A Maternal Love in the Secret Life of Bees

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The novel The Secret Life of Bees showcases a girl named Lily living in the south around the 1960’s. Lily is a girl attempting to find out who she is and what kind of person her mother was. In the novel The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd illustrates the theme of how motherly love can heavily impact a person through the character Lily when she confesses she accidently killed her mother, when August further defines the meaning of black Mary to Lily, and when Lily finally finds peace with her new family.

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The first place where readers see motherly love occurs when Lily confesses she accidently killed her mother. After confessing who she really is, Lily experiences a dark moment with her inner sub-conscience. At this point, August finds Lily kneeling on the floor. She then bends down to her level and attempts to comfort Lily as she faces a battle with her inner self. August explains, But you’re not unlovable. Even if you did accidently kill her, you are still the most dear, most lovable girl I know. Why, Rosaleen loves you. May loved you. (…) And every one of the Daughters loves you (Kidd 242). Clearly, Kidd showcases motherly love. Lily feeling unlovable due to her accidently killing her mother has impacted her greatly in which she feels as if no one can love her. August explaining that there are people who love her illustrates motherly love in a way that makes Lily at ease.

The second place where readers see motherly love take place is when August further defines the meaning of black Mary to Lily. After Lily explains how she felt after touching black Mary’s heart, August defines black Mary. At this point, August explains that Mary is more of a symbol and inner feeling. August then has a deep close moment with Lily to help her regain confidence. August comforts, This Mary I’m talking about sits in your heart all day long, saying ‘Lily, you are my everlasting home.Don’t you ever be afraid. I am enough. We are enough.’ (Kidd 289). Kidd clearly depicts motherly love. August comforting Lily is an important example that motherly love can heavily impact a person. This comfort enables Lily to feel safe and comfortable with her surroundings and self confidence.
The last place where readers see motherly love is present occurs when Lily finally finds peace with her new family. After Lily explains life after being adopted by the Boatwrights, she explains how the daughters of Mary have treated her as one of their own. At this point, Lily discusses what sticks from black Mary. Again, Lily explains how black Mary is merely an inner feeling and symbol for not only motherly love but guidance to an ascension into something greater. Lily thinks, She is a muscle of love, this Mary (…) And there they were. All these mothers. I have more mothers than any eight girls off the street. They are the moon shining over me (Kidd 302). Clearly, Kidd illustrates motherly love. As mentioned previously, black Mary is a mere symbol for guidance to an ascension into something bigger and greater. Ultimately, throughout the book, black Mary has been symbolic and with the love from August, both women have paved the way for Lily to be finally at peace with who she is and who her family is as well. Lily also feels content because not only does she have the love of one mother but multiple mothers that treat he as their own. Arguably, the love of multiple mothers cannot replace the love of her biological mother however, Lily’s goals have been fulfilled more so than she had originally anticipated. In the Article Sourcebook of Family Theory & Research, authors Alan C. Acock, Katherine R. Allen, and Vern C. Bengtson discuss several key points about the novel The Secret Life of Bees including a connection of social issues and theory to contemporary families, individual breakthroughs, and how to resolve conflict within families.

The first key point Acock, et al. makes is a connection of social issues and theory to contemporary families. The authors emphasize that behaviour plays a role in families. They discuss this further in which how it fits in a family dynamic. Since, T. Ray was abusive, this explains why Lily questions his behaviour. The critics state, A family can have an attitude or enact a behavior only when the members collectively act in a coordinated way. (…) We also may feel compelled to ask why other people’s values affect what individuals do (39). The authors clearly recognise behaviour within a family. They suggest that when a relative acts a certain way, it is normal for an individual to question their values and how it affects their behaviour. This can be seen throughout the novel The Secret Life of Bees.

A second important point Acock, et al. argue is about conflict within families and how it is resolved. Acock, et al.discuss that there are social and functional conflicts families face. The authors further emphasize ways that are used to resolve conflicts. This is particularly noticeable between Lily and T. Ray as they face conflict on a daily basis. The critics state This perspective arose as an alternative to the more common view that families are bastions of mutual love and harmony. (…) Some conflicts are resolved, whereas others persist as family members avoid or with or withdraw from them (42). Clearly the authors recognise that there is conflict within families. Ultimately it is suggested that family should be based on homogeneous affection; some conflicts can be resolved however through abandonment. Arguably, abandonment can lead to a more positive and greater picture. Similarly, this is present towards the end of the book The Secret Life of Bees.

A final key point Acock, et al. examine is about individual breakthroughs. All three authors discuss how individualistic breakthroughs occur within families. It is further emphasised on the perspective of that individual. This is seen through Lily and T.Ray as she attempted to escape the house. Acock, et al. argue, In family life, the result has been to break apart the old togetherness, Beck believes. (…) According to Beck (1992) the family and family roles, have been dissolved by a surge of individualization (31). Clearly,the authors of this article recognize breakthroughs through the perspective of an individual. They suggest that when an individual reaches a breaking point, that they put value to family, their ideal family, and to those family members. The novel The Secret Life of Bees presents many examples of this important characteristic. In the article Handbook of Contemporary Families: Considering the Past, Contemplating the Future, the critics Marilyn Coleman and Lawrence H. Ganong discuss several key points about the novel The Secret Life of Bees including the impact of mothers, traditional families being replaced, and individuals attempting to find themselves.

The first key point Coleman and Ganong makes is about the impact of mothers. Coleman and Ganong argue that mothers can greatly effect their children. The authors further emphasize on specifically what stages are effected. Since Lily questioned many things of her biological mother, this explains her escape to search signs of her mother. The critics state, He interpreted the research findings to mean, among other things that children’s well-being, as well as their later well-being in adulthood, is strongly influenced by the full-time presence of their mother, especially during their earliest years (Coleman & Ganong 11). Clearly Coleman and Ganong recognize the impact of mothers on children. The authors suggest that the presence of a full-time mother can heavily influence their children. Arguably, the presence of a mother whether full-time or part-time can influence a child. The effect of mothers is seen throughout the novel The Secret Life of Bees.

A second important point Coleman and Ganong argue is about traditional families being replaced. Coleman and Ganong argue that families are being changed in a way that has changed society. The critics further emphasize ways that families are changing. Since family is important to Lily, it explains why Lily found family within the Boatwrights and not her biological father. Coleman and Ganong state, In recent decades, growing numbers of citizens are finding that style to be as unworkable as the extended family style it replaced. And like their 19th-century counterparts, today’s citizens are in a transitional period in which prevailing cultural horns reinforce yesterday’s family patterns whereas their own behavioral struggles indicated movement towards something different (7). Clearly Coleman and Ganong recognize that citizens have changed the standard of family and who it consists of. The authors suggest that extended family has replaced the traditional family and that one’s struggles can lead to something different. This important characteristic is present throughout the novel The Secret Life of Bees.

A final key point Coleman and Ganong examine is about individuals finding themselves. Coleman and Ganong argue an observation made by references. The authors further examine why the individual needs to find him/herself. Since Lily is trying to find herself and more about her mother, this explains why she develops a close relationship to the Boatwrights. Coleman and Ganong argue, individuals today are searching to find themselves(13) (…) There is a search for an authentic and mutually actualizing relationship (…) (one in which the) growth and development (6). Cleary Coleman and Ganong recognize why individuals feel the need to find themselves. The critics suggest that individuals find themselves because they need a mutual relationship for growth and development. The novel The Secret Life of Bees presents examples of this important characteristic through the character Lily and her need to find more information about her mother.

Overall, In the novel, The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd depicts the theme of how maternal love can greatly effect a person through the character Lily when she confesses she accidently killed her mother, when August further defines the meaning of black Mary to Lily, and when Lily finally finds peace with her new family. This topic is seen in contemporary articles by Acock, et al. and Coleman and Ganong who discuss motherly love. Similarly, in today’s society there are children in a foster care system who have no choice but to get adopted by someone regardless if both or either parents is living and sometimes ultimately find parental love in their new families.

Works Cited

Acock, Alan C., et al. Sourcebook of Family Theory & Research. Sage Publications, Inc., 2005.

Coleman, Marilyn, and Lawrence H. Ganong. Handbook of Contemporary Families: Considering the Past, Contemplating the Future. Sage Publications, Inc., 2004.
Kidd, Sue Monk. The Secret Life of Bees. Penguin Books, 2002.

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A Maternal Love in The Secret Life of Bees. (2019, Nov 13). Retrieved December 4, 2022 , from
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