In the poem, The Arrival of the Bee Box, Sylvia Plath uses a metaphor to represent the darker aspects of the subconscious that are leaking into her conscious mind: The box is locked, it is dangerous. I have to live with it overnight And I cant keep away from it. There are no windows, so I cant see what is in there. There is only a little grid, no exit. It is inevitable that Plath will need to face the bees that lie in the box. She is appalled at the thought of letting them out. She says I am no source of honey/So why should they turn on me, but she is still clearly convinced that they pose a threat.
She suggests that the bees taken separately would not be too difficult to handle, but that now they are like a Roman mob and could kill her. Plath emphasizes the fact that she has ordered this box in the first and fifth stanzas. This suggests that she knew she would have to deal with what the bee box represents. The bees that are locked up in the box symbolize the swarming and potentially destructive chaos that Plath can feel within herself. The bees have the ability to inflict pain on her and sting her. She longs to take control over the bees to save herself from any more pain.
In the fifth stanza Plath does assert dominance over the bees in the box: They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner. She is trying to convince herself of her own strength by placing herself in a position of power. There is a correlation between the bees and her father. Her father Otto Plath was an expert on insects–especially bees. The whole series of bee poems relates to her father (like The Bee Keepers Daughter). If the bees are locked in the box, then much of what she is feeling is connected to her father. Perhaps she is trying to place herself in control f the troubling memory of her father.
Plath needs to confront her feelings of abandonment and despondency. The description of the box as dark in the third stanza further implies that part of what she must deal with inside of the box is related to him. In Daddy Bishop refers to her fathers fat black heart. She also refers to him as the man in black or the black man in other poems. Her attempt to place herself in control of the bee box shows her desire to dominate someone (like her father) or something (like her mind) and assume the position of sweet God. To the bees she could be sweet
God but she knows that in the larger picture she is helpless and not in control. Her desire to be sweet God over this enclosed space (a box) reflects her longing to be free from feelings of entrapment. The diction and imagery of the poem connote the troubling and confusing chaos inside her unconscious. The diction creates a feeling of claustrophobia in the second stanza through the repetition of words that connote suffocation. Plath says the box is locked, with no windows and no exit. The box is described as similar to a midgets coffin yet different because what lies inside is noisily stirring.
Plath describes the noise as composed of unintelligible syllables. The Roman mob is speaking in an unfamiliar language–furious Latin. In the same way that she cannot understand the messages from the box, she can not find order in her mind. As for the imagery, it is quite gothic and is discomforting. She compares the blackness of the bees in the box to African hands: It is dark, dark With the swarmy feeling of African hands Minute and shrunk for export Black on black, angrily clambering. This is an allusion to the thousands of African slaves that were piled practically on top of ach other on ships (black on black).
In the next stanza the imagery Plaths dark, imagery reflects her own state of mind: There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades, And the petticoats of the cherry. They might ignore me immediately In my moon suit and funeral veil. I am no source of honey So why should they turn on me. Plath refers to the laburnum. The blond colonades represent the yellow flowers found on this trees long stems. Its interesting to note that the laburnum has poisonous seeds–connoting death. Plath feels very vulnerable because she is not in a protective oon suit.
If she were on the moon she would be safe from the bees. There is a feeling of inevitable doom conveyed through her imagery and diction. Plath makes ironic statements throughout the poem. In the first stanza she calls the bee box clean. It is a wonder that she would even call the very thing that is troubling her clean. Then in the fifth stanza she says she can send back the box, but she knows this is not a realistic answer. When she says I wonder if they would forget me she probably has an innate sense that this will not happen. The bees will not forget her.
After ll she is their owner as she has said before. Then she considers unlocking the box and turn[ing] into a tree. She is making an attempt to disconnect herself emotionally and physically from the bee box. If it were merely a literal box that she was trying to free herself from, she could easily push the box to the side and forget about it. But in reality what she is trying to free herself from is the mysterious and frightening aspects of the inner, unconscious mind, from which things intermittently rise up into consciousness. She has no choice but to face what is stirring inside of the box.
The tone of the poem is fearful and dreading. Though she tries to assume a godly power over the bee box, it is clear that she is still wants to avoid confronting it. Plath says she will set the bees free tomorrow, but that makes the reader wonder why she is prolonging dealing with the bees until tomorrow. Why not today? This could be because she feels that the resentment, sorrow and fear associated with her father are just too much for her to handle. She feels too bitter to be a source of honey. Her fear and desperation are also evident when she asks How can I let them out?
She feels that she is damned whether she lets the bees out or not. If she lets frees the bees, then she will have to deal with the repercussion of their stings, and if she does not then she will suffocate from their presence. The tone remains about the same throughout the poem until the last line The box is only temporary. She seems to find some sense of relief in the fact that our bodies are only temporary. She is suggesting here that death finally frees us from our mind. By having this line set apart from the rest of the poem, the line shows the authors final sentiment or answer to the poem.
She knows that it is only a matter of time before the bees will be freed from the box. The sound of the poem is not very melodious and shows that she is not at ease. Her frequent use of punctuation prohibits any consistent flow between the lines. In the last two stanzas there is a repetition of vowel sounds at the end of the lines–especially the long e sound: I wonder how hungry they are. I wonder if they would forget me If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree. There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades, And the petticoats of the cherry. They might ignore me immediately
In my moon suit and funeral veil. I am no source of honey So why would they turn on me? Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free. The box is only temporary. The long vowel sounds in me, cherry, honey, and temporary slow down the reading of the lines. In the two stanzas, the long vowel sounds add to the feeling that there is something lingering and ever-present in her mind. Though Plath does not use fixed rhyme or rhythm in the poem, there is some scattered rhyme–like in the forth stanza small/all, the sixth stanza me/tree, and the seventh stanza me/free.
Plath uses the commas n the line Small, taken one by one, but my god, together to intensify the sound of swarming bees. The word clambering is onomatopoeic. The sound in this poem powerfully depicts Plaths lack of composure. Sylvia Plaths The Arrival of the Bee Box we are given a metaphor of a bee box for the turmoil in her mind. The underlying meaning of the poem arouses the reader to wonder whether death is the only hope left in Plaths heart. Plath cannot rely on procrastination to save her from what lies inside of the box. Often, what a person resists dealing with persists in thought.