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Free Online Summary Notes for The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
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FREE STUDY GUIDE FOR THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES

CHAPTER 3

Summary

While Rosaleen sleeps, Lily thinks about the Virgin Mary. Lily does not know much about her because Mary is not an important figure in her church.

As they make their way toward town, Rosaleen tells Lily that no one is going to let a colored woman stay in a motel. Lily wonders what the Civil Rights Amendment was all about, then. In town, Lily goes into a store to buy some lunch. When the store-owner remarks that he has never seen her, she says she is in town visiting her grandmother. Lily steals snuff for Rosaleen because the man cannot sell it on Sunday. While in the store Lily sees jars of honey with the picture of the Black Madonna on them. The store-owner tells her that the woman who makes the honey is named August Boatwright and lives in a bright pink house. Lily believes that her mother must have known August.

Lily decides that she must go to the pink house. After lunch Lily buys a newspaper and is glad to see that she and Rosaleen are not in it.

Notes

The epigraph of this chapter tells us that an elusive queen can be found by finding her circle of attendants. In Chapter Three, Lily makes a very important step toward finding her mother: she finds out about someone who may have known Deborah. Thus, Lily has located a potential “circle of attendants.”


In this chapter, it begins to become apparent that The Secret Life of Bees will be a bildungsroman of sorts. A bildungsroman is a novel in which the main character progresses from childhood into adulthood. The protagonist usually undertakes some sort of journey that will lead her to a state of maturity in which she understands her place in the social order. Lily has undertaken a journey to discover the truth about her mother. In order for her to understand her place in society, or “the hive” to use Kidd’s metaphor, she must locate the “queen bee” or a queen-substitute.

CHAPTER 4

Summary

Lily and Rosaleen stand across the street from the pink house, watching August work with the bees. Nervously, they go to the door. Lily and Rosaleen are greeted by August’s sisters, June and May. Inside the house, Lily notices that all the furniture is polished; she smells a beeswax candle that has the same scent as the furniture. When Lily meets August, she tells her that she and Rosaleen have run away from home and have no where to go. When August asks if Rosaleen has been beaten, Lily says that she fell down the steps. August tells them that they can stay until they figure out what they are going to do. When Rosaleen asks about the sisters’ peculiar names, May tells her that their mother loved the spring and summer. Mays says they used to have another sister named April, but she died. May begins singing and August tells her to go to her wall and finish her cry. Lily tells August that her parents are dead. Lily says that she and Rosaleen, who was the housekeeper, are going to Virginia to find Lily’s aunt. August says that Lily can help her with the bees and Rosaleen can help May with the housework until they are ready to leave.

Later August shows Lily and Rosaleen where they will be sleeping and shows Lily where she will be working. That night Lily makes Rosaleen promise that she will not tell the Boatwright sisters the truth.

The next morning Lily wakes up early and walks around the property. She discovers a wall with papers stuffed in it. Lily thinks of how peaceful it is here and how she does not want that to change.

Notes

The epigraph of Chapter Four says that bees live in social units comprised of a queen bee and her sterile daughters. These female bees need male bees only rarely. This statement captures the strong female presence of the Boatwright residence. The Boatwright sisters live together and do not require men to help them survive. The sisters are very successful and have a nice house on a large plot of land.

When Lily enters the house she notices how her body is trembling. She believes this is her sixth sense and wonders what her body knows that she does not. This passage foreshadows the sadness that will invade the house in the coming chapters. Foreshadowing is a technique in which the writer hints at or gives clues about what will happen later in the plot. Lily’s reaction to the house alerts the reader that something tragic will occur here. The effect produced by foreshadowing is heightened suspense in the reader. The reader will remember this moment as the plot progresses so that even when things seem to be going well for Lily the possibility for tension lurks.

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