The Secret Life of Bees and The Book of Negroes Comparative Essay

Throughout the years, women have struggled to gain the same equal rights as men. They had to face many barriers in order to successfully be where they are presently. When women are empowered and given the chance to adopt the role of a leader, they are able to contribute a strong set of skills and life experiences, that can be used to change the world. In both Sue Monk Kidd’s, The Secret Life of Bees, and Lawrence Hill’s, The Book of Negroes, strong female protagonists are portrayed.

These individual stories take place in distinct time periods, which show how each issue is faced differently. The female protagonists, Lily Melissa Owens and Aminata Diallo, share the same motivation and strength even though both protagonists had to live with a devastating tragedy to achieve change. Both protagonists must come to terms with issues of racism and prejudice between the white and African Americans, gender inequality, and the lack of freedom and confinement they are exposed to.

They must face these struggles to demonstrate the strength and motivation they portray as they achieve their goal of peace.

Racism and prejudice is a global matter, that requires a great amount of strength and motivation to be able to push through. In Sue Monk Kidd’s, The Secret Life of Bees, Lily Mellissa Owens struggles with her own racism, and the racism she receives from the other characters within the novel, which she has to eventually overcome, with the strength and motivation she portrays.

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After the Civil Rights Act was released, there was still substantial amount of racism and stereotypes in the society. Lily is not as racist as the other individuals within the society, but in fact her definition of racist is viewed as differently than others. Lily assumes that most African Americans individuals are rough and uneducated such as Rosaleen, whom uneducated housekeeper. Although, Lily has those perceptions based on Rosaleen, she still loves her as much. Her love is shown when Rosaleen is beaten and taken into jail. Lily goes at her own risk to help Rosaleen escape. “ You act like you’re my keeper. Like I’m some dumb nigger you gonna save.” (pg- 44). Lily is seen as strong, since she was able to go and save Rosaleen despite the consequences. However, When Lily meets the owner of her own business, August Boatwright. Lily changes the way she perceives African Amercians, and her assumptions she had towards them. Lily was alarmed that a African American is capable of being as smart and creative as August. Which made her recognize that her racial stereotypes are completely unreasonable. As humans we are entitled to display an arrangement of different characteristics, regardless of skin type or ethnicity.

Lily learned to adapt and accept the Boatwright sister’s lifestyle. An important role in the statue of the Virgin Mary where Lily seems to describe in her quote when she first set her eyes onto it. “She was black as could be, twisted like driftwood from being out in the weather, her face a map of all the storms and journeys she’d been through. Her right arm was raised as if she was pointing the way, except her fingers were closed in a fist. It gave her a serious look, like she could straighten you out if necessary.” (pg- 70). The statue makes Lily feel guilty because she feels Virgin Mary knows about the lies she has told. This makes her realize the power of the statue. Which builds her respect for it.

Although, Lily is seen to be racist, she also experiences racism that makes her contemplate whether people should be labelled based on their skin type. She received racism from one of the Mary daughters, when they had come over to the Boatwright’s to begin the Catholic worship that is focused on Virgin Mary. They begin to say “ Sugar- girl really talking about white people like that and we have a white person present. They didn’t even think of me being different. Up until then I’d thought that white people and colored people getting along was a big aim, but after that I decided everybody being coloress together was a better plan.” (pg 209). Moreover, Lily experiences many encounters of racism from the African Americans, which she continues to tolerate, but these situations allow her to realize the bigger picture and how the African American individuals felt throughout the years, when they were confronted with racism. This signifies Lily’s strength of handling these racist situations and putting her self image at risk into helping and living with the Boatwright sisters. Along with the motivation she possess into improving the circumstances of this issue, and creating change.

In Lawrence Hill’s, The Book of Negroes, Aminata Diallo has also shown motivation and strength in order to overcome the racism and prejudice she was put through, to achieve change. Aminata grew up in a small village, where her father was a respected jeweller, who taught her to read the Quran and her mother is a midwife who taught her how to deliver babies. They reside in the village of Bayo, which is now modern day Mali. During this period of time African Americans had no rights in comparison to the white people. Aminata had to face many injustices that had occurred to her in the novel. She lived in a period of time, in which the white people were rulers and had a higher status than the African Americans. At a young age Aminata had her parents killed right in front of her eyes by the people who have worked with the slave trade. Which interprets her ability of strength at a young age. Moreover, Aminata had many more disastrous obstacles towards her future that she was unaware of.

Her first encounter of racism was when she was bought in the slave trade by a man named

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English Essay ISU. (2019, Dec 09). Retrieved from

English Essay ISU
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