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Forgiveness and Responsibility

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The Secret Life of Bees gives a radical analysis of a young girl- Lily, growing up under exceptional circumstances for a girl her age. She not only suffers the abuses of a harsh father but painful memories of her mother’s death too when she was a child. The latter’s pain being worsened by guilt feelings about her involvement in her demise. Lily had accidentally shot Deborah, her mother during a brawl with her father T. Ray. Jenny’s faint memory of her with a gun that fateful afternoon is re-affirmed by her father’s confession that she did kill her mother. This state of affairs had derailed Jenny’s life and made her confused, sad and curious almost at equal measure. T. Ray’s assertion that her mother had abandoned them before and that she had only come to pick her clothes without Jenny broke her heart.


It elicited hatred and despise feelings in Jenny’s young heart. Simply put, blaming Deborah for all her plight became so natural for Jenny. Thus, how Jenny came to put up with all these and even come to forgive her mother is fascinating. This paper seeks to explore how the issues of responsibility and forgives are applied in Jenny’s unique life. Perhaps the most poignant in which responsibility and forgiveness is explored in this book revolves around the death of Jenny’s mother. This is brought out in the following ways; First, Jenny is bitter that her mother had to die and leave her behind with an abusive father who loves to hate her. News that her mother had abandon Jenny with her father the day she came back, allegedly, to pick some belongings was too much to bear.

It makes Jenny believe that both parents had no love for her. To double the insult, she constantly faces extreme punishment for the most remote mistake. For example, her father makes her kneel on dry grit (Kidd 11). As if this is not enough, he downplays her ambitions of studying to achieve literacy and even going as far as laughing at her. This serves to hurt and remind Jenny of her mother. It does not help that her father should be a source of comfort and hope in Deborah’s absence. He is simply not doing that. Jenny is instead forced to seek this comfort from her nanny Rosaline. With all these issues at play, any thoughts of ever forgiving her parents seem next to impossible to Jenny yet she comes to do just that at a later stage in the book. She not only forgives but also loves them unconditionally (Kidd 152).

The second example in which the issue of forgiveness and responsibility is explored lies in Jenny’s relationship with her nanny. Despite her African dissent, Rosaline accepts and comforts Jenny exclusively. She has a deep sense of responsibility as far as Jenny’s welfare is concerned. Rosaline demonstrates this by mediating between Jenny and her father when the need arises. For example, Rosaline stood up to T. Ray when he demanded that Lily should get rid of a chick that she had given Jenny one Easter (Kidd 22). It is necessary to note that Rosaline faces a fair share of racial discrimination from Jenny’s race. She puts up with all kinds of abuses directed to her for the mere fact of her skin color. She has all reasons to treat Jenny with equal resentment but Rosaline does not. She instead opens up to Jenny and makes it her responsibility to guide Jenny while overlooking the evils committed on her by Jenny’s race. This shows Rosaline’s agility to forgive freely and readily.

The third exploration of responsibility by the writer of Secret Life Of Bees is in Jenny’s reaction to her Rosaline’s arrest by racists. With her nanny being the only person whose love she knew, Jenny took a substantial risk by freeing her from prison. She appreciates the role of Rosaline in her life and takes it upon herself to be of help during her time of need. After all Rosaline had helped her one time too many. Rosaline reciprocates this by accepting to escape with Jenny to the unknown. This escape ends up serving as a strong bond. It marks the beginning of the end to their empty and abusive lives back home. They are warmly welcomed into August’s and Tiburon’s community without as much as a mention of Jenny’s white background.

August’s open heart to a young lying girl of a white race which is a subject in her black people’s suffering speaks volume of what forgiveness can do. It explores the vital issues of forgiveness and responsibility. August not only ensures that Jenny and Rosaline are accepted by her sisters but also assumes their responsibility. She provides for them in all ways and even equips them with bee keeping skills. Having known what was bothering Jenny psychologically, August set on a mission to make her open up and let go of her emotions. The writer quotes August telling Jenny that “Bees have a secret life we do not know anything about” (Kidd 148). This finally makes Jenny pour her heart to August. Under August’s guidance, Jenny got to understand the importance of forgiving and loving those around her, especially her parents.

In conclusion, Jenny, though harboring feelings of resentment to her parents yearned for maternal love. She felt responsible for her mother’s death and hoped to ask her forgiveness someday. Her experience with the bees and August finally led her to shade off hatred, forgive her parents and love them with their flaws.

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