The Secret Life of Bees

how does the book show us that the love doesn't have to involve physical connections?

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Dependence and interdependence of charaters shows us that love need not be physical. Interdependence is a basic element of human beings and human society. At many points in the novel, the dependence or interdependence of various characters is expressed through their interactions. The dependent person often becomes the one on whom others depend later.

Lily and Rosaleen often switch between being the stronger woman or the dependent one in their relationship. Though Rosaleen is the older and more typically independent character, she often depends on Lily for leadership and direction. Yet, Lily often depends on Rosaleen for stability, love, and mothering. The two are clearly interdependent, though this aspect of their relationship wanes as they become integrated into the Boatwright home.

May seems to be the most dependent character in the novel due to the great pain that she bears. Yet, after she learns of Zach’s arrest, she begins to make independent decisions regarding her future. As an extreme example of this independence, she ends up taking her own life. The Boatwright sisters continue on after May’s death, but it becomes apparent that many of the traditions they know and love can be attributed to May.

The bees demonstrate a non-human form of interdependence. At one point in the novel, August shows Lily what happens to the hive when the queen is not present. The bees lay dormant eggs and ultimately sit around without any sort of purpose. Without the queen, the bees are rendered useless; they are extremely dependent on the queen. At the same time, the queen depends on her attendants to take care of the hive.

Lily finds moments of solace when she is working with others. She finds relief from grieving over her mother when she is massaging honey into Mary. She finds comfort in her eight “mothers” at the end of the novel. She accepts her dependence on others as a replacement for her dependence on her mother’s memory.