THEMES


There are many themes throughout The Secret Life of Bees which vary between strong and subtle influences on the characters and the plot.
Some of the main themes include:

Civil Rights & Racism
Religion
Honesty
Feminism



Civil Rights and Racism
It is a given that any book set in the sixties would touch on civil rights because they were so prevalent an issue. This is even more so accentuated in this book because there are many characters within who are African-American and heavily discriminated against because of their skin tone. However an interesting aspect of this book is the fact that discrimination can come from anybody, and when Lily, is disliked because she is white, she is taken aback. But who can blame June, the character who discriminates against Lily, after the decades of oppression her people have been through. What astounds me is that Lily is a tad self righteous. When she first meets Zach she is surprised that a black man could be handsome and Lily is by no means a racist extremist. All of this is starts off the book when Rosaleen is arrested for spitting on a white man and refusing to apologise. Which was probably caused from exasperation from the Jim Crow laws that governed throughout the southern states An incident that would normally incur a slap on the wrist lands Rosaleen in jail with head injuries. This is a theme that is carried right through the book.


Religion
Another heavy influence throughout the book is religion. There's Lily's religion- Baptist; the main sect of Sylvan and the calendar sisters religion -Daughters of Mary; based on the statue Our Lady of Chains. There is also an interesting take on catholicism. Lily and the baptist community see Catholics as unusual extremists- just as we see Islam today.


Honesty
The book is riddled with liars and mysteries. Lily constantly lies to the calendar sisters, T-Ray lies to Lily and a whole mystery surrounds her mother, the Black Madonna and Tiburon.


Feminism
In a story so full of racism it quite surprising that we come across an empowering undertone of feminism. The Boatwright Sisters glow with female power. August runs the Black Madonna Honey co. which has been passed down through the women in their family. They work hard and avoid marriage, not because they hate men but because they are against the slave hood that accompanies the role of "wife". Lily, who has for the majority of her life been parented by a domineering male, finds comfort in a house of women. The religion- Daughters of Mary shows women as most blessed when usually that role is reserved for men and Lily's awe and reverance in Our Lady of Chains puts an even brighter illumination on women empowering women.