The Secret Life of Bees Study Guide

Chapter 1

What does Lily notice in her bedroom as she lies in bed at night? Why does she think they arrived that year?

Bees, that they were sat there like an angel to set all of the events in motions

What happened to Lily’s mother?
She died

a) Describe T. Ray Owens. b) How does he treat Lily, his daughter?
a) he is an aggressive and mean father and doesn’t show love for lily
B) he treats her almost like a slave. Treats his dog better

Relate the events of December 3, 1954.
This was the day her mom died. Her mom and T Ray were fighting and she heard it. He had a gun and dropped it and lily picked it up and accidentally killed her mom. She was so young and didn’t know

What is the setting of the novel?
Sylvan, North Carolina 1964

What items did Lily find inside the box that belonged to her mother? What does Lily do with the box?
It was a picture of her mom leaning against a car, a wooden picture of black Madonna and a pair of white gloves and she put them in the box and buried them in the ground so that T Ray wouldn’t find them

What is Lily’s summer job? What rule of her father’s must she follow while at work?
She has to sell the peaches that T Ray was growing. She could not read while she worked BC he hated reading

Before she starts school, Lily has a serious conversation with her father. What does T. Ray tell her about December 3, 1954?
He told her about what happened and what she did just in case anyone asked about it

Name the significant legislation that was signed in July of 1964.
The civil rights act was signed

What is Lily’s punishment for being out in the field after dark? What did Lily believe until this happened?
She is forced to kneel on a pile of grits for an hour and she believed that he had loved her and she realized she was wrong.

What does Rosaleen intend to do on Lily’s birthday?
Make a cake with candles and register for voting

What crimes did Rosaleen (and Lily) supposedly commit on their way into town that same day? What is Rosaleen’s “punishment” at the hands of three racist men?
The were accused wrongly for stealing fans from the church and writing their names in oil. She is beaten and arrested

Chapter 2

What does T. Ray claim is the truth about Lily’s mother?

That she left lily and she ran away and she came back for her her items and things and not lily

What does Lily think she hears when she has a “religious moment?” What does it cause her to do?
That her jar is open and she should leave and run away from T Ray like the bee flew away

Where does Lily find Rosaleen? Why is Rosaleen there?
She wasn’t in jail BC the sheriff let the men back in to beat her up so now she is in the hospital and lily finds her and creates a distraction and let’s her out

Chapter 3

Why is Lily so intrigued with the Madonna (Mary)?

Because she wasn’t Catholic and there was a wooden picture of Mary in her box.

What does Lily find at the general store that inspires her? What does she learn about this item?
A jar of honey with the black Mary on it. The maker of the honey lives in Tiburon, August Boatwright

What does Lily steal from the general store and why?
Snuff (tobacco) for Rosaleen BC she’s been through enough and deserves it

Chapter 4

To what/whom does Lily compare August Boatwright when she sees her for the first time?

African bride

Name August’s sisters and explain the origin of their names,
August
June
May
April
Their mother loved spring and summer

What stands in the Boatwrights’ living room? Describe this object.
Black mother Mary statue and they worship it every night. Partly Catholic and partly self invented

What lie does Lily tell August and her sisters?
That her fate died in a tractor accident

What is a spinner and how does it teach a lesson about life?
It is a honey machine that separates the good and bad stuff in the honey. In order to be happy you have to separate the bad and good things in your life.

What does Lily realize she has developed after growing up in T. Ray’s house? (see page 78)
She thought colored women could be smart, but not as smart as her because she is white.

What does Lily find in the woods near the Boatwrights’ home?
She found a knee high wall that went on for quite a bit and had hundred of little pieces of paper on them with things she did not know what it meant. She also found a small river

Chapter 5

Explain how life at August’s is like a timeout during a sporting event for Lily.

