‘The Secret Life of Bees’ Novel by Sue Monk Kidd

Paper Info
Page count 8
Word count 2230
Read time 9 min
Topic Literature
Type Essay
Language 🇺🇸 US


The Secret Life of Bees is a novel published in 2001 and majorly talks about loss, betrayal, and racial disparity in Southern American society. In a brief synopsis, the book is about a teenage girl named Lilly Mellissa Owens who struggles with a life experience characterized by adverse memories of how her mother was killed. Lilly stayed with her father, who was significantly abusive and referred to him as T. Ray (Kidd’s the Secret Life of Bees and the Issue of Subaltern 6). Entirely, the story revolves around a strive to achieve and discover one’s freedom and liberty amidst growing racism and prejudice against women.

This essay is a presentation of literary criticism of the novel by analyzing the critical elements that are raised in Kidd’s work. The critique shall dig deep to ascertain whether or not the idea of irrational racism is well presented in work. Additionally, through Kidd’s novel, this literary critique shall establish the extent to which her work is relevant in terms of content organization, evidence in real-life situations, and the flow of events and prose power used to establish major themes (Kidd 33). The trials and tribulations associated with racism forge the bonds of friendships and relationships despite all the hatred and negativity.

Criticism of the Novel’s Main Ideas Using Literary Perspectives

Whenever racism is mentioned in any context, people imagine negative implications, especially that relate to the black minority. While reading the book The Secret of Life of Bees, a reader understands that Kidd is aware of the major tribulations brought by racism in Southern America. The evident journey for Lilly in finding peace in her life shows the extremism that people have based on racial affiliation. By learning the novel’s major ideas and representations, the reader can agree that the effect of racism in society can bring mixed reactions (Kidd 17). Understanding the forms of white racism confronted by the Afro-Americans helps strengthen the call for humanity. When Lilly was seeking to hide in Tiburon, August, a lady who had a version of a white in terms of stereotypes.

Forging bonds of friendship and relationship is evident in the book The Secret Life of Bees. Setri and Setiawan agree that there was the unification of black people who had formed a black statue of Mary, which they worshipped. The friendship is strong in that there are major aspects of brotherhood and sisterhood between Lilly, Zach, Rosaleen, August, and May Boatwright. These individuals had been brought together by the desire to end racial disparity in Tiburon. Their decisions can be evident results that racism paraphenalia can grow friendships and personal ties in the society despite the negative aspects that impact the victims of the social injustice (Sestri, and Setiawan 29). The choice to leave her father and seek shelter with assistance from a no-nonsense nanny helped Lilly gain peace and love from society. While in escape, she met Zach, who seemed to accomplish the mission of her quest to have the personal satisfaction of freedom, love, and perception of black people. A raft of ideas can be obtained from the analysis, including the concept of romantic relationships, social investment,, and the transformation of ideologies in the US in the 1960s.

The author records that August Boatwright was Enlighted, civilized, and educated which did not happen for most blacks. Contrary to her expectations, she received Lilly and decided to help her evade the adverse experience that was due to the experience of her mother’s death, which appeared to be a contentious matter in the twilight. The tribulations associated with racism can lead to friendship because August, together with her sisters and Rosaleen, is devoted to loving Lilly and cherishing her desire to be liberal (Kidd’s the Secret Life of Bees and the Issue of Subaltern 18). Later on, the little girl was helped to avoid stress and started loving her father despite having found a new family. Lilly did not have the past negativity regarding the white community since she had found a new life revelation that marked the long-waited journey of personal revolution.

The symbolism in the use of bees in the story is a key factor that can be used to justify the thesis in this work. Bees are known to be united, and they achieve results by working together in a beehive to produce a useful product for society (Rajendran 99). the aspect of being together in a jar in Lilly’s bedroom insinuates that a strong bond and ties in a given place lead to a significant impact. When Lilly released the bees, they together flew in an unmentioned direction which marked Lilly’s journey towards revolution (Rajendran 99). The element of Lilly following the bees is an artifact that shows how one is affiliated with a strong bond and physical relationship within the society. The friendship development is seen in Tiburon, where the Boatwrights, Lilly, Zach, and Roseleen, stay together and embark on doing matters as a team, a key indicator of friendship and positive relationship (Kidd 56). The group was able to change the perceptions about their racial affiliations, supporting the thesis.

Sue Mon Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees is a story that helps the reader develop an image of the implausible effort of black women who create a haven for Lilly to reconstruct herself. This group of women was all beekeepers who had actualized themselves as friends in helping fight black prejudice (Rajendran 2). The mentioning of the beekeeping business and worship of Mary indicates that the individuals were unified by the concept of keeping animals that do not trouble other creatures to survive. Similarly, these families would not support any extremist against the white or black race.

