The Secret Life of Bees

what are the secrets in the lives of the bees? how does this connect to the humans in the book? chapter 8

secret life of bees

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August tries to reach Lily again when she tells Lily that bees have a secret life. Bees each have their own role to play, and no one knows what happens deep in the hive. This reference, obviously invoking the book’s title, serves several purposes. First of all, the secret life of the bees symbolizes both Lily’s secret life and the secret life of her mother, Deborah. Notably, May has some kind of secret life that her sisters do their best to negotiate, allowing May to have her wall and the pink paint on the house. In addition, by mentioning the secret life of the bees, August again hints to Lily that she understands that Lily has a secret. Just as the bees are allowed to keep their secrets, August, suggests, August is giving Lily her support even if she wants to keep her secret for a little while longer. Eventually, though, it will be time to come clean.

The queen bee is considered by August to be “the mother of thousands.” Lily, on the search for a mother figure, seems to be drawn to potential mothers, including the queen bees. Lily feels a tremendous amount of love from the bees that she keeps. She ultimately finds a mother symbol in Mary. That this is a black Mary is no problem (remember that Lily has realized that everyone’s urine is the same color—a strange variation on the common theme that everyone’s blood is the same color—so it is notable that Lily turns to this Mary after entering the house to go to the bathroom). Lily accepts Mary as a mother as well as, in the Catholic tradition, the spiritual mother of millions of Christians. Both the queen bee and Mary symbolize the mother that Lily has never really known.