She said it was relief and it was somebody dabbing mercy on her upbeat life

What does Lily like about the honey song?
She likes the silliness and it made her feel like a regular person because they sang it doing everything

How did the Boatwrights use honey?
They used it for everything. Eating, medicine, bathing, all things of life

Why is Lily “a marvel?”
Because she caught on to all of the tasks so quickly. It’s one of the only positive things she has heard from an adult.

How does Rosaleen explain May’s habit of humming “Oh! Susanna?”
Since it was a happy song, when people told her bad things she would start humming it to ward off crying

What revelation does Lily overhear when listening to June and August speak about her?
They know she’s lying about the why she left. August said she felt like they were in some kind of trouble

What is the story of Beatrix the nun? Why does August tell this story?
A nun got tired of doing her chores away from it then she was miserable and homeless. She came in disguise and she found out that Mary had gotten the way the whole time she was gone. She was talking about lily in a way

What are August’s life lessons relating to a bee yard?
Every little thing wants to be love– theme of the whole novel, lily wants to be loved, even tho she was talking about bees

How does August explain May’s sadness and her wall?
. Everything is sad that happens it goes into her, well I have a barrier that can protect them from being sad
She’s been working on the wall for 10 years
Wailing wall

How did April die? What was May’s reaction?
She was in the ice cream store and the manager said soemthing racist and she got kicked out and her father told her that’s just what happens when you’re black. And she spiraled down from there. She got depressed and killed herself. A part of may died with April

Why does Lily go to the “wailing wall?”
She put her moms name on it

Chapter 6

Name one reason June is hesitant to marry Neil.

She was supposed to get married to someone along time ago but the guy didn’t show up to the wedding

What/who are the Daughters of Mary?
Old woman named Queenie and her daughter Violet-Lunelle, mabelee, Cressie
A Special service in the pink house

Recount the basic elements of the story of Our Lady of Chains.
People went to praise House to sing and pray and someone would ask the lord to send rescue. A lady got washed to the shore to reserve them

Why is the Mary called “Our Lady of Chains?”
Because she broke chains, it is inspiring to African American women. It all started with the slaves

What happens to Lily as she reaches to touch Mary’s heart?
The music stopped and she ended up fainting

Chapter 7

Why does Lily dread dinner time at the Boatwright home?

Because that’s the time of day she has to be around June, who resents her

Lily implies that Zach, because he is Black, should be good at _________________, but he truly wants to be ________________________.
Football, lawyer

What does Rosaleen like to tell Lily she is doing while living with the Boatwrights?
Auditioning to be adopted by the calendar sisters and that she was living in a dream world

Why does Lily think she is attracted to Zach?
She thinks he’s mysterious, gentle, soft hearted, his smile, and she gets this feeling around him

Why does Lily now live alone in the honey house?
Because Rosaleen was now going to sleep with May because may gets scared at night by herself

What does Zach give Lily and what is his view of their friendship?
He got her a green notebook with rosebuds on the cover so she could start her writing. He likes her more than any other girl but he said people would kill him for just looking at a girl like her

Chapter 8

Lily finds out that the Black Madonna is not unusual. What is August’s explanation?

She learned from her mothers prayer cards that there are black Mary statutes and pictures all over Europe. The one on the honey is the black Madonna of breznichar

The Mary statue in the Boatwrights’ living room is actually…
A figurehead of an old ship

Why do women make the best beekeepers?
They have a special ability built into them to love the creatures that sting. “It comes from years of loving children and husbands” p. 143

What is August’s view of marriage?
She didn’t want to marry. There was enough restrictions in her life without waiting on someone hand and foot. She isn’t against it. She is just against how it is set up

Where does the author reference the title of the novel in this chapter?
August and Lily are beekeeping and the bees are inside the hive cooling off the hive and the sound is harmonizing. No one sees this side of bees. They also each have their own role to play. Therefore, the secret life of bees. Lily is living a secret life too

Why does Lily want to cry as she is talking to T. Ray?
He can’t answer the question about what her favorite color is. Because she felt relief to get it out of her system but she lied ab it bringing her joy p. 162

Lily composes an acrostic poem about her father. How does she describe him?
Despicable, Angry, Dud of a father, Disappointment, Yoke around my neck

What does Lily as of Mary as she prays with her hand over her heart?
She asks her to fix her, help her know what to do, is her mother with God, don’t let them find us, let them love her, p. 164

Chapter 9

What does Lily learn from August as they listen to the news?

