The Theme Of Self-acceptance In The Secret Life Of Bees

In the novel The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd, the author uses the change in Lily Owens as she works through accepting the guilt for accidentally killing her mother to support a theme of finding forgiveness and love for herself; it is a continuous battle to accept herself.

At the beginning of the novel, a frightened Lily watches her mom rushing back and forth from her closet to her room throwing clothes off hangers into her suitcase as her father, T. Ray, was coming up the stairs. They struggle and as Lily’s mom was reaching for something on a shelf, she pulled down a gun; which in the end killed her. This leaves Lily in a state of great sadness with the loss of the only person she felt loved her. “When I saw the gun in her hand, I ran toward her, clumsy and falling, wanting to save her, to save us all”. Lily thinks her mom’s death is her fault and at this point can not get past her guilt. She describes this sorrow by thinking, “This is what I know about myself. She was all I wanted. And I took her away”. As Lily struggles over finding a way to process the devastating emotions caused by her mom’s death and her dad belittling her, she begins a new relationship with her nanny, Rosaleen; who is very loving towards her and that love helps her find love within herself.

As Lily and Rosaleen escape their troubled lives, they find themselves in Tiburon, South Carolina because of a photo that belonged to Lily’s mom. It leads them to a pink house of three beekeeper sisters. After they get to know each other, August, one of the women revealed that they knew Lily’s mom and T.Ray and told her a lot about them. Lily confesses she is confused about why her mom would marry such a mean man like her dad. August points out that life can change people, and not always for the better. T. Ray loved Lily’s mom very much, but her rejection of him turned him into a bitter, mean man. Which she states when she says, “People can start out one way, and by the time life gets through with them they end up completely different”. Lily goes through her own change from not being loved by her dad to finding people who love and care for her. This love gives her the strength to forgive and love herself.

Lily’s biggest area of personal growth in the novel is not trying to find someone who loves her, but rather finding that self-confidence for herself. Rather than going back home with her father, she stays in the pink house with the beekeepers. At the very end of the novel, Lily states that she has forgiven herself and her mom for leaving her. It is in this way that the true message of the novel comes about: no matter what you do in life to yourself or to others, you should still love yourself and accept yourself for who you are. 

16 August 2021
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