The Secret Life of Bees

How are the words and teachings of Dr.Martin Luther King Jr., reflected in the novel?

Based on the novel entitled The Secret Life of Bees, how are the words and teachings of Dr.Martin Luther King Jr., reflected ?

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Race Relations

The summer of 1964 in South Carolina comes at just about the boiling point for race relations in American history. The summer of the Civil Rights Act, a summer during which Martin Luther King was advocating thoroughly for equality, was also a summer when much of white America remained disdainful towards blacks. Kidd incorporates race relations into her novel in order to paint an accurate picture of life during this time in the American South.

Rosaleen works as a domestic housekeeper in the Owens’ house, a typical role for a working black woman at the time. Lily considers Rosaleen a member of their family despite her lack of biological relation to them. Rosaleen has some fight in her for the sake of equal rights. For example, she attempts to register to vote on the first day that she can. She refuses to take abuse from anyone regardless of skin color. Her fighting attitude ultimately lands her in jail.

Lily’s interactions with the Boatwrights and the Daughters of Mary allow her to see some of the lines drawn between white and black. Lily begins to realize her own prejudices about what she believed black people could or could not attain. She also finds that June discriminates against her due to her skin color, something she had never experienced before.

Lily also gets a more clear understanding of society’s view of race through her relationship with Zach. Prior to meeting Zach, Lily could not imagine how she could find a black man attractive. Despite Zach’s and Lily’s love, their society will not accept them as a couple. They vow that someday they will be together, but they understand that right now, interracial dating is strongly taboo.

Zach decides to attend a white high school. Despite all of the challenges that come along with integration, Zach feels that he must be one of the students who take a stand on behalf of a peaceful social revolution. Lily and Clayton Forrest’s daughter Becca are outwardly friendly toward Zach at school, which garners them a certain reputation. In spite of those who do not like such friendships, they allow their fondness for Zach to overcome the racism of others.


King's arrest is mentioned on Page 21, Lily remembers the men at church celebrating the moment. She sees the racism in the congregation. This memory directly follows Rosaleen's celebration of the passing of the Civil Rights Act into law.

Rosaleen also dreams of King on Page 59. Her dream seems to have two meanings. The first is Bilblical, King paints Rosaleen's toenails in the dream. This is supposed to symbolize Christ's humility when he washed the feet of his disciples (I hope that sounded right). Two, the dream seems to make Rosaleen feel as if King would have been proud of her actions. The dream served as a signal that everything would be alright.

Lastly, Zach decides that nothing will stop him from getting to college. He alludes that he will become one of the "drum majors for freedom," King talked about. He plans to become a lawyer and work for equality. (Page 231)


The Secret Life of Bees