Mr. Kendall's
Web Page on
The Secret Life of Bees

Essay Topics for The Secret Life of Bees


            1) Lily has suffered the double loss of her mother when she was a baby and the emotional "loss" of a father who doesn't treat her as though he loves her.  On the other hand, between Rosaleen, August Boatwright, Zach and the Daughters of Mary, one might argue that she acquires a new family, one who cares for her, suffers with her and provides her with guidance and support.

Organize your essay to explain first how Lily suffers from the loss of her mother and the poor treatment of her by her father, and then how the non-related people in Tiburon, South Carolina become her family.  What does each family member provide for her, and what does she do for them, in return?


            2) The novel deals with many negative actions, such as the death of a parent, the mental and physical abuse of another parent, racial prejudice and violence.  But it also offers positive actions as well, such as the "kindness of strangers," loyalty of friends, the willingness to trust and support new relationships, and the beginnings of romantic love.  Like the yin-yang symbol, good artistic works often merge the positive and the negative into one interwoven story.

            Organize your essay to explain how Sue Monk Kidd realistically depicts many evils of the world, all of which actually exist in real life, but also how she offers us hope by supplying Lily and the reader with the counter suggestions of how we can overcome such evil with positive actions and beliefs.    


            3) Consider the various ways the novelist displays religion.  How would you describe her "belief system," that is, how people should treat each other?  Consider the ways people worship in the novel, how they find healing or therapy, how they learn to improve the quality of their lives and how they forgive themselves.  You may wish to examine a typical meeting of the group at August's house and how "our Lady of the Chains" figures into this.


            4) How does Lily grow, from being a child to understanding very adult knowledge, in the space of less than a year?  What kind of an adult will she become, based on her influences and her potential for growth?

A Practice Quiz for Chapters One and Two:

1) Why is Rosaleen's arrest unfair? What does she do to provoke it?

2) Explain the exact steps Lily takes to free Rosaleen. Be as specific as possible.

3) What does T. Ray say to Lily about her mother, to try to hurt her, after Rosaleen's arrest?

4) What does the writer mean, when she has Lily hear a voice, saying, "Lily, your jar is open"?

5) How do Lily and Rosaleen get to Tiburon and what do they do when they first arrive?

6) How does Lily get them food without being caught?

7) How do they find the Boatwright's sisters' house?

Some Helpful Links

The official site is
including some study guide questions for the novel, over all (don't read these until closer to the end of the book, to avoid ruining suspense). I also enjoyed many of the novelist's journal entries about the book. Scroll down to find all of the ones about our novel, vs. some of Sue Monk Kidd's other works.

Other interesting web sites including and

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