Lily Owens is a 14-year-old motherless White female who lives with her bitter and abusive father, T.Ray. She is disturbed by the memory of her dead mother Deborah, who she accidentally shot and killed when she was 4-years-old after witnessing a fight between her parents. Lily constantly thinks and talks to the spirit of her mother wishing that she were with her, as she believes her mother is her guardian angel. She is struggling to make sense of the past concerning her mother. She has grown up isolated and insecure with feelings of abandonment and being at the mercy of her father. Lily is shy with a somewhat frightened looking on her face; she has feelings of being alone and unloved. Lily is a modest girl with stringy disheveled honey blond hair; she dresses unpretentiously, not begging for attention. She has no outside support system other than her nanny Rosaleen, the only person she confides in and trusts. Lily appears to be physically healthy and intelligent, she loves to write expressing her feelings in a journal with a desire to one day become a writer. Her father displays no encouragement or show that he values her as his daughter.
Lily is currently living in Tiburon, South Carolina with two strong willed African American sisters and her nanny Rosaleen. Originally there were three sisters, August, June, and May. May commits suicide shortly after Lily arrives. Lily ran away with Rosaleen after Rosaleen was beaten by three racist White men and arrested; she changes after she sees her father had no empathy for Rosaleen, and she wants nothing more to do with him. She searches to find the Boatwright sisters after seeing a photo of a Black Madonna with the name of Tiburon, South Carolina written on the back of the photo in a box of keepsakes owned by her deceased mother. After finding the sisters, she lies, stating that her parents are dead and that she is on her way to visit her aunt in Virginia who is sick in the hospital. She claims that she and Rosaleen do not have a place to stay or the money to catch the train; she offers to work to buy train tickets and room and board.
August is instrumental in helping Lily discover her own way, protecting her and teaching her about community and the world around her through the interaction she has with the bees. Lily is amazed at the strength and independence of the sisters; she has never known women to have such attributes, let alone Black women. Enchanted by the strength of the women Lily begins to discover her feminine side when she develops a close relationship with Zach a 15-year-old African American boy. He becomes her first love experiencing her first kiss with him. She sees the world in a different scope when racism is directed towards her, causing her to ponder on how racism is directed towards African Americans and how they are affected.
Lily’s presenting problem is a complex array of factors. She is entrenched with guilt while attempting to understand and cope with the loss of her mother and unloving father. She is dealing with feelings of ambivalence due to her mother leaving her. Yet, she loves and wants to connect with her mother, but deep down inside she cannot forgive her for leaving her. She is desperately searching for answers as to who her mother is and why she left her. Her most pressing problem is her relationship with her father, experiencing feelings of hate, love, and at times guilt towards him. Lily fears her father who punishes her by pouring grits on the floor, and forcing her to kneel on them until he is satisfied she paid the price for disobeying him. The punishment is his form of resentment toward Lilly. He makes it a point to blame her for her mother leaving and telling her Deborah did not care for her. Lilly’s feelings toward her father are a confliction of hate and disgust; she does not call him daddy but by his name T.Ray. Family Background:
Lily was born and raised in Sylvan, South Carolina on a peach farm owned by her father T.Ray Owens. He is an abusive and unloving father, who raises her, and takes his anger out on Lily because of his bitterness after the death of his wife Deborah. His bitterness and anger against Lily stems from his realization that Deborah left him and only came back for Lily and not for him. Lily’s mother, Deborah Fontanel Owens, an only child who was raised by August Boatwright, her nanny when she was a young girl. Deborah moved from Virginia to Sylvan where she met and dated T.Ray. She became pregnant and married T.Ray. Deborah left T.Ray and Lily to live with August Boatwright when she could not handle the marriage or raising a child. After overcoming her depression with the help of August; she returned back to Sylvan, to get Lily, but her return for her daughter resulted in a fight with T.Ray and she accidentally gets shot and killed by Lily. Rosaleen is an integral part of the Lily’s life. Hired to take care of Lily, she became Lily’s surrogate mother and Lily’s only friend; she cares for Lily as her own child. Biological, Psychological, and Social Development:
Biologically, Lilly has developed normally for an adolescence girl she is petite and underdeveloped physically for a girl of her age. Cognitively she appears to have higher than normal intelligence; she has effective reasoning, ability to solve problems, and thinks abstractly by reflecting on her problems and goals. Socially she has developed more slowly than the average child. Her lack of a sense of self-identity contributes to her low self-esteem; she does not feel whole, because of the absence of her mother. Her ability to form relationships was also compromised by the abusive nature of her father, making her timid and fearful. Theoretical Analysis Ecological Perspective – Bioecological Systems Theory:
Bronfenbrenner defines a child’s development within “complex layers” of a system of relationships that he or she forms within the environment that affects his or her overall development (Paquette & Ryan, 2001, p. 1). As a four-year-old girl Lily accidentally kills her mother; she was then confronted with the loss of her mother and raised by a bitter and emotionally uninvolved father. Her life changed dramatically as her microsystem fell apart, changing the dynamics of her mesosystem. At the time, Lily’s microsystem was a small and self-contained environment that she shared with her mother and father; the layer she had direct contact with her immediate environment. According to Bronfenbrenner a child’s immediate environment “operates to produce and sustain development, but this development depends on the structure and context of the microsystem” (Bronfenbrenner, 1994, p. 39).
It is not apparent if Lily was aware or understood the absence of her mother before her death or if it had any adverse effects on her as a microsystem. The lack of positive interaction she experienced with her father produced a profound effect on her psychological development and compromised her proximal processing. Within a microsystem, events or the activities of individuals interact to create new experiences for a child; these new experiences facilitated Lily’s emotional instability. According to Bronfenbrenner, for proximal processing to develop properly in human beings the child or adult requires active participation in complex and reciprocal interaction with enduring relationships with people, objects, and symbols within the individual’s immediate environment (Bronfenbrenner, 1994, p. 38; Bronfenbrenner, 1999).
At 4 years old, after the loss of her mother and maintaining a disconnect with her father, Lilly had no other interactions with others to help shape her social development. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory states if a family’s relationship breaks down within the “immediate microsystem,” the child no longer has the “tools” to reach out and interact with other parts of her environment (Paquette & Ryan, 2001, p. 3). Lily’s interpersonal relationships became non-existent, exacerbating her inability to interact socially within her mesosystem. This layer of the mesosystem is the link between the structures of the microsystem, which incorporates connections with objects within the microsystem (Paquette & Ryan, 2001, p. 2). Lily was able to develop new and continuous relationships first with Rosaleen and then with the Boatwright sisters and Zach developing her mesosystem with linkages to a new system of microsystems. A child’s microsystem continuously change as the child matures and experiences new life experiences affecting the macro system by which they “learn to interact within their social environment” (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2013, p. 33).
Lily’s determination to adapt to her environment was central in building her confidence within herself to change. Adaptation for an individual may include actions and changes in routine as the individual develop new situations that correspond to their new environment (Germain & Gitterman, 1995, p. 817). As change became a reality in her life, she was able to focus on processing her negative feelings of confusion, anger, and guilt through her newfound confidence and maturity. According to the ecological perspective, transactions come into play when individuals are able to “communicate and interact between others in their environment” (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2013, p. 30). Through these transactions, Lily developed bi-directional relationships with the Boatwright community who were paramount in her achieving emotional and social functioning despite her adverse history. Methodologically Bronfenbrenner ecological perspective examines the dynamics of relationships between individuals through multiple levels of the social environment, but it does not provide detailed biological or cognitive development mechanisms similar to Erickson’s or Piaget theories (Santrock, 2008, p. 73). Bronfenbrenner developed the “concentric systems” or circles of his bioecological systems theory to explain the context and quality of a child’s environment, which defined the complex nature and development of interactions within the child’s surroundings (Harkonen, 2001, p. 1-2).