At one point, Zach and their other male counterparts were arrested for assaulting a white teenager. August, May, and the other groups condemned the issue, showing that they were united not to take advantage of other people to gain their desires (Rajendran 12). The book records that May committed suicide on realizing that one of the siblings had been nubbed, which was a sign of regret from the decision that led to the incident. Therefore, the friendship of bees is important in giving a farmer honey the same way these groups’ friendship was vital in changing Lilly and other black revolutionists’ lives.

Literary works help the reader integrate what is in Kidd’s book when it comes to the racial experiences in the community. Astina et al. put that, “August stared over my shoulder and smiled. “One time, she ran away from home. I can’t even remember what she was upset about. We looked for her long past dark. Found her curled up in a drainage ditch, sound asleep.” From this passage, an audience can see memory reconstruction from people’s old stories concerning a certain event. At this point, August had changed Lily’s mind and perception and people and curled the racial opinions that would have affected her (Astina et al. 6). August knew Lilly’s story and opted to cover the basic concepts that would escalate further, leading to poor mental health for a girl.

Lilly no longer remembered the negative experiences that had happened to her and their mother, Deborah, due to creating a bond with other people, such as August, who helped her overcome her major tribulations. Therefore, the friendship and notable relationship that had developed in the new family in Tiburon shows a reconstruction from adverse experiences brought about by the unfortunate events during Lilly’s growth. Thus, Lilly strengthened their relationship with the people around her, such as Zach, whom she knew when she had escaped from T. Ray (Astina et al. 2). Kidd mentions that Zach and Lilly could not marry due to the toxic misconception in the South then but continued to grow their perianal terms and worked together in transforming their life. From that point, it is true to say that despite racism occurring to Lilly, it seemed to be her door towards civilization. She grew positive relationships with other people and befriend everyone, including the whites.

It is important to incorporate the literary works in this essay as it shows the affirmation of revolution towards creating a strong relationship with the racism phenomenon. Dr. Jayanthi Rajendran gives insights into Sue Mon Kidd’s novel in various ways. First, he mentions the demonstration of the power of a female-centric world from a bond of relationship. Through the new historicism, readers can identify the reality of courage in finding the truth about how racism can separate human beings (Astina et al. 4). While working towards combatting the vice, human beings have often found unity as a determining factor that needs to be embraced. There is no togetherness without friendship, which means relationships between person to other individuals must be grown to successfully come to terms with the need to abolish racial disparity.

In The Secret Life of Bees, the author tried to surface the nurturing relationship between women of color to triumph the stereotypes about superiority in human beings. The family of August and Lilly come together at one time, whereby T. Rack is forgiven by her daughter, who happily lives away from him (Kidd’s the Secret Life of Bees and the Issue of Subaltern 23). All these events were brought about by the racial aspects that happened in the life of Lilly, which later united the society in the efforts to curl the issue. Therefore, these groups show the reader that personal ties help gain one’s wishes, and there must be a bond to handle sensitive matters in the community.

Despite leaving her father due to racial complexities that forced her to move, the Kidd says that Lilly felt happy with the Boatwrights and had even secured a chance to school in that area, which tallied her wishes to work closely with Zach while in school. All these events from the book show that a problem solved led to a discovery of more positive life experiences that can conclude that every action has a victory end game despite challenges present. Laili, in her journal about strengthening students’ humanity, helps the reader discover major elements in Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. The author says that the current era is characterized by decreasing forms of humanity in Indonesia and other parts of the world. As a teacher, Laili used Kidd’s novel to help the learners understand revolutionary aspects that ensued from racial segregation in society.

The literary phenomenon in Kidd’s novel is about transformations that brought a change in terms of stereotyping and prejudice against people. The book gives a glimpse of why many interest groups have devoted themselves to fighting racial injustices (Laili 79). While reading the book, characters such as August Boatwright and Lilly Owens represent the modern activists against racism. All these efforts have led to the formation of groups and associations comprised of white and black people hence, showing the development of relationships and bonds between members of the society (Laili 80). Despite racism being a challenge when executing many of the current issues, the fight against the vice brings individuals together as a measure of friendship that escalates further to other positive cues.

The Secret Life of Bees is a masterpiece work that presents a humane part of the world due to the willful characters who give readers an understanding of relationships. For example, Lilly’s relationship with both whites and blacks is a call for action for all human beings who have notions concerning these two races (Pandey 4). The book showed interconnections between the two racial affiliations. To a significant extent, the relationships led to a reduction in extreme racism, a subject that is still being practiced in the 21st century.