Ranger 7 finally hit the moon, police were looking for the bodies of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, and the terrible things that happens on the Gulf of Tonkin. August says that they can’t fix the whole world

What errand are August and Lily on and why?
It is scorching hot so they have to go water all of the bees

What is the “initiation” Lily undergoes and what does it signify, according to August?
Lily gets stung and August says you can’t be a true beekeeper without getting stung

According to August, why is it acceptable to be bad at something?
As long as you love it, it doesn’t matter if you’re bad at it

What incident changes the relationship between Lily and June?

What is the significance of an elevator in Lily’s life?

What does Lily tell God during their “private conference”?

How does May cope with roaches, and why does it seem important to Lily?

Lily asks May about Deborah Fontanel. What is May’s response?

Why is a group of white men gathered in front of the movie theater?

Describe the incident between Zach and his friends and the group of men mentioned in the previous question.

Why must Zach stay in jail for five days?

To what does Lily compare Rosaleen and August?

Lily visits Zach in jail. What do they discuss during their brief conversation?

What does May learn when she answers the phone? How does she react to what she hears?

Chapter 10

The longer the women search for May, the more convinced they are that…..

What does Lily due to calm her fears as she searches for May?

Where is June? What has happened?

A police officer, Eddie Hazelwurst, interviews Lily and the Boatwrights. With what is he must concerned?

What does Hazelwurst advise Lily to do?

According to August, what is the purpose of a vigil?

What does Lily want to do as she stands by May’s coffin?

What does Lily want from her deceased mother?

How does Zach feel about May’s death? (Consider the phone call).

Why do August, Zach, and Lily place black cloth on the bee hives?

Summarize the message of May’s note to her sisters.

Chapter 11

Why has the routine changed for everyone at the Boatwright home?

How, according to Zach, can he and Lily ever be together?

What is the purpose of Mary Day? How did it get its name?

What is the ritual the Daughters Mary do each Mary Day (regarding the statue)?

What is June’s response to Neil’s latest marriage proposal and why?

“__________________ is everything.” -August Boatwright (see page 228)

How has Zach changed since his arrest?

Chapter 12

What picture of Mary has a profound impact on Lily?

What does August admit she already knows about Lily and her past?

Why did August choose NOT to tell Lily what she knew about her (Lily)?

Why did August know a very young Deborah Fontanel?

Why does Lily think she is a bad person?

A voice speaks to Lily and tells her she is__________________. August reassures her that this is not true.

Why has June taken so long to love and accept Lily?

After hearing Lily’s story, how does August explain the way Lily found her and her sisters? (page 245)

What was T. Ray like when he first met Deborah Fontanel?

According to August, why did Deborah marry T. Ray?

Had Lily’s mother ever left her? How does August explain Deborah’s behavior?

“There is nothing perfect…there is only _____________.” -August Boatwright

Chapter 13

What message does Lily ask August to relay to Zach?

Why do the Daughters of Mary bathe the statue in honey?

August brings Lily a hatbox. What is inside? Be specific.

How does Lily interpret the items she finds? (page 276)

Chapter 14

“____________ don’t help anything. You know that.” -A.B.

Why is Lily worried for Rosaleen?

Why is Zach “doomed to misery”?

Why did Rosaleen call each of the Daughters of Mary?

According to August, where is Our Lady?

Who knocks on the Boatwrights’ door at the end of Chapter 14?

How did this person find Lily at their house?

How does T. Ray at confused when he is enraged at Lily?

Lily asks T. Ray (again) about the day her mother died. How does he explain the events of that day?