Bronfenbrenner postulated the complexity of a child’s “physical and cognitive’ growth is based on the complex aspect of context and interactions within environments (Paquette & Ryan, 2001, p. 3). Bronfenbrenner’s ecological perspective focuses primarily on context by bridging gaps between behavioral theories and anthropological theories that focus on smaller and larger settings respectively (Santrock, 2008, p. 72), but it does not take into account the active role that a person plays in their own development. Lily’s early development hindered on the relationship she had with her father; as she became attuned to her surroundings she actively began to shape her own environment through the microsystems bidirectional relationships she developed with the Boatwright community. According to Paquette a child’s primary relationships depends on the influence of individuals who provide stable long-term relationships and a sense of caring that endures a lifetime within the child’s immediate environment (Paquette & Ryan, 2001, p. 3). Lily with her new relationships within the Boatwright community can seen as an achievement. Attachment theory:
“I killed my mother when I was four years old. She was all I ever wanted, and I took her away,” (Prince-Bythewood et al., 2008) a profound statement of Lily’s haunting memory expressing her attachment to her mother. In looking at the attachment theory, Lily is heartbroken and still has a strong attachment to Deborah; which has tremendously impacted her life, although she does not remember much about the relationship that she and Deborah had. Death of a parent can have a problematic effect on children as they mature into adults. The after effects of a death of a parent affect sons and daughters differently. According to Marks, a study conducted from 1987-1993 by the National Survey of Families and Households, revealed that daughters who loses their mothers in death have a more negative outcome than sons, and the opposite hold true for the sons if the father dies (Marks, Jun, & Song, 2007, p. 1611).
It is not clear on what attachment style that Lilly had with her mother. An assumption that mother and daughter did bond and the attachment was secure based on the photo and explanation of her mother’s love for Lilly given to her by August. A child needs to have continuous care for at least the first two years for attachment to take permanence. Bowbly’s maternal deprivation hypothesize that a prolonged disruption or lack of care by the mother will cause severe impairment of cognitive, social and emotional development for the child; the risk of impairment can continue up to the age of five resulting in a number of negative consequences (Ainsworth, 1972, p. 101; McLeod, 2007, p. 2). In the case of Lily, this does not appear to be specifically true, although she did suffer from some social and emotional detachment, cognitively and intellectually she appears to have developed normally. According to Ainsworth, a limitation of maternal deprivation has been shown in studies to result in varying degree of impairment based on the severity of the deprivation as the child matures. She and other critics find fault in the statement that deprivation can lead to permanent attachment impairment and cannot lead to a more favorable outcome for the child “later in life” (Ainsworth, 1972, p. 102).
It is not necessarily consequential that Lily developed an insecure attachment she experienced with her father after the abandonment and death of her mother. Her father’s abusive nature and lack of emotion; consequently had a damaging effect and impediment on her social and emotional development reinforcing an insecure attachment with him. Lily’s feelings toward her father were a quandary of ambivalence, torn between hate and a child’s obligation of love for her parent. What are children to do? Love their parents regardless of how they treat them? T.Ray’s parenting can be viewed as avoidant and dismissive, forcing, Lily into a conditional attachment/relationship on her part that gave nothing back in return. Due to insecure attachments girls become more independent and self-directed where as boys become aggressive and non-compliant (Shilkret & Shilkret, 2011, p. 203). Negative behaviors such as aggression and hostility tends to be associated with insecure attachments, Lily does not appear to carry any of these traits she appears more docile in nature due to her ambivalence. She does appear to have a strong streak of independence, yet she become self-directed in her actions of finding out the truth about her mother.
