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Bee Season Analysis

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Form/Structure, Plot

Bee Season is organized in chronological order, which helps the reader to understand the complex series of events that Eliza Naumann and her family encounter. The form of the novel does not include any chapter breaks, only breaks that transition the point of view or a major elapse of time. This is interesting because instead of separating events like chapter breaks normally do, the book is separated by characters, showing more emphasis towards character development. There are multiple plots in the novel, the main one being Eliza's journey through the spelling bees and eventually through Jewish mysticism and her growth as an individual. However, there area also three lesser plots, which are Aaron's spiritual investigation for a religion that spiritually satisfies him more than Judaism; Miriam's struggle with kleptomania and her relationship with Saul; Saul's attempts at understanding and relating to his entire family instead of only one person.

Bee Season begins with a description of Eliza as a mediocre student "from whom great things should not be expected" (1) and then proceeds to her class spelling bee, which she easily wins. She is then able to go to the school bee, which she also easily wins, and proceeds on to the district bee. When Saul, her father, realizes that Eliza has such a strong unique talent, he begins to study with her. These study sessions that Saul now devotes to Eliza used to belong to Aaron, Eliza's brother. Aaron begins to become spiritually dissatisfied with Judaism and begins to explore the Eastern religions until he meets a man named Chali and participates in Hinduism. As Saul's and Eliza's study sessions continue Eliza wins at the district bee and wins a spot in the state bee, which she also wins. Miriam and Saul attempt to patch their marriage back together even though they rarely spend any time together. Miriam's kleptomania and habit of sneaking into empty houses has finally gone too far and she vows to stop, which she does successfully. As the family begins to fall apart Saul begins to show Eliza more and more about Jewish mysticism, and Eliza begins to study the letters and the patterns of words instead of just the spellings themselves. At the national bee Eliza survives the first day, but is "dinged out" on the word "duvetyn", eliminating her from that year's competition. In the intervening time between the national bee and the beginning of the next "Bee season" Eliza and Saul continue to study the words and the Jewish mysticism, and Aaron decides to tell his father about his change of faith, causing a massive argument, resulting in Aaron's leaving the house for the temple. At the next school spelling bee Eliza purposely misspells "origami", resulting in her loss of the competition and forfeiture of another chance for the National Spelling Bee.

Point Of View/Perspective

Most of the story is told to the reader from the view of Eliza Naumann, but quite a bit, especially later in the story, is from the points of view and Eliza's father, Saul; her mother, Miriam; and Eliza's brother, Aaron. All of these view points are related in third-person. Out of the four, Eliza's is the most interpretive and descriptive point of view, while Miriam's is much more philosophical. This is important because it reinforces to the reader that Miriam's main concerns are about her philosophical approach to life, and that Eliza is mostly concerned with still learning more about the world around her and finding basic meaning in it. All four of the viewpoints are highly reliable and direct for characterization and situational description. The perspective shifts are quite numerous and seem to locate the most important character at that time, typically being Eliza, the natural protagonist. The narrator is omniscient in the characters' thoughts and informs the reader of most major aspects of the story, while dialogue is informative enough for the rest of the necessary information. With these frequent perspective changes the reader is able to understand each of the individual main characters more fully than if there was only one perspective and all information was gathered through dialogue. Instead the reader can discover a character's thoughts and feelings in a given situation from a different vantage point than another character, such as when Saul would watch Eliza's bees and then the perspective would switch to Eliza for the on-stage viewpoint, bringing the reader right into the middle of the action and the stress and fear.


In Bee Season each of the main characters are each individually highly developed and thoroughly explained. All that the reader learns of and from the characters is included in the story; nothing can be learned from their lack of information, mostly because all aspects of the person are investigated. For the most part the characters' personalities are revealed through the speaker's description of their thoughts and current feelings on the present situation. Other aspects of their personalities can be learned through their actions, such as Miriam's insecurity which is expressed through her kleptomania and breaking into houses. Little information can be derived about the main characters by what they wear, but for the supporting this is not necessarily true. An example of this is Chali and his fellow temple-mates. They're sole purpose in the novel is to help Aaron along on his spiritual journey and their clothing (the traditional robes of their religion) shows that they are totally devoted to their religion. Eliza, as the protagonist, is the most in-depth of the characters, and most of what is learned about her through the course of the novel is from what the narrator speaks of her thoughts and her feelings. Eliza is the most complex of all the characters and also the most interesting. Aaron, Miriam, and Saul are all of about the same complexity and are only slightly simpler than Eliza in their characterization. The lesser characters, such as Chali or Ms. Bergermeyer, are much simpler and very little of their personality is explored. In the case of Chali this portion of him is his religious philosophy, and in Ms. Bergermeyer it is merely her opinion of Eliza as either a mediocre student, or an exceptional one.

Eliza is a nine-year-old Jewish girl who lives in a slightly dysfunctional family and is a mediocre student at school at the beginning of the story. This all changes as she begins to achieve great feats in the spelling bees, and she ages beyond her years as she discovers the "world of letters" and begins to understand how messed up her family is.

Since being designated three years ago as a student



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