she has been in search of her mother. Learning the truth about her mother--both that Deborah left her and that she was responsible for Deborah’s death-- allows Lily to begin the process of forgiving them both. In forgiving, Lily is set free to start fresh. Because she freed herself from T. Ray, Lily gives herself the opportunity for a bright future and finally learns what it is like to be part of a loving family. Lily, who has been lost without a queen, finds a series of new queens in the new women in her life as well as in Mary.

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