Ambivalent insecure attachment that does not coincide with Lily’s behavior, nor does she show any wariness in being in the company of strangers, or becoming distressed or preoccupied at the return of her father. A limitation with the definition of Ambivalent is based on the definition of “the mixed and contradictory feelings” associated with the word ambivalent, which is more in sync with Lily’s form of attachment. According to the attachment theory, attachments are developed during the definitive developmental years of an infant in connection with the first 2 years of child life, criticism come into play with Bowlby’s suggestion that a child only forms one attachment and if it is disrupted it will cause severe consequences later in life. The fallacy in this suggestion is that new attachments cannot be developed at later stages in life. This may be correct in some aspects but not truth in all aspects of personal development. Case in point is Lily’s connection with August, and the female community that she embraced after discovering the truth of her mother’s abandonment of her and her father. Lily develops a new secure attachment to the motherly love of August and the Boatwright sisters. From that, she finds healing and indomitable strength that she finds within herself. Moral Development
At the core of Lily’s young life, she presses for self-preservation. She alone overcomes insurmountable odds in her attempt to please and follows the rules of her father. According to Kohlberg’s Preconventional Morality stage 1: Punishment and Obedience, occurs when she is confronted with the terms of her own needs of avoidance of physical punishment and deferring the power to her father. From a female perspective Gilligan postulates in her Moral Development and Women level 1 Orientation of Personal Survival, only the well being of the individual is considered, and what is most necessary to obtaining the needs for personal survival (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2013, p. 326). Gilligan’s theory, differs from Kohlberg’s in that Gilligan focuses on the moral development of females. Comparison of the two theories, both level 1 and stage 1 coincides with the focus on self. Gilligan’s level 1 focuses on the needs of the female and the female alone opposed to Kohlberg’s Stage 1 focus on obedience and avoidance of punishment along with obtaining of needs. Despite the odds, Lily was presented with most if not all of her psychological needs being met according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
She had safe accommodations to sleep and nourish herself although she may not have always felt safe in her environment. Maslow’s needs theory postulates that for an individual to develop to their next level the individual must be able to function in a safe environment (Hebert, 2011, p. 14). At age 14, Lily transitioned to Gilligan’s Transition 1 Transition from Personal Selfness to Responsibility and even more quickly to Transition 2 Goodness as Self-Sacrifice, at this point in her life she comes to the realization that life is more than her own personal perseveration as well as the responsibility of the well being of another. After witnessing the brutal attack, on Rosaleen, along with her subsequent incarceration and possible death sentence. Gilligan was a major critic of Kohlberg’s theory discussing his limitations of using only privileged white men as subjects in his research, purporting that women were not viewed as well because women viewed ethical dilemmas differently than men.” She also states that women take a “care perspective” around interconnectedness and relationships
opposed to men’s centeredness on a justice perspective seeking separateness and independence (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2013, p. 325).
What Gilligan failed to understand is that she commits the same bias against men as Kohlberg did against women. Lily takes actions into her own hands after learning of her father’s unsympathetic reaction to Rosaleen’s plight. For her morally, she had to do something to come to the aid of Rosaleen, at this point her own self-preservation had become less important than the preservation of Rosaleen. She had lost one mother she was not going to sit idly by and watch another taken from her. For Lily morally, it was her obligation to consider Rosaleen as her equal and come to her rescue. Gilligan believed that females transitioned from selfishness to personal responsibility by putting aside their own needs and taking into consideration of the needs of others even in the event that harm may come to them by sacrificing herself for the benefit of another (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2013, p. 326). Comparing Lily’s rejecting of authority by rescuing Rosaleen from jail and Kohlberg’s Heinz Dilemma, we see Lily transitioning to Kohlberg’s stages 3-5 by taking the best course of action that she felt needed to come to Rosaleen’s aid.
