Presentation on theme: "The arrival of the bee box….. In 1962 Plath and Hughes decided to take up bee keeping. The primary metaphor in the poem is the Bee Box itself. On one level."— Presentation transcript:
The arrival of the bee box….. In 1962 Plath and Hughes decided to take up bee keeping. The primary metaphor in the poem is the Bee Box itself. On one level it’s just a box full of bees. On another, deeper level, it may represent Plath’s inner self, her subconscious, her mind. Lots of intense, disturbing imagery suggesting lots of inner angst and turmoil. The box is locked, inaccessible, dangerous, chaotic. She is drawn to and repelled by the box. Plath tries to assert her control over the box / bees, does she succeed? 7 five line stanzas. Follwed by a single, isolated line.
Stanzas Straightforward opening – a simple description of the box, Followed immediately by images of death and deformity – and the reference to noise…not the assonant ‘I’ in “din in it”. The box is locked, inaccessible. And what’s inside is “dangerous”. She can’t keep away from it…it fascinates her. There are no windows….This may be a metaphor for her inability to really understand what’s going on inside herself. She is essentially blind to what’s going on inside. Blindness has always been associated with lack of understanding. Next she closely examines the box. She senses the oppressive atmosphere inside. Note the disturbing, dark imagery. She looks into the little grid but can’t actuall see anything, “it’s dark, dark”. Instead she has a vague ‘sense’ of what’s inside. It’s very claustrophobic. Note the repetition of “black” and the deliberate clumsiness of “angrily clambering. The “bees” are aggressive and menacing.
Stanzas Plath is horrified most of all by the “noise” inside the box. Does this refer to her own internal chaos? This is often the experience of someone suffering from anxiety or depression. It’s like a Roman mob! Individually managable, but “my god”, collectively terrifying. Note the brilliant “unintelligible syllables” whose sound mimics the very thing being described. Stanza 5 shows the speaker wrestling for ‘control’ over the bees. The din is “furious Latin”. She says she can “send them back” or “let them die”. Is this self-destructive. If the box represents her mind and the bees, her chaotic thoughts, does the death of the bees represent the loss of her mind? Insanity? A series of statements seeking control. (24/25) Then the tone seems to relax a little. She begins to wonder. The imagery is more attractive, less threatening. She thinks about simply opening the box and letting them out, whilst, interestingly, she turns into a tree. The gentler imagery (the laburnum / blond collonades / petticoats of the cherry) masks a darker possibility – turning into a tree may represent loss of personal identity. Becoming a tree, she is no longer a person.
Final stanza and last line… Plath continues to reassure herself that all may be well. She reasons that the bees may ignore her because she is “no source of honey”. She is not something, she tells us, that they can feed on. “why (therefore) should they turn on me”. Note the imagery used here…moon suit refers to a bee-keeper’s suit. Funeral veil refers to the special veiled head covering bee keepers wear when attending bees. But why “funeral” veil? Again, the language / imagery suggests the