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The Secret Life of Bees

Sue Monk Kidd

Character Analysis Deborah Fontanel Owens

Although she is already dead when the story begins, Deborah's influence is felt throughout the lives of Lily and her father. Deborah married T. Ray Owens because she was pregnant with Lily. Once married, she couldn't be the mother and wife everyone expected, so she left to go see her old nanny/housekeeper, August Boatright. Deborah had a nervous breakdown, and August helped her get better. When Deborah returned for Lily, she argued with T. Ray, pulled a gun down from a closet shelf, dropped it, and was accidentally shot by four-year-old Lily. Lily longs for Deborah and blames herself for killing her mother. T. Ray's version of Deborah's departure is the only one Lily hears, so she blames her mother for abandoning her. But Deborah planned to divorce T. Ray and take Lily away with her, a fact Lily didn't know until she finally broke down and talked with August. That Deborah loved her daughter is apparent in the photo August gives Lily of Deborah feeding Lily as a baby.