Although mutual exchange may have been possible in her moral development, it should be taken into context that Lilly was not only looking out for the best interest of Rosaleen but also her own best interest, without Rosaleen as her protector she saw herself forever at the mercy of T.Ray. Kohlberg’s Conventional Morality stage 3 Lily can be view as seeing the three men and the law as the ones in the wrong that took the side of the wrong culprits, nothing was justified in her view of social order as in stage 4. In stage 5, she saw justification in her actions in that she had a duty to come to Rosaleen’s defense regardless of what would have happened to her (Crain, 1985). Taking into account the mid 1960’s and Lily’s geographic location, it could be assumed that Fowler’s theory of faith development would be a significant catalyst for Lily’s moral development. Faith and spirituality would have been an important element in Lily’s development. Lily’s perception, of her mother as her guardian angel gives the impression that she has a belief in a higher power that allows her a form of omnipresent protection. This may be understood in her statement to herself “I want to say the bees were sent to me. I want to say they showed up like the angel Gabriel appearing to the Virgin Mary” (Prince-Bythewood et al., 2008). According to Fowler, faith, values, beliefs, and sense of purpose consist of a formation of transformations throughout an individual’s life cycle in relations to their ultimacy, their relations to self and to others (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2013, p. 328). Moral values are instinctually connected with one’s belief in their spiritual or temporal values. Lily’s introduction to the Daughter’s of Mary and the iconic statue of Black Mary was a tremendous fascination in faith that she had never experienced. The symbolism of Mary, and what it represented to August and the daughters validated the bond of sisterhood and cohesiveness that Lily longed for most of her life.
Lily sees Black Mary as a spirit of peace and comfort and the one that can look right though her exposing her for whom she is. She prays to Mary requesting her to fix her and reaffirm the values that she knows are true. According to Fowler’s Stage 4: Synthetic-Conventional Faith individuals are not sure on the fundamentals of what faith means to them as they stick to the conventional ideology that has been taught to them (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2013, p. 329). Lily never understood the concept of what faith meant to her, and it did not match the faith that she is seeing now. Faith to her was a distant mirage of dreams that never materialized in her favor. As Lily opened up her heart to Black Mary and the community she began to understand the virtues of love, forgiveness, and honesty, from this she was able to tell August the truth about her mother. Morally she had transitioned to Gilligan’s Transition 2: From Goodness to Reality where she objectively examines her own life and actions returning to the concern for her own personal survival in her healing (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2013, p. 326). Critical Race Theory-Ethnocentrism and Race
Lily has grown up in an era of racial privilege, for her she has never had to give a second thought of encountering racial indifference or even the subtle micro-aggression based on her race. Micro-aggression the intentional or unintentional derogatory assailment of an individual’s racial identity (Sue et al., 2007, p. 273-274). Weeks before Lilly’s 14th birthday, she comes home and watches President Johnson sign the Civil Rights Act into law on TV with Rosaleen. Rosaleen is ecstatic and inspired to go register to vote; Lily gives her a look of bewilderment. What is the bewilderment that Lily expresses, is it a form of subtle prejudice on her part? She is old enough to understand the division and the tenets that separate both the black and white races. The bewilderment comes up again as she and Rosaleen are walking to town and she discovers Rosaleen’s intention is to register to vote. Lily questions Rosaleen, why would she want to do that, when Rosaleen told her a colored man was killed in Mississippi for doing the same thing. Although she may love and care for Rosaleen, Rosaleen is just a black domestic, and in Lily’s culture it would not be uncommon for her to think that she was superior to Rosaleen and other blacks, but she may not feel that registering to vote is the right thing for Rosaleen to do. According to Zastrow, whites are socialized in their culture, to have racist attitudes to believe that other races are inferior and should not have the same rights as them (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2013, p. 237-239).
Cognitively Lily has adapted to the social constructs of the racist society that she has been raised in; it is difficult for her to understand the reasoning of why blacks would put themselves in harms way to go against the system. Lily is confronted with the terrible reality of racism, as she watches helplessly as Rosaleen is beaten and thrown into jail for standing up for herself. At this point, Lily begins to understand the injustice inflicted on black people, and it become even more pronounced when her father refuses to help Rosaleen and agrees that she deserved what happens to her. Lily could not ignore the implications of Rosaleen fate. She needs Rosaleen more than to adhere to the racial injustice her culture has dictated to her. Rosaleen’s problem had become her problem, she as a white female in a white majority culture had to take matters in her own hands and make corrections for the injustice. There is strength in this statement according to Zastrow racial discrimination is the problem of the white majority the white majority created the discrimination towards non-whites, and they have the power and resources to alleviate and correct any injustices toward any non-whites (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2013, p. 242). Newly empowered Lily understands the power of her whiteness to successfully free Rosaleen from the hospital, she no longer feels powerless to take control of her life.
