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The Arrival of the Bee Box

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Composed shortly before her suicide, The Arrival of the Bee Box, represents a series of poetic metaphors that Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) used to look in at her subconscious haunt.

Metaphors that Plath uses in Arrival of the Bee Box include:

  • Box
  • Bees
  • Beekeeper
  • Noisy bees

The poem poetically addresses the author’s inability to escape from the nebulous, tormented things within her that would not rest. Though written thirty years ago, The Arrival of the Bee Box also relates to issues today, in the new millennium.  The Arrival of the Bee Box

Like Plath, every person holds subconscious fears that are rooted in unresolved issues. Today, Americans share in the unresolved issues of terrorism and war. The images of September 11th, 2001 haunt us all, like Plath’s bee box, in one form or another. That the threat of terrorism yet looms largely can only suggest that America’s collective fears remain unresolved.

Arrival of the Bee Box and Plath's Torment

In the first stanza, Plath likens her hidden torment to a “clean wood box”, then ironically compares the same to the “coffin of a midget”. America, as held to be the home of the free, represents something clean to many. Now, faced with the yet fresh images of the stricken Trade Towers, and the inescapable revelation that there are people in our world that view America as evil, that once clean image might be transformed into a something of Plath’s coffin-like bee box.

In the second and third stanzas of The Arrival of the Bee Box, Plath further develops her use of the box metaphor as “locked”, “dangerous”, and something she has “...to live with...”. The issues and threats of terrorism lay locked and dangerous within the minds of most Americans. When, in the third stanza the author looks inside, she senses the “...swarmy feeling of African hands/Minute and shrunk for export/Black on black, angrily clambering”. The faceless, hidden hordes of angry, extremist Muslims in far away places seem to many as Plath’s metaphor of past (and distant) African slaves. Like Plath’s own demons, the identities and motives of America-hating terrorists are ambiguous and fearful - yet inescapably with us.

Terrorism and Arrival of the Bee Box

In the remainder of The Arrival of the Bee Box, the author longs to gain control over her fears (and in doing so – resolve them) by contemplating facing her issues and releasing them.  Yet, like terrorist, when “taken one by one” they are a manageable, but taken “together” and their image becomes too dreadful to release.  Like Plath, most Americans, “...wonder how hungry [the terrorist] are”... and “...wonder if they would forget me” if America simply turned her face upon the threat and ignored it . In her final stanza Plath wonders “...why should they turn on me” as she is “...no source of honey”. Most Americans can relate in wondering why people like Bin Laden would hate them. In the end, the poem’s tone goes from horrible to hopeful as Plath takes control of the bee box dilemma by acknowledging the box’s angry contents are, like all mortal cares, only temporary.    

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