The Secret Life of Bees

Insights from 1964: The Case Against Setting 'The Secret Life of Bees' in a Later Time Period 10th Grade

Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd features a young, caucasian girl, Lily, who lives with three African American sisters, the Boatwrights. The novel takes place in Sylvan and Tiburon, South Carolina during 1964: high time for the civil rights movement. Throughout the novel, Lily sees a lot of racial injustice, but if the novel took place after the civil rights movement it would not have had the same effect, because the racial discrimination was not as prominent then. Even if the novel took place before the civil rights movement, there still wouldn’t have been the same effect, because before then, there was little push for civil rights, and there was little talk of racial advancements in the media.

After May’s death, a police officer asks Lily, “Didn’t you have any white people back in Spartanburg you could stay with?” (page 197) and “These are colored people [...] it’s not natural, that you shouldn’t be… well, lowering yourself,”(page 198). This shows how African Americans were regarded in 1964; the police officer thought it was odd for a white person to live with a black person. On the other hand, if this took place after the civil rights movement, it would not be uncommon for black and white people to live together....

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