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THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES BOOK SUMMARY
One morning Lily finds the tallest man she has ever seen in the yard. May tells Lily that his name is Neil and he and June are sweet on each other. However, June will not marry him because she was a jilted bride many years before. As May tells the story, she becomes upset and starts humming. Rosaleen and Lily encourage her to go to her wall. When June and Neil come into the room, June asks what set May off. June is embarrassed when Lily tells her that May is upset that she will not marry Neil. When Neil starts asking Lily questions about where she is from, Lily gets nervous and leaves.
Lily is surprised on Sunday when the sisters do not go to church. Instead a group of their friends, known as the Daughters of Mary, come to partake in a unique religious gathering. They pray the rosary and recount the story of Our Lady of Chains. Finally, June plays music as the Daughters touch Mary’s red heart. However when it is Lily’s turn, June stops playing right in the middle of the song. Lily feels shunned and then faints. Lily awakes in August’s bed. August and Rosaleen care for her and blame the incident on the heat.
That night, Walter Cronkite announces on television that the United States will be sending a man to the moon. August is upset because she thinks the moon will never be the same once man has walked on her. Lily thinks about how she will touch the black Mary’s heart one day and then tell August the truth.
The epigraph of this chapter discusses the “queen substance,” which is emitted by the body of the queen bee. This substance must be obtained by direct contact with the queen and it stimulates the worker bees. The theme of this chapter is the importance of both metaphorical and literal contact with the “queens” in Lily’s life. While at the story’s inception Lily’s only “queen” was her mother, she is now becoming greatly influenced by August and Our Lady of Chains, or the Christian Mary.
In this chapter Lily continues to thrive off of her contact with August as well as her contact with her mother’s belongings. However, now she also has the desire to touch the heart of Mary as the other women do. When June prevents her from touching the statue’s heart, Lily’s goals become not only to stay with August and find out about her mother, but to touch the statue. Lily believes, as do the other women, that touching the heart of Mary will give her strength.
The story of Our Lady of Chains is known as a frame-story. A frame-story is a tale within a tale and usually illuminates a theme of the larger work. The theme of the Our Lady of Chains story is that Mary provides strength and cannot be restrained. This theme applies to the women of The Secret Life of Bees. This novel is largely about the strength of women to overcome repression. Women find strength in one another as well as in Mary. Despite the obstacles the women face, each takes control of her life.
Finally, in contrast to the epigraph’s discussion of the importance of contact with the queen, August hints that contact can be dangerous as well. At the chapter’s conclusion, August tells Lily that the moon will never be the same once man has set foot on it. The same is true regarding Lily and her mother. For now, Lily has a romantic vision of her mother--much like August’s vision of the moon. However, once Lily learns the truth about her mother she will never be able to return to her blissful ignorance.Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version