The Secret Life of Bees – Hero’s Journey Essay

Kc Keppler January 13, 2012 Block D – English Lily’s Journey Towards Self Discovery and Maturity – Bees In the novel, The Secret Life of Bees written by Sue Monk Kidd, there is one particular motif that one might call ‘all important,’ this motif is the bees that fit into Lily Melissa Owen’s, the main character and protagonist of books, heroic journey towards self discovery and finding a way to open up to others.

The bees in this story represented and lead her, piece by piece, to her finding herself and accepting the imperfections in her life. The book is initially set in Sylvan, South Carolina where Lily was born and raised by her father and mother before her mother’s untimely death. But the setting quickly changes to Tiburon, South Carolina when bees that Lily had kept in a jar give her a call to her journey when she glanced over at the open jar – representing her own freedom as well as the bees.

The sign of the bees departure from her holding them captive gave Lily a sense that someone was speaking to her only to help her understand the “her jar is open. ” This sets off her journey to save her wrongly accused housekeeper from jail cell and runaway to Tiburon in search for information on her mother. This event immediately shows an initial step forward in Lily’s search for self-discovery. Although the bees give Lily her call to journey they help her in several ways that bring her to happiness, acting as almost a subtle guide to her.

The initial steps Lily takes with the bees’ help are in the first few chapters but after her call to journey, her prized possession, a picture of her mother with the word ‘Tiburon’ on the back and a picture of a black Mary are what leads Lily to a lake right by Tiburon, South Carolina. The honey label brings Lily to a bright pink house owned by the Boatwrights, a group of black sisters called the calendar sisters, August, June, and May, who live together and make a living off of honey. Lily is welcomed to stay and work on the Boatwright land for a while as she states that she is on her way to her aunt Bernie’s in Virginia.

One her earliest moments while in the house that the bees help her forward is when Lily is just starting out in the black household and August asks her what she love most in the world. Immediately August, one of the calendar sisters and guardians of Lily in the story, is portrayed as a symbol for Lily’s exploration of new things and urging Lily to think of something she truly loves and to discrver a aspect of herself is one of the challenges that she, as a young woman, has not yet faced.

Lily happens to list multiple things but the bees are among the highest on the list. This is because in Lily’s story the bees mean her personal growth as a human and exploration into new things, staying as a beekeeper in the Boatwright house is just one of those explorations that she undergoes along this journey. While in the house the writer begins to create Lily an infatuation with an older boy named Zachary Taylor, or for these purposes, Zach.

But the feelings aren’t one sided as Zach, the African American, 16 year old boy begins to grow feelings for Lily too. Zach almost acts as a guardian but he also takes some of the part of the bees as from early on he attempts to nudge Lily to be more open about herself but her lack of confidence in herself and the people that care for her initially keeps her fairly timid about helping people to better understand her.

Although Zach makes attempts to guide Lily and help her mature and grow as a person it is the bees that lead her to another step in sexual maturity when she informs Zach of her feeling towards him after licking the honey off his finger. This showed Lily moving forward in her emotional and sexual maturity as a young woman and understanding new aspects of what she can feel. These three occasions are few of many check point in the book that the bees help Lily and one way or other to begin understand her actions and why she feels the things she does.

By the end of the book she shows a fully mature side of her when she manages to come to terms with the fact that her mother had left them before she died and wasn’t perfect as she had suspected for the majority of the story. Learning these things about her mother took courage on her behalf but without the bees couldn’t have happened. August acts as a mentor and guardian and a conversation speaks to her telling her, “Most people don’t have any idea about all the complicated life going on inside a hive. Bees have a secret life we don’t know anything about. This helps Lily to identify with the lives of the working bees. The bees are said to have a way of continuing to work hard and have a strong love for their mother (the queen of the hive) much like Lily. Of course the bees have a strong hold on a female community something that Lily thrives on in the Boatwright and benefits from, this shows Lily the true power that and community can have when working together. But most of all, through everything, the bees always manage to inspire her to do something or understand another thing.

By the end of story Lily chooses not to return home but to remain in the Boatwright house but when speaking to her father finds a way to mature and almost forgive him for his imperfections as a person, there is in no way that she would have found a way to take a step forward like this without the guidance of the bees on her journey. They help understand why things have happened to her and hold a very important place not only in the novel but in Lily’s heart too.

Because the bees are the true inspiration of the story as told by the title, they assume the position of the main point of all the motifs that guide Lily through her journey. Everyone is like Lily, in that aspect of wanting to find him or her, and reading this book we learn that in order to find yourself you need one thing to inspire you and help you push forward. Finding our own bees in our life is a journey that will make out to help us discover ourselves just as Lily did.

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