May 05, 2005

The Secret Life of Bees

Jerz: Am Lit II (EL 267): The Secret Life of Bees

First of all I would like to say that I really loved this story and it was probably my favorite of all the stories we read. There were a lot of things that really intriguied me about the story and most of my discussion questions are based around the things I questioned and found worthy of discussion.

It is interesting how the Daughters of Mary celebrate (on Mary Day) the Feast of the Assumption. The reason I find this interesting is because of all the feast days of the Blessed Mother, the ASsumption is the one that recognized her as a solo act. The Nativity recognizes her as the mother of Christ the Lord. The Visitation, when she visits Anne the mother of John the Baptist while she is pregnant with Christ. The Annunciation, when she learns she will become the mother of God. But the Assumption is a celebration of the glory of Mary being assumed into heaven body and soul. Lily says that in her Baptist church Mary is only discussed at Christmas time, typical of Protestant denominations. But in the meeting the Daughters of Mary read only scripture about Mary and pray the Hail Mary over and over again as if praying the rosary but they do not say the Our Father or the Glory Be or the apostles creed as Catholics do. It would seem almost as though they are blaspheming Christ and the Christian tradition and focusing soley on Mary. This could be considered an act of idolatry, worshipping false gods before the Lord. So my question is:

Do you think that the Daughters of Mary are being idolatrous, would the popes of the past roll over in their graves? AND

Why do you think they chose the Feast of the ASsumption to celebrate rather than any other feast of the Blessed Mother?

Lily experiences a change in her spiritual life when the meets the Boatwright sisters. This is obvious but one of the subtle ways we see this is through her private prayer life. In the beginning of the book we know that Lily believes in God and also that she loves God and believes in the power of prayer. She was raised in a Baptist church and even though she does not believe wholeheartedly that Brother Gerald is right about everything, she is still spiritual in her heart. We see her praying several times in the early part of the novel:

With Rosaleen when she runs away-- "Please God, I didn't mean to treat her like a pet dog. I was only trying to save her. That's all." (p. 54)

When T. Ray tells her that her mother left her-- "God and Jesus you make him take it back." (p. 40)

And also, she prays to her own mother, Deborah. She says things like "Mother, forgive me." etc. frequently before her spritual revelation. From my perspective this tells me that in her mind she has already justified that her mother is in heaven and in a position to be prayed to. She wants to believe that her mother is good and perfect and watching over her from above because she never truly knew her mother in life. This is common for people to do when they lose their loved ones.
After she meets August and becomes introduced to Our Lady, her prayer life begins to change slightly

She approaches the statue of Our Lady in the parlor and says-- "Fix me, please, fix me. Help me know what to do. Forgive me. Is my mother all right up there with God?...." (p. 164)

On page 258 she admits, "I wanted to talk to her [Our Lady], to say "Where do I go from here?"

And she tells The Blessed Mother, "You are my mother, You are the mother of thousands." (p. 269)

I believe that the reason Lily shifts to praying to Mary is because she is able to form a relationship with a spiritual mother who is perfect and everything that she wanted her own mother to be and thought she was before she found out that she left her. She stops praying to her own mother and to Mary because she realizes that her mother was human and make mistakes she is not the ideal mother of the world that she wanted her to be. My question:

What do you think the shift in Lily's devotion (from God more so to Mary) says about the changes she experienced once she moved to the pink house and found out about her mother?

Another thing I thought was worthy of discussion is May. The character of May. In the story May's character is really short lived for such a colorful vivacious character. She adds a lot of variety and interest to the story. But:

What does May represent in the story?
What is her purpose?
Why did the author create her character? How would the story be different if it had just been June and August in the pink house and no May involved?

When answering consider the following Mayisms:
- her affinity for bugs (not wanting to harm any creature)
- her wailing wall and her eternal suffering and sorrow
- the cause of and details about her death
- her banana habits (wanting the perfect banana)

Posted by MaryAnderson at May 5, 2005 02:08 PM | TrackBack