It is no wonder that the bees are the most important symbolic element in the novel, when the title features bees as well. The bees serve as Lily’s guides. They inspire her to struggle for what she believes is right. It is them who urge her to leave her home and move on in search of better life filled with more love and positive emotions. The bees serve not only as a symbol but as the driving force of the entire novel and the main tool for the development of the primary character.
We meet the bees together with Lily for the first time when one of them visits her room. It is then that Lily realizes that she cannot live in T. Ray’s house any longer. Lily keeps on following the honey trail towards Tiburon at the same time closing in to finding out the truth about her mother. In Tiburon the bees do not leave her sphere of existence either. She starts living in a honey house and tending bees becomes her daily activity. When asked about the things she loves or enjoys bees also come out at the top of Lily’s preferences. Bees take part in almost every single significant occurrence in her life: it is after tasting honey from Zach’s finger that she realizes her love for him; it is after letting the bees rest on her body that Lily realizes her love for August.
The bees often serve as the metaphor for Lily’s aspects of life. “Putting black cloths on the hives is for us. I do it to remind us that life gives way into death and then death turns around and gives way into life”. Lily is able to reconcile with the death of her mother and keep on living a full life. “Well if you have a queen and a group of independent minded bees that split off from the rest of the hive and look for another place to live, then you’ve got a swarm”. This reflects Lily’s feelings and how she feels broken and detached from her “hive”. She is also moving without any definite direction at this stage of her life. Finally – “Bees have a secret life we don’t know anything about”. This is perhaps the most significant quote as it reflects the complicated multi-faceted human nature. Lily has to figure out herself and to understand her own personality as well.
Bees are always there to guide Lily and to help her develop and mature. They serve as an effective tool for the author to develop Lily’s character. Let us face it: had it not been for the bees, the entire story would have never happened.