The Secret Life of Bees
After her conversation with August, Lily spends some time alone. She struggles to forgive her mother but finds it incredibly difficult. August realizes that Lily needs time to grieve for her mother, just as everybody recently needed time to grieve for May. Rosaleen and the Boatwright sisters, conscious of Lily’s need to grieve, stay out of Lily’s way. Meanwhile, June prepares for her wedding, which is set for October 10. When Lily finally gains enough strength to reenter the social world, she comes upon Rosaleen in a new dress. Rosaleen tells Lily that she is wearing the dress because she is going to register to vote. Lily is shocked and worried, because of what happened the last time Rosaleen tried to register, but August assuages her. Lily realizes she is proud of Rosaleen. Later, Lily runs into Zach, who tells her he is headed to the white high school the upcoming year. Lily commiserates, telling him she most likely will have to go back to Sylvan.
Later, Lily finally begins to consider forgiving her mother. The next morning, Lily and August head to work on the bees. Because one hive is missing its queen, they must get it a new one. August reveals that she was hoping Our Lady would stand in for Lily’s mother, just as Lily had imagined she would. August then explains the nature of Our Lady, how she is a presence in every part of the world and not an actual being in heaven. She explains that Lily must find a mother inside herself, and she should not expect an outside force to mother her. August explains that the mother acts as a power inside of her, one that she can rely on when she is feeling weak or alone, sad or tired. Lily appreciates this sentiment and takes it to heart. It comes in useful almost immediately. A few hours later, Lily answers a knock on the door, only to discover T. Ray standing there.
T. Ray arrives in a controlled but angry state and immediately begins to scold Lily. (He discovered Lily’s location by calling a strange number that appeared on his phone bill; Ms. Lacy answered, and told T. Ray about Lily. Confused by how much more mature she looks, T. Ray begins to yell at her as if she were Deborah. Frightened, Lily calls him “Daddy,” and he stops pushing her around. Lily feels now that she understands him more than ever. However, he still demands that she return to Sylvan with him. As T. Ray is about to drag Lily off, August and Rosaleen show up. August gives him a way to save face, telling T. Ray that he would help her out greatly if he would leave Lily at the house. He recants and agrees to leave. As his truck is driving away, Lily yells for him to stop and asks him who really shot Deborah. He tells her, again, that she did. In the end, Lily stays at August’s house, goes to school with Zach, and remains a part of the Boatwright family. She even forgives her mother and she realizes that she has gained many mothers in the Boatwright sisters and the Daughters of Mary.
As the novel’s conclusion, the final chapter completes several narrative arcs. In the first chapter, Rosaleen sets out to register to vote and is deterred. In the final chapter, she finally completes this intended task. Kidd uses Rosaleen’s desire to be a registered voter to spur the original action: Rosaleen’s arrest leads Lily to leave T. Ray, which, in turn, leads Lily and Rosaleen to the Boatwrights. In this final chapter, Rosaleen’s ability to register signals to readers that the action of the novel has finished. Although there will still be difficult times ahead for Lily and the other characters, there will be no more running. Lily has found a home and a family, and she is staying put.
Lily’s conversation with August in the fields marks the first time Lily has contributed equally to a discussion of spiritual matters with August. At this point, Lily can actively participate in this talk, because she has done enough thinking and had enough experiences to really understand what August is talking about when she mentions the religious, spiritual realm. By the end of the novel, Lily has found friends, a lover, community, and a way to forgive her mother. With August’s help, she is able to accept another kind of maternal support—that of the Our Lady of Chains statue. For a while, Lily has been praying to the black Mary, while taking part in the rituals of the Daughters of Mary and, privately, on her own. Only now, however, is Lily able to see that what she thought was a prayer to an outward manifestation of a god or being was actually a prayer to herself, to something deep within her. August helps Lily realize that everything she has been looking for all along has been inside herself, like a bud ready to bloom once she gave it enough water. Metaphorically, August has provided Lily with the water, and this conversation is like a dramatic reenactment of the water being poured. Now, Lily is able to fully bloom into the woman she is destined to be.
Kidd does not conclude every plot point neatly. In particular, the end of the novel does not bring closure between Lily and T. Ray. Instead, it brings a certain level of understanding to their relationship. At the beginning of the chapter, Lily has finally found a way to forgive her mother for being a flawed and complicated human being. When T. Ray arrives at the Boatwright house, Lily initially just sees the angry, petty man she remembers from Sylvan. However, when T. Ray enters a violent trance and confuses Lily with Deborah, her mother, she realizes that T. Ray harbors a lot more resentment toward Deborah than Lily initially realized. She sees how hurt T. Ray was by Deborah’s leave-taking. Lily realizes that both she and T. Ray have been suffering from Deborah’s departure and death. Realizing this similarity allows Lily to develop some paternal affection for him, even though she still remains frightened of him and does not want to return with him to Sylvan. She attains some emotional closure, and, although he leaves without actually uttering any companionate words to her, Lily is able to forgive him for being a flawed man just the way she forgave her mother for being a flawed woman. Likewise, at the end of the novel, readers and Lily learn the truth: Lily did, in fact, kill her mother, although she did it accidentally.
Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!