The Secret Life Of Bees: Comparison Of The Novel And The Movie

The Secret Life of Bees is a unique story that took place in 1964; a period where racism was a heavy topic in the United States. Lily Owens is a young girl whose life has been a hardship since her mother’s passing when she was 4; throughout the story we will see Lily grow and become whole once again. Throughout the story being told in the novel and on screen viewers and readers gets an insight into the strength of women, weaknesses, the ability in all of us to grow and change, nature, and the importance people place on rituals. In my point of view, the novel takes a deeper approach to the secret life of bees and the themes its protruding to the readers. Whereas the novel does have a deep focus on Lily and her mother but a shallow focus on the themes.

Throughout the story, the main characters are Lily, Rosaleen, T-Ray, the Boatwright sisters, Neil, and Zach. A powerful quote August Boatwright says in the novel is “people can start out one way, and by the time life gets through with them they end up completely different”. In the story, life gets to a few of the main characters and their characterization changes with them. In the novel and the film, Lily's character grows and blooms changing her completely. Lily is a fourteen-year-old girl who killed her mother as a small child, struggling with her past throughout almost the entire book. In the beginning, Lily is unhappy with who she is and her life but throughout the story, she grows to love herself, accept her past, and realizes how loved she truly is. When she says “ all of these women, all this love, waiting” it shows how grateful Lily is for the family she has found and how excited she is to start this new journey. Whereas T-Rays characterization can be viewed differently in the novel than in the movie. T-Ray is Lily's biological father who throughout the novel shows no love or thought about Lily and her well being. He is abusive and determined to make her life as miserable as possible. While reading the novel people may tend to have feelings such as hatred, anger, and disappointment towards T-Ray. Not one time do we see anything but rudeness and anger come from T-Ray, he never is pictured as a father figure for Lily. Whereas in the movie, some may feel sympathetic for T-Ray; understanding but not validating his actions. The movie shows a different side to T-Ray then the novel did allowing viewers to feel different feelings towards T-Ray. For example, in the movie Lily asks T-Ray if her mother was really coming back for her or just coming back for her things like T-Ray had previously stated. T-Rays response was that Deborah really was coming back for Lily but he lied about it before because Deborah wasn't coming back for him; making viewers feel T-Rays sadness.

The movie and novel tell the same story and cover the same main ideas and themes but there were quite a few similarities and differences between the two. A very noticeable difference between the novel and the movie is the ending of the story. In the book when Lily runs after T-Ray as he is leaving in his truck she asks if she shot her mother. Whereas in the movie, Lily asks if her mother was coming back for her. The change in the ending also lets characters feel a bit of sympathy for T-Ray in the movie but not the novel. While on the topic of T-Ray, in the book once Lily has run away we only hear of T-Ray once; when Lily calls him from the lawyer's office. But in the movie, readers can have flashes of what T-Ray is doing while Lily is missing. In the book, readers get a real feel of how important the boatwrights religion is to them whereas in the movie you get a hint of it but not as in-depth. The black mary had an important role throughout the novel. Whereas, in the movie the black mary was present but not as important. The sisters still kept her statue in the living room and worshipped her, but they removed Mary Day and everything associated with it, like making the honey cakes and all the festivities surrounding that day, without the events of Mary Day the importance of the black mary was also removed.. Another difference was the sweet romance between Lily and Zack that was so deep and romantic in the novel did not translate to the screen adaptation very well. In the movie, it seemed like they were merely friends, taking away some of the passion. The reasoning for this is the movie had a different focus: Lily’s quest to know more about her mother and accepting herself whereas the novel focused more in-depth on a variety of subjects.

Themes and morals readers and viewers see throughout the story being told are death, racism, and forgiveness. In both the movie and the novel death is a constant theme; with Lily’s mothers' death being a main point in the story and May committing suicide. The main character, Lily killed her mother as a small child and throughout the entire story is trying to learn about who her mother was. It isn't until she sits down with August that lily really gets an insight on who her mother was when she was still alive. A theme that was more noticeable in the novel than in the movie was racism. In the novel, we see racism and how it is highly affecting African American women and men. The novel is written to where a reader will truly feel the emotions of the characters and why they are feeling this way. The movie does show racism and how it was affecting people but it isn't a main conflict like in the novel. For example when Zach gets kidnapped by the white men in the movie theater, the lawyers assistants reaction to lily living with the boatwrights, and Rosaleen being targeted by three white guys while going to vote are all examples of racism in the movie but it does not come off as strong as it did in the novel. Lastly, a theme we see in both versions is forgiveness.

Lily has blamed herself the entirety of her life for her mothers death. Lily blames herself for her mothers death throughout the novel and breakdowns multiple times when talking about her mother.

Lily has doubt her mother will ever forgive her. Later in the novel August tells Lily about her mother, Lily becomes angry and astonished that her own mother could leave her with such a terrible person. Lily can not process that her mother was actually depressed and was not acting as a healthy person would. In spite of anger, Lily goes back to the honey house and throws four jars of honey at the wall. She does not want to forgive her mother because that means letting go of the perfect picture she had created of her mother. After learning what her mother had done and coming back to reality Lily becomes tied between forgiving her mother or staying angry at her mother. Lily ponders on why it is so hard to forgive someone. Lily has to learn to forgive herself too. When first finding out about her mother marrying T-Ray because she had become pregnant with Lily she reacts poorly; full of guilt. Then, Lily tells August how she ended up at the boatwrights house while she is having a breakdown; she admits she does not believe she is worthy of love and hates herself. Lily needs to cope with her mother’s death and accept it was only an accident that is irreversible. To forgive herself she needs to realize she is human like everyone else and is more than worthy of love. Lastly, we see forgiveness at the end of the novel when Lily comes close to forgiving her father. Lily sees what an unhappy man T-Ray was and how broken he had been over Deborah abandoning him. Lily understanding the pain her father felt after Deborah left him helps Lily understand why T-Ray behaves the way he does. She still chooses to stay with August, Rosaleen, and June although she is one step closer to forgiving her father.

She gets an insight of how much T-Ray loved her mother and although she chooses to stay with August, June, and Rosaleen, she takes a step forward in forgiving her father.

The movie and the novel both tell a very unique and stunning story of a young girl who finds friendship, love, support, and some women who are more of a mother than her mother had ever been. The story stays the same throughout the movie and the novel except for certain themes and themes not being as highlighted throughout the movie or being there at all. Giving viewers a bit of a different feeling than readers of the novel. 

16 August 2021
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