As Pauline Hopkins said, “And after all our surroundings influence our lives and characters as much as fate, destiny or any supernatural agency.” An admirable example of this quote is the character Lily from The Secret Life of Bees. In this book by Sue Monk Kidd, she does an outstanding job of showing how this is used in a book. Her main character, Lily Owens, is a fourteen year old girl who ran away from home and encountared many different circumstances and positions in which her whole life was constantly being changed.
“My knees had been tortured like this enough times in my life that I’d stopped thinking of it as out of the ordinary: it was just like something you had to put up with from time to time, like the common cold. But suddenly the look on Rosaleen’s face cut through all that. Look what he’s done to you.” (Kidd 25) After Lily had been punished for a while she didn’t even realize that his ways were harsh until Rosaleen commented on it.
Lily and her housekeeper, Rosaleen, an older black woman, ran away from their home to try and track down information about Lily’s mother. Deborah Fontanel, Lily’s mother left one significant clue that Lily was able to figure out and track down. When Rosaleen and Lily ran away, they knew exactly where they needed to go. “We are going to Highway Forty and thumb a ride to Tiburon, South Carolina. At least we’re gonna try” (Kidd 49) When they arrived there they found August Boatwright.
August was an older black lady who ran a bee farm. Rosaleen and Lily were taken in and put to work. Before Lily had run away she had never done any work like what she had to do at the Boatwrights.
“Day one of my new life, I said to myself. That’s what this is.” (Kidd 57) Rosaleen and Lily adjusted very quickly to life with these kind strangers as they needed to. Their new surroundings completely changed them. When Lily left T. Ray’s house she was a very scraggly little girl. After a couple months of working with the Boatwright sisters she was much healthier looking. Working around the bees and having to haul large and heavy things around everyday made Lily become very attractive and strong, so much that after a while she couldn’t even recognize herself.
Another big change that Lily faced and that changed her, was the discrimination between black and white people, when she was growing up the discrimination existed but it was rarely brought up as such a large issue in her daily life. Sure there were the men at the gas station who called out racial slurs at passing black people, but Lily was fairly sheltered from them and the other problems. Lily was just a teenage girl who wants a place to stay but lots of trouble is caused by her living in a house with four black women when she is a white girl. Luckily for Lily, she grew up with the weird looks. After the incident with her mother, she never had good friends and everyone always gave her stare of disappointment and pity.
Ray, raised Lily to be a proper Christian girl, but when Lily arrived at August’s house she soon came to realize that The Boatwright sisters were Catholic and Lily was brought up to not interact with Catholics. Being around the women, Lily determined that Catholics were not crazy and were not to be avoided. Lily began to believe what she was being taught more and more and took it all in like a sponge. Although Lily listened to what she was taught she didn’t fully convert to Catholicism as she says in The Secret Life of Bees, “And if you see Mary, Our Lady, tell her we know Jesus is he main one down here, but we’re doing our best to keep her memory going.” (Kidd 201) In this quote Lily is talking to May who has recently passed away. This quote is extremely important to the story because it shows that you can change and still be in the middle. Lily didn’t completely change her religion just because the people she was staying In The Secret Life of Bees, the character, Lily Owens goes through many challenges and changes in her life just because of her surroundings. Like the quote by Pauline Hopkins, “And after all our surroundings influence our lives and characters as much as fate, destiny or any supernatural agency.” There are many ways for the lives and ways and just the characters in general to be changed, it doesn’t mean fate or destiny it simply means that the characters live is what it is because of where she is.