Chapter 1 In the exposition of the story, the narrator describes having bees in her room and describes being cared for by a woman named Rosaleen since her mother died. She also describes how miserable she is with her father, whom she calls T. Ray.
The narrator of the story is a fourteen-year-old girl named Lily.
The narrator makes an allusion about the bees on page 2. She alludes to the story of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, being visited by the angel Gabriel. She compares the bees in her room to the visitation of the angel. She hints (foreshadows) that the presence of the bees signals things about to happen.
Lily says that the bees could have stung her until she died, and it would not have been the worst thing to happen. We learn that Lily appears to be a very unhappy girl.
Lily says that in Paradise she would ask her mother to forgive her, and her mother would tell her she was not to blame for ten thousand years. Then, for the next ten thousand years, her mother would fix her hair.
Lily describes her mother’s death on pages 6 – 8. She implies that she accidentally shot her mother with the gun she picked up.
Lily “smell[s] every perfume bottle they had” (p. 6) because she remembers the scent of her mother, and she wants to find it.
Lily picks scabs and feels that she is “impersonating a girl” because the other girls whisper about her. She also worries about how she looks, and what she does to cause the whispers. She feels she is trying to act like a girl, but she does not really know how to be one.
When Rosaleen stands up to T. Ray about the chick, Lily says, “his boots whispered uncle all the way down the hall.” (p. 12) To say “uncle” is to give up. She means T. Ray gave up the fight with Rosaleen. This is an example of personification.
Lily’s teacher tells Lily that she is too intelligent for beauty school and that Lily should be a professor or writer.
T. Rays tells Lily that he wants her to hear about her mother from him before she starts school. He says he wants her to hear “it” from him, not from “people out there talking.”
Lily alludes to Mr. Khrushchev and fallout shelters. People were afraid at that time that the Communists in Russia would drop atomic bombs. Lily thinks a bomb may have been dropped because Rosaleen has stayed late to watch TV, and Lily has never seen her so interested in the news.
What has actually claimed Rosaleen’s attention on the TV is that President Johnson has signed the Civil Rights Act.
T. Ray punishes Lily by making her kneel for long periods of time on Martha White grits.
On page 26, Lily says that she “understood that a new rooftop would do wonders” for her. She means that getting away from T. Ray would make her life better.
Rosaleen plans to register to vote.
Lily has captured a jar of bees to prove to T. Ray that there are bees behind the wall in her room.
The day that Rosaleen is going to register to vote is also the Fourth of July and Lily’s birthday.
Lily hints at things to come. The sentence, “Later I would remember that, how she set out, a marked woman from the beginning,“ (p. 28) foreshadows the action.
Rosaleen steals paper fans from the church because she and Lily are hot.
Lily says that Rosaleen has “less sense that I’d dreamed” (p. 31) because Rosaleen tells the obviously hostile men in town that she is going to register to vote.
Rosaleen pours the juice from her snuff jug on their shoes, which causes the mean to beat her.
Lily and Rosaleen are arrested for “assault, theft, and disturbing the peace.” (p. 33)
Similes from this chapter: “A body that sloped out from her neck like a pup tent” (p. 2); “Her breath floating down to me like a tiny parachute” (p. 7); “like she was bits and pieces of insulation” (p. 24); “like they were spectators at a parade and we were the prize float” (p. 32); “Swinging the men like pocketbooks on her arms” (p. 32)
This chapter began with a quote about the missing queen. Lily’s mother is the queen, the “unifying force” missing from her family.