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The Arrival of the Bee Box
Transcript of The Arrival of the Bee Box
Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the coffin of a midget
Or a square baby
Were there not such a din in it. First Stanza Background Information: In 1962, Plath decided to start beekeeping. Her father had been an expert on bees. In October, after her separation, she wrote a series of bee poems that explore the nature of the self and self-identity. They also explore personal fears and complex relations and attitudes towards freedom and control. Second Stanza The box is locked, it is dangerous.
I have to live with it overnight
And I can't keep away from it.
There are no windows, so I can't see what is in there.
There is only a little grid, no exit. Third Stanza I put my eye to the grid.
It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feeling of African hands
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering. Fourth Stanza How can I let them out?
It is the noise that appalls me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
It is like a Roman mob,
Small, taken one by one, but my god, together! Fifth Stanza I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner. Sixth Stanza 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. Seventh Stanza 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?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.
The box is only temporary. The speaker seems surprised by the bee box and her responsibility of its presence. "I ordered this"
Ordered is a verb that introduces a major theme of the poem.
What might the theme be? power questioning power and control The box symbolises entrapment like the bell jar mentioned in Plath's other poems. Where is the noise coming from? This stanza is very straightforward.
What are examples of direct statements? Lines 9 and 10 describe the box in terms that bring to mind a windowless prison cell. This stanza reveals the speaker's fascination with the contents of the box. In Greek mythology, Pandora, out of curiosity, opened a container and released sickness into the world. All of the contents escaped except for hope. The box in this poem resembles Pandora's in that fear and hope excite the speaker. swarmy: moving in large numbers The "African hands" are a reference to the black slave workers exported from Africa on slave ships to be put to work on plantations to do manual labor. "How can I let them out?"
What do you think the speaker means by this question?
To let them out safely? To let them out even though they could be dangerous? The bees are a potential danger and the speaker isn't sure she can cope with their impending destruction. The speaker compares this to that of the mob in Roman times that demanded public killings for their amusement. Listening to the "furious Latin", the speaker feels unable to control the mob, as Caesar did, by the power of his words. The speaker has a realisation in the last part of the stanza that the ownership of the bee box gives her the power of life and death. She is like a slave owner. Colonnades: row of columns, in this case ringlets Homework:
Choose a song or film that, in your opinion, has a similar atmosphere to that created in this poem. Explain your answer and be prepared to share with the class. Use evidence from the poem in your explanation. Should be at least two to three paragraphs in length. This stanza brings about a change of tone.
The possibility of allowing the bees to die is no longer entertained. The speaker now wants to release the bees without harming herself. What does she mean by "forget me"? What is her idea of escaping from the bees? In Greek mythology, the God Apollo , mad with love and desire, pursued the nymph Daphne, who called on her father, Peneus, for help and was turned into a laurel tree. This stanza presents yet another possibility for the speaker: the bees might ignore her in her beekeeper's suit. Line 33, "I am no source of honey", prompts the question of will the bees turn on her?
It is an attempt by the speaker to persuade herself that the bees will not harm her. What is her final response? The Arrival of the Bee Box Ends on a note of optimism Box frightens and fascinates the speaker Theme of power and control Images of entrapment and confinement Growing sense of calm in the poem Language is direct and powerful Surreal imagery Last line falls outside formal pattern of the poem Homework:
'In the poem, there is both a desire to trust the bees and a fear of trusting them, but in the end, the fear is overcome.'
Do you agree with this reading of the poem? Explain your answer in at least two paragraphs.