The Burden of Knowing in the Secret Life of Bees

Many people suffer from a burden of knowledge.

In The Secret Life of Bees many characters also experience this phenomenon. The Secret Life of Bees is about a girl named Lily Owens who accidentally killed her mom as a young child. As a teenager she and her stand-in mom, Rosaleen, leave her abusive father, T-Ray. Lily travels to Tiburon to try to learn more about her mother. She encounters three apiarist black sisters named the Boatwrights, who hold the key to her mother’s past, and where she has a burden of knowledge. The burden of knowledge is defined in the novel. The concept is demonstrated in the story through multiple characters. The burden of knowing is also very significant theme in the story. In the novel, The Secret Life of Bees, the burden of knowledge is defined, explored through various characters, and plays a significant role in the plot.

A burden of knowledge can be a complex subject. It is most easily explained by someone learning an unpleasant truth which causes them pain.

Another way to think of this is the saying that ignorance is bliss. Lily gives a vivid description of this encumberment: “Knowing can be a curse on a person’s life. I’d traded in a pack of lies for a pack of truth, and I didn’t know which one was heavier. Which one took the most strength to carry around? It was a ridiculous question, though, because once you know the truth, you can’t ever go back and pick up your suitcase of lies.

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Heavier or not, the truth is yours now.” (Kidd 255). Here Lily further explains a burden of truth and describes it in great depth and detail.

The burden of knowing is explored through the story, The Secret Life of Bees. At the start of the story no characters appear to be under such oppression, but as the book progresses these encumbrances are encountered. It is shown in multiple examples with different characters. One burden of knowing that occurs, is Lily when she learns the truth about her mom. Lily hardly knows any information about her mother, since she killed her mom in a gun accident as an infant. Lily suspects that her mother might have a darker history than what she likes to tell herself. August confirms this suspicion. Thus, Lily has a burden of understanding about her mom. In addition to this example, May Boatwright has to cope with a burden of knowledge. May is shielded from the knowledge that Zach, a boy who helps take care of the bees, is in jail and is therefore in terrible danger, by the other characters to try to spare her some sorrow. However, May manages to learn about Zach’s imprisonment when Zach’s mom calls and and talks about it: “ That was Zach’s mother,” she (May) said. “Why didn’t you tell me about him getting put in jail?” (Kidd 186). May expresses her shock and ignorance and becomes filled with anguish after learning about it and receiving this knowledge. This encumbrance proves to be too much for May to bare as it ultimately leads to her suicide.

The burden of knowledge is a very significant thematic idea throughout the novel. Not only does it reappear frequently, it also is the driving force that causes some of the major events in the story, such as May’s suicide. “I’m tired of carrying around the weight of the world. I’m just going to lay it down now. It’s my time to die and it’s your time to live.” ( Kidd 210). May explains in her suicide note how her burden caused her suicide. In addition the burden of knowledge helps create some of the conflict such as that between Lily and her mother. “My mother had left me… ‘I hate her (Lily’s mother),’I said… ‘I do, I hate her (Lily’s mother). She wasn’t anything like I thought she was.”” (Kidd 251). Lily has to learn to deal with her unpleasant burden of knowledge and realize that she has no control over what her mother did and must try to forgive her. Lily eventually comes to this conclusion and discovers that although she cannot truly vanquish her burden, she can lighten it and almost become free.

Throughout the course of the novel, The Secret Life of Bees, the burden of knowing is defined, is examined through different characters, as well as plays a significant role in the book. The burden of insight is defined as an encumbrance cause by unpleasant truths. The burden of knowledge is examined throughout the novel when multiple characters experience it. It is also significant since it deeply impacts the events and characters. In life, as well as in the book, The Secret Life of Bees, the burden of knowledge plays a vital role. “Knowledge is a burden- once taken up, it can never be discarded,” Steven R. Lawhead.

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The Burden of Knowing in the Secret Life of Bees. (2021, Dec 15). Retrieved from

The Burden of Knowing in the Secret Life of Bees
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