For the first time Lily, realizes that she and Rosaleen are one and the same, she is oppressed by her powerlessness to overcome the dysfunction in her life, and Rosaleen’s powerlessness to overcome the discrimination against her as a black woman. According to Lord, “powerlessness is the expectation of an individuals own actions will ineffectively influence the outcome of life events” (Lord & Hutchison, 1993, p. 2). Lily has now become the protector she has taken control for both of their lives for the moment. As she and Rosaleen escape from Sylvan and T.Ray. Rosaleen questions Lily about her motives by accusing her of not taking her safety into account. Lily insulted that Rosaleen would assume her to be self-centered not taking her best interest at heart. She blames Rosaleen for putting herself in that situation for having the gall for attempting to go vote, and indignantly telling Rosaleen it was she that came to her recuse before they killed her or worst. Sue states the “power of micro-aggression lies under an invisibility,” in that most whites feel their motives should not be questioned as they consider themselves to be “moral and decent human beings” without an underlying agenda in their actions (Sue et al., 2007, p. 275). Lily’s lacks understanding of racial indifference and bias in the south; she does not see or understand the dynamics of why Rosaleen needed to exercise her right to vote whatever the cost. For Lily, she believes that the white men were wrong, but also believes Rosaleen should not have gone against the system because it is the way it is, has always been, and more than likely will never change. According to Robbins, children become accustom to sustaining systems and behaviors indoctrinated by the majority society resulting in “overt or covert beliefs in racism” (Robbins, Chatterjee & Canda, 2012, p. 143).
After arriving at the Boatwright house, Lily reveals her own racism when she says to Rosaleen about the sisters; “They’re so cultured I never met Negro women like them before” (Prince-Bythewood et al., 2008). For Lily, unbeknownst to her, she stereotyped the sisters and Rosaleen is well aware of what she did. According to Sue, stereotyping is the attribution of something to a cause, assuming it unusual for a person of a different race to have some attribute associated with ones race (Sue et al., 2007, p. 276). Upon meeting June, Lily is confronted with racism directed at her. June does not have any qualms in showing her displeasure of Lily living in the household. Lily for the first time is feeling the effects of reverse discrimination because she is white Lily is well aware and shocked at June’s dislike for her because of her race, this forces her to contemplate her own irrational feelings of racism toward blacks. The conveyed meme during the pre and post civil rights era that whites are considered evil and can not be trusted. Lily meets Zach and has an immediate attraction to him as she gets to know him, he tells her he has an aspiration to become a lawyer she responds that she never heard of a Negro lawyer. Zach responds back “You never heard of Thurgood Marshall (Prince-Bythewood et al., 2008)? Applying the Deficiency formulation to Lilly’s ignorance of Negro lawyers is based on her biases and acceptance of Anglo based values, norms and behaviors as the overriding criteria of cultural conflict (Robbins, Chatterjee & Canda, 2012, p. 141).
Lily’s incidents with the racial climate of the political realities of the American south of 1964 awaken her introspection of her own racial deficiencies she begins to understand her innate prejudice against blacks, and she can see beyond skin color in that people are just people. Viewing Lily’s thoughts on Zach’s aspirations on becoming a lawyer she does not mean to be discouraging, for her she senses empowerment and for her this empowerment is a transformation of discovery for herself. It was a difficult challenge to apply the Critical Race Theory to the hindrance and development of Lily. The social construction of CRT has transcended into many disciplines covering the critical study and analysis of the law concerning the society and culture of civil rights movement (Abrams & Molo, 2009, p. 250). Applying it to Lily’s development it takes us to her lack of understanding of her own racial disparities as she is forced to confront her own racism, she begins to understand that she is a product of the racist society of the country she lives. A strength of CRT it is not limited to the discourse of only Blacks and Latinos it transcends and integrates the movements of many disciplines (Culp Jr., 1998, p. 1641).