Human beings are in constant search for freedom and liberation. This is what The Secret Lives of the Bees is all about. It highlights the fight to freedom by a young girl Lily and an imaginable power of the woman in a society.
A woman is portrayed as the only hope in society full of chaos and prejudice created by men. Summon Kidd uses the Black Madonna deliberately not to promote racial prejudice but to express a way of life. She also uses the woman as a very powerful human and divine symbol which is not only a source of comfort but also a path to rediscovering a person essence.
This paper endeavors to explain Kidd’s revelation about the woman power to transform not only societies but also individuals. Most societies in the world are gender biased. They segregate and relegate the woman to a second class being and view her as without power over anything including herself. However this is in contrast to the realities unearthed by Kidd. The woman is not only a salves path to freedom, but also effectively symbolizes the power, strength and influence women can have in the society. She is the silent but all powerful source of inner strength to those who believe in her.
Black Madonna is a real person to those who know and believe in the power of what she symbolizes. August encourages Lily that the Black Madonna is present in those who she has liberated from enslavement. She is not just some magical statue hanging on a wall or a character from ancient fairly tales who people are forced to believe in (Kidd 288). This men hat the Black Madonna has an overwhelming strength to not only Lily but all those who acknowledge her power. The power of the woman does not exist for the sake of it but also has the power to appeal and attract those who are looking for solace. In Boatwright residence, Lily is eventually attracted to the Black Lady.
This is a statue hang on the wall that represents divine freedom and liberation (Kidd 108). Lily’s escape to Tiburon, a place owned by her late mother, was a journey in such of freedom. She had grown up under a father she was so ashamed of; so much so that she could not even bring herself to call him “father.
” He was violent and indifferent towards Lily. Black Madonna therefore gives her a lot of faith and hope in her search for freedom. Lily realizes that the Black Madonna is just a statue at face value. However, it is what she symbolically represented that mattered. It gave her a lot of hope, courage and inner strength. Suffice to say that this statue is in the shape of not just a woman, but also a black woman.
Lily uses the strength she gives her to run away from the oppressive world of Ray T, her father. Suffice to say that a woman is the rock on which a family is build on. Without her no family can survive. She is the glue that holds the family bond together, and gives strength even to the male members of that family. The absence of lily mother from the family is the breaking point.
Young lily is lost and cannot seem to rest until she finds her own “family” back. She therefore starts a concerted search for her mother to feel whole again. Unfortunately she cannot find her and the more she continues to search for Debra the more lost her gets and this blinds her from realizing the power of those other woman around her. However, as soon as she accepts what the Black Madonna stands for, she realizes that there enough mothers around her in the women she was leaving with (Kidd 302). Despite her skin color, it is in this family that lily finds for the first time in her life the real meaning of love and acceptance. The irony of it is that it is her live father who she would have looked up to salvage what was left of her family after he mothers demise.
However upon her reunion with T.Ray, she still opts to go back and stay with the Boatwright’s. T.Ray lets her, albeit grudgingly agreeing that she found life with them, life he couldn’t have given her (Kidd 294). This helps Lily to create a bond with Boatwright’s thus forming a new family, far away from Ray T (Kidd 238) The woman is also a divine figure in the society, a symbol so overwhelming that it is worth to worship. She is the source of divine hope and solace. Other than the Black Madonna, there are other strong symbols that not only portray the liberation of slaves but also portray feminine power. Such are the Our Lady of Chains, Mrs.
Boatwright’s Catholic prayer cards and Deborah’s wooden picture of Mary. After Lily’s learning and acceptance of the power of the Black Madonna, she starts attending the cerebrations on Mary day. These celebrations are for “a special remembrance for our own Lady of Chains… (which) reenact her story… (and to) give thanks for the honey crop” (Kidd 221). Our Lady of Chains is not only a source of strength to all those who believe in her strength, but also a divine figure that represent the Virgin Mary. Her followers also see her as their only hope of salvation and liberation. Lily discovers among her mother’s belongings “the funny wooden picture of Mary with the dark face” (Kidd 23). Despite being a white girl, she treasures this picture of a black woman so much and thus grows to overcome the racial prejudice prevalent in this society.
This also shows the strength of feminine power as two women overcome racial barriers to bond. Like the picture of the Black Mary, Deborah secret prayer cards offer not only great solace to Lily but also portray strong feminine power. Most of these cards had a picture of the Black Madonna at the back. Lily used to enjoy playing with these cards especially the ones with the picture.
Without a doubt Sue is a feminist writer, who promotes the woman as a creature of an imaginable strength and character. Her works are however of devoid of radical feminist views present in works of writers such as Eve Ensler. While it presents men as weak characters, it also promotes the women as powerful personas who can liberate people from their struggles. The Black Madonna symbolizes the unquestionable power that women have. It is in her that lily finds the solace and comfort that she had sought for all her troubled life. She represents strength, courage and hope not only to Lily but also to other people who look up to her.
This novel also seeks to give a platform to the voice of the black race in a society that is overtly racial and discriminating. All the strong characters in this novel are not only women but also black women. After Lily’s mother escapes from her Lily is left under the care of Rosaleen, a black nurse. Other powerful black women include the Boatwright’s and the Black Madonna who also represents the Virgin Mary mother of all. Therefore, the novel manages to accomplish what many feminist writers have failed to do: creating a strong woman thus promoting her place in the society without drawing much negative criticism from the male reader. As a matter of fact, the book offers solace to both the male and female reader.
Kidd, Sue. The Secret Life of Bees. New York: Viking, 2002.