The Secret Life of Bees
Sue Monk Kidd
Contributed by Vernita Mires
Chapter 4

Lily and Rosaleen stand across the street from the pink house, watching August work with the bees. Nervously, they go to the door. Lily and Rosaleen are greeted by August’s sisters, June and May. Inside the house, Lily notices that all the furniture is polished; she smells a beeswax candle that has the same scent as the furniture. When Lily meets August, she tells her that she and Rosaleen have run away from home and have no where to go. When August asks if Rosaleen has been beaten, Lily says that she fell down the steps. August tells them that they can stay until they figure out what they are going to do. When Rosaleen asks about the sisters’ peculiar names, May tells her that their mother loved the spring and summer. Mays says they used to have another sister named April, but she died. May begins singing and August tells her to go to her wall and finish her cry. Lily tells August that her parents are dead. Lily says that she and Rosaleen, who was the housekeeper, are going to Virginia to find Lily’s aunt. August says that Lily can help her with the bees and Rosaleen can help May with the housework until they are ready to leave.

Later August shows Lily and Rosaleen where they will be sleeping and shows Lily where she will be working. That night Lily makes Rosaleen promise that she will not tell the Boatwright sisters the truth.

The next morning Lily wakes up early and walks around the property. She discovers a wall with papers stuffed in it. Lily thinks of how peaceful it is here and how she does not want that to change.


The epigraph of Chapter Four says that bees live in social units comprised of a queen bee and her sterile daughters. These female bees need male bees only rarely. This statement captures the strong female presence of the Boatwright residence. The Boatwright sisters live together and do not require men to help them survive. The sisters are very successful and have a nice house on a large plot of land.

When Lily enters the house she notices how her body is trembling. She believes this is her sixth sense and wonders what her body knows that she does not. This passage foreshadows the sadness that will invade the house in the coming chapters. Foreshadowing is a technique in which the writer hints at or gives clues about what will happen later in the plot. Lily’s reaction to the house alerts the reader that something tragic will occur here. The effect produced by foreshadowing is heightened suspense in the reader. The reader will remember this moment as the plot progresses so that even when things seem to be going well for Lily the possibility for tension lurks.

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