The novel has highlighted people such as Lilly, Roseleene, August, and other women who have fought tirelessly to ensure that there is no continuation of segregating people on a racial basis. Therefore, mentioning women as the key movers of this issue is critical for highlighting the gender roles in society. Everyone knows that where females are given a platform to lead, they do it wholeheartedly. That leads to positive aspects that unite people, further developing personal friendship and relationship cues. Valdez’s work shows the real revelations of the book from the racist point of view. When a person reads the essay, they can develop a critical analysis of how the issue started from the ancient US times, Civil War, and World Wars until the current generation that has not yet combatted racism (Valdez 623). The fact that people can appreciate racial differences in the current world means that positive interactions have created strong bonds that can facilitate inter-personal relationships essential in sociopolitical areas.


Despite all the negativity and tribulations evident in racially discriminatory events, there is a positive aspect of friendship and strong relationships that lead to the success of a given goal. Lilly, a motherless girl, finds freedom as a black outside her home when she befriends the Boatwrights as they work together to reconstruct her negative past. The mentioning of bees is a symbol of ties that, when put together, guide one towards a path of liberation, as it was in the case of Lilly and other beekeepers. The Secret Life of Bees is an exemplary masterpiece whose prose can help a person realize the importance of vigor, determination, social investment, and friendship in changing their lives.

Works Cited

Astina, Titin, et al. Memory Transmission in the Secret Life of Bees Novel: A Study of Postmemory. Universitas Negeri Malang (UM), Indonesia, 2020, pp. 1-6.

Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees and the Issue of Subaltern. pp. 1-36, Web.

Kidd, Sue Monk. The Secret Life of Bees. Penguin, 2002.

Laili, Muawwinatul. Bringing the Secret Life of Bees in Literature Class to Strengthen the Students’ Humanity. Universitas Nahdlatul, 2018, pp. 75-82, Web.

Pandey, Basanta. Representation of Subaltern in Kidd’s the Secret Life of Bees. Tribhuvan University, 2017, pp. 1-6, Web.

Rajendran, Jayanthi. “An Affirmation of Black Culture Through Revolution of Signs: A New Historicism Insight into Sue Mon Kidd’s the Secret Life of Bees”. Scholedge International Journal of Multidisciplinary &Amp; Allied Studies ISSN 2394-336X, vol 5, no. 9, 2018, pp. 1-99. Scholedge Publishing, Web.

Setri, Teta Irama, and Dwi Budi Setiawan. “Matriarchal Society in the Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd”. Linguistics and Literature Journal, vol 1, no. 1, 2020, pp. 28-33. Universitas Teknokrat Indonesia, Web.

Valdez, Zulema. “The Abandoned Promise of Civil Rights”. Sociological Forum, vol 30, 2015, pp. 612-626. Wiley, Web.

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EssaysInCollege. (2023, April 8). ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ Novel by Sue Monk Kidd. Retrieved from https://essaysincollege.com/the-secret-life-of-bees-novel-by-sue-monk-kidd/


EssaysInCollege. (2023, April 8). ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ Novel by Sue Monk Kidd. https://essaysincollege.com/the-secret-life-of-bees-novel-by-sue-monk-kidd/

Work Cited

"‘The Secret Life of Bees’ Novel by Sue Monk Kidd." EssaysInCollege, 8 Apr. 2023, essaysincollege.com/the-secret-life-of-bees-novel-by-sue-monk-kidd/.


EssaysInCollege. (2023) '‘The Secret Life of Bees’ Novel by Sue Monk Kidd'. 8 April.


EssaysInCollege. 2023. "‘The Secret Life of Bees’ Novel by Sue Monk Kidd." April 8, 2023. https://essaysincollege.com/the-secret-life-of-bees-novel-by-sue-monk-kidd/.

1. EssaysInCollege. "‘The Secret Life of Bees’ Novel by Sue Monk Kidd." April 8, 2023. https://essaysincollege.com/the-secret-life-of-bees-novel-by-sue-monk-kidd/.


EssaysInCollege. "‘The Secret Life of Bees’ Novel by Sue Monk Kidd." April 8, 2023. https://essaysincollege.com/the-secret-life-of-bees-novel-by-sue-monk-kidd/.


EssaysInCollege. 2023. "‘The Secret Life of Bees’ Novel by Sue Monk Kidd." April 8, 2023. https://essaysincollege.com/the-secret-life-of-bees-novel-by-sue-monk-kidd/.

1. EssaysInCollege. "‘The Secret Life of Bees’ Novel by Sue Monk Kidd." April 8, 2023. https://essaysincollege.com/the-secret-life-of-bees-novel-by-sue-monk-kidd/.


EssaysInCollege. "‘The Secret Life of Bees’ Novel by Sue Monk Kidd." April 8, 2023. https://essaysincollege.com/the-secret-life-of-bees-novel-by-sue-monk-kidd/.