The Secret Life of Bees

How does lily's experience make her come of age?

What does she go through to make her grow as a person?

How does she mature and find her own identity?

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The novel is about a specific time and a place: the American South during the 1960s. Lily shares a birthday with the United States, a fact that inextricably binds Lily’s experiences to her country’s experiences. At one point, Lily watches a man walk on the moon, and at another she walks by banners that say “Goldwater for President” and “Affirmation Vietnam.” With these and other details, Kidd carefully reminds readers that her novel takes place during a particular time.

Early in the novel, we learn that the Civil Rights Act has just been signed, and events influenced by the signing of this act seep into Lily’s experience as a fourteen-year-old girl in many ways. The Civil Rights Act left many white southerners anxious that their way of life would be threatened if increased rights were granted to African Americans. This fear, in turn, appears in the novel as the ever-present racial tension. More specifically, this fear leads Franklin Posey to bully Rosaleen when she sets out to vote, and it leads the white police to patrol the movie theater in Tiburon. This second example of the fear leads to Zach’s arrest and ultimately to May’s suicide. Lily’s maturity and development begin in earnest only after she has removed herself from the white community and gone to live in a black community. The changing social situation for African Americans directly leads to Rosaleen’s arrest, which leads Lily to leave T. Ray, to find August Boatwright, and to grow up.