Bee essay life secret
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Kathy Holcomb Prof. Robert Weber English 112 April 14, 2009 The Secret Life of Bees Critical Essay Sue Monk Kidd has carefully crafted a book rich in symbolism with special emphasis on bees. Each section’s heading features the inner workings of this communal society (Emanuel, Catherine, B. 3). An epigraph at the beginning relating to bees sets the tone for the each chapter. The first chapter epigraph states: The Queen, for her part, is the unifying force of the community; if she is removed from the hive, the workers very quickly sense her absence. After a few hours, or even less, they show unmistakable signs of queenlessness. Man and Insects. The Queen bee is the novel’s symbol of a mother figure and is used throughout Lily’s journey for identity and the conflicts she faces in resolving her “motherlessness” or “queenlessness. ” Here we find Lily, an emotionally lost little girl who longs for a mother’s love. Her life has been dramatically affected by her mother’s absence. The fact that her mother died when she was four and the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death has left her in need of emotional healing. However, she isn’t afforded the opportunity as her father, T Ray, is angry and abusive and simply not there for her emotionally.
She suffers from flashbacks of her mother’s death and feels she is somehow responsible. It is not just the mother’s absence that haunts Lily as she grows up; it is the fuzzy memory of the circumstances of her mother’s death that makes Lily secretly wonder if she is forgivable, lovable, good. (Kephart p 61). Lily is like a bee without a queen and is discontented and unhappy. The bees that visit Lily at night cause her to long for freedom and during the day she hears them in the walls of her bedroom and “imagined them in there turning the walls into honeycombs, with honey seeping out for me to taste. (Monk Kidd 12). Honey is the only natural food made without destroying any form of life. Honey is also the only food that does not spoil. (Melissa Blakely Merall 1). It is the sweet substance of life produced in the hive and unspoiled by the elements. “The bees came the summer of 1964, the summer I turned fourteen and my life went spinning off into a whole new orbit. ” (Monk Kidd 2). During this time of transition from girlhood to womanhood, Lily desperately longs for a mother’s love and guidance. She aches from the huge mother hole in her heart.
The only female companionship and love afforded Lily comes from her African American housekeeper and nanny, Rosaleen. “I lay in bed, waiting for the bees to show up; thinking of what Rosaleen said when I told her about their nightly visitations. ” (Monk Kidd 2). “Bees swarm before death,” she’d said. (Monk Kidd 2). The bees represent not only the freedom of flight and the ability of leaving behind her old life but also the possibility of this freedom in the face of seemingly impossible obstacles. For bees can fly in spite of all objections that it is scientifically, anatomically impossible for them to do so. And so there is hope for Lily.
Monk Kidd beautifully combines many symbolic elements to move the story forward. Rosaleen’s journey for freedom during the era of the Civil Rights movement is a catalyst that serves as a vehicle of change in Lily’s life. Rosaleen’s stubborn conviction to claim and express her newfound freedom is the springboard for Lily’s courageous plunge into the unknown. Lily Melissa Owens, your jar is open. (Monk Kidd 41). It was time for her to leave but “just where did I think I’d go? ”(Monk Kidd 41). Of course! Tiburon, South Carolina, the town written on the back of the black Mary picture (Monk Kidd 41) and her only link to the mother she never knew.
On the journey to Tiburon, Lily has a dream that the moon is breaking into pieces and falling from the sky. It symbolizes how she feels – that her life is falling apart. She has no idea what will happen when she reaches Tiburon – where she will sleep, what she will eat. It is scary not knowing what the future holds. But it is here that Kidd begins to weave together the frayed strands of past and present in the pink house of August Boatwright. Bees live in social units comprised of a queen bee and her sterile daughters. These female bees need male bees only rarely.
This statement captures the strong female presence of the Boatwright residence. The Boatwright sisters live together and do not require men to help them survive. The sisters are very successful and have a nice house on a large plot of land. (The Best Notes, Chapter 4). Suffice it to say, when Lily and Rosaleen follow their yellow brick road to the idiosyncratic compound of three black women bee-keepers, May, June and August, they come upon a trio that embodies every form of maternal nurturance and emotional education Lily needs, and a comfortable nest for Rosaleen as well.
In the Boatwright sisters, for whom the black Madonna is queen, Kidd has created a wonderful fantasy, a sort of beloved community, part Oz, part ashram, part center for racial reconciliation (Brown 1). They live in a bright pink house, a very feminine color. The woman in the household have names pertaining to seasons. “These names span a time frame of both sowing and reaping, spring to late summer. ” (Emanual, Catherine B. 2). Appropriately, August (a mature season) champions and befriends Lily providing the wisdom and security she so desperately needs.
She gently guides Lily but allows her to find her own way. Under Augusts’ wing, Lily finally finds a place to nest. She interacts with women who support each other and demonstrate acceptance, sensitivity, and unconditional love for one another and for Lily. This community of sisters helps Lily learn how to be a member of a supportive family and offers a firm foundation for healing. August is a beekeeper and the bees and their hives provide not only sustenance but reflect a way of life for these woman. August uses the bees and their hives to teach Lily how communities and societies interact.
She explains that bees have secret lives that are much more complicated than meets the eye and that life is a cycle of birth, death and rebirth and is reflected in the hives. As Lily waits at the Boatwright’s house to speak with August, she encounters the statue of the Black Mary. It is right before she meets August and is a type and shadow of the relationship that develops between them. The Calendar Sisters and the Daughter’s of Mary introduce Lily to Black Madonna, who embodies the indomitable spirit, a soul not defeated by slavery or attempts to keep her in bondage.
As described in the book, the Black Mary is, “a carving of a woman nearly three feet tall. She was a black as she could be; twisted like driftwood from being out in the weather, her face a map of all the storms and journeys she’d been through. Her right arm was raised, as if pointing the way, except her fingers were closed in a fist. She had a faded red heart painted on her breast, and a yellow crescent moon, worn down and crooked, painted where her body would have blended into the ship’s wood. ” (Monk Kidd 70). This masthead Madonna contained three symbols, a heart, a moon, and a raised fist.
The fist symbolizes power and dignity, the heart symbolizes empathy, and the moon represents connection to the cycles of the earth. Her face reflects life’s struggles and her heart is faded- but in spite of the trials her raised fist is triumphant. August explains that she is also called “Our Lady of Chains,” not because she was chained but because she broke them. This is symbolic of the freedom Lily finds as she embraces the truths about her mother and the past. The Black Madonna archetype has an earthiness about her. She represents the bounty of the harvest, nature, sexuality, and childbirth, “the whole of feminine life. (Emanuel, Catherine B. 4). Upon seeing the statue, Lily has a strong spiritual experience, “Standing there, I loved myself and hated myself. That’s what the black Mary did to me, made me feel my glory and my shame all at the same time. ” (Monk Kidd 71). It is here she learns from the Calendar sisters and the Daughters of Mary how to ask for help and guidance. The love and acceptance she receives builds her trust and empowers her to ask questions and disclose deep secrets that need to be shared in order for her to begin the journey of healing. Under Augusts’ wing, Lily finally finds a place to nest.
It is through May and the Wailing Wall that Lily learns a practical method of releasing some of the pain she has carried and Lily’s interaction with the Black Madonna. She witnesses and interacts with women who support each other and show acceptance, sensitivity, and unconditional love for one another and eventually for Lily. The time comes when she feels ready to confront August to discover the truth about her mother. The love and acceptance August provides enables her to build trust and feel secure enough to share the unanswered questions about the past.
The truth releases her from the guilt and fear that had trapped her in a tormented mental and emotional limbo. Lily’s transition is from a lost, fearful, broken, guilt ridden young girl into an emotionally healed, thriving member of a female community that provides the “hive” for her to grow in confidence, love, affirmation, and discovery of her own self-identity. It provides the tools to forgive her father and recognize his pain as the core root of his anger and abusive behavior.
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Finally, she is able to come to terms with her role in her mother’s death, to forgive herself and journey toward her dreams of the future. Works Cited Emanual, Catherine B. The Archetypal, Mother: The Black Madonna in Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. West Virginia University Philological Papers. (Fall 2005). Monk Kidd, Sue. The Secret Life of Bees. Blakely Merall, Melissa. What is a Blessed Bee? Web. 14 April 2009. Brown, Rosellen. Honey Child. The Women’s Review of Books. April 2009. Kephart, Beth. Book. Literature Resource Center. January February 2002
Author: Brandon Johnson
The Secret Life of Bees – Critical Essay
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