Martin Luther King once said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Sue Monk Kidd’s novel The Secret Life of Bees fully embodies his idea of equality, by introducing the story of a fourteen-year-old white girl named Lily Owens, who lives during the time of the Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina. Lily’s mother was killed in an accident when Lily is a little girl. Ever since, she lives with her father T-Ray, and her black surrogate mother, Rosaleen, in Sylvan, South Carolina. Soon after her fourteenth birthday, Lily escapes to the Boatwright sisters’ house in Tiburon, South Carolina, with Rosaleen, who is arrested for assaulting a white man.
Upon her arrival, Lily faces different racist situations and meets her first love, a handsome black boy named Zach. The novel The Secret Life of Bees demonstrates that although racism has a negative impact on everyday life, it also influences Zach and Lily’s development in a positive manner.The segregation in South Carolina happens everywhere and every day. Indeed, racism is manifested through the media, the law, which legitimizes segregation, and the perceptions that white and black people have of each other. Because of the laws against colored people, Rosaleen, as a black woman, lives with constraints in her life. For example, she cannot live in a house with white people (Kidd, p.
8), she cannot represent Lily at the charm school (Kidd, p.19), or even to travel with a car with white people (Kidd, p.76). The media is also influenced by racism, and constantly shows news about segregation such as the case of Martin Luther King, who is arrested because he wan. .mes out of jail, there is a “heated, charged, part” inside Zach (Kidd, 311), which motivates him to become a lawyer, and ”bust white ass” (Kidd, 311).
With Lily’s help he overcomes his anger (Kidd, 331). He understands his anger, and transforms it into motivation to get high grades (Kidd, p.332). In sum, this shows the obstacles created by racism in Zach’s life. Though, he becomes angrier towards white people, he does not use violence. However, Zach transforms his anger into motivation to go to college, and to become a lawyer.
Finally, the novel The Secret life of Bees demonstrates the emotional maturity, and growth of the both Lily and Zach, during times of systematic racism. The novel authentically represents Civil Rights Movement’s time, and makes us realize how spiritually sad and dangerous these times were.Works CitedKidd, Sue Monk. The Secret Life of Bees