Symbolism in the Secret Life of Bees

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Sue Monk Kidd wrote this particular novel based on a little of her creativity and adolescence years. Where she grew up, in the south, in effect Sue actually had no less than 50,000 honey bees living in her wall of her childhood home. Sue lived in her Sylvester home for no less than 18 years. Her family owned a bee house just as the Boatwright sisters did in the novel. The Characters came from a spark in her imagination also. In The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd talks about how invincible love can surpass through a strong female community, defeating racism, and how something as small as a bee can symbolize a bigger life lesson.

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Sue Monk Kidd was born on August 12, 1948 in Sylvester, Georgia. Her parents, Leah and Ridley Monk raised her in the southern city as an only child. She attended local schools as a child but years later she graduated from Texas Christian University in 1970. Sue knew she wanted to be a writer but was not sure so she went and got her B.S. degree in nursing and taught nursing at a medical college for the next decade. She was influenced by Henry David Thoreau's Walden and Kate Chopin's The Awakening. She also listened to the honeybees in the wall of her home.

In this novel the bees that swarm Lily's bedroom looking for a new place to build a hive in the beginning of the book symbolize her need to find a new home. Lily was like a worker bee isolated from the other bees. A condition of isolation within bee community causes bees to die, it causes Lily to suffer pain. Lily is also motherless. It is as if she lives within a hive that has lost its queen bee, the mother of all the bees. A bee colony without a queen soon dies off.

Another symbol in The Secret Life of Bees novel is photographs. Photographs symbolize the power of a relationships. In the story Lily only has one photo of her mother which she handles carefully. She hopes to inherit her mother’s beauty. This photo also represents desire the desire that she will find the feeling of motherly love she feels when she looks at the photo. When she looks at this photograph she sees her mother’s lost potential and her own possible potential, which may or may not be fulfilled over the course of her life. Lily struggles to forgive her mother for being a complicated person. But, once again, seeing a photograph of her mother makes Lily feel guilty about being closer to the deceased woman.

The Black Mary is also another symbol in this novel. It symbolizes mothers and mother surrogates. Lily carries around a picture she found in her mother’s belongings of Black Mary. The picture itself symbolizes Deborah to Lily. Through August Boatwright, Lily will learn about Mary, who August considers to be the mother of all of humanity. The Daughters of Mary, worship at the statue every night. As a statue, the black Mary symbolizes the importance of having faith and believing in something larger than one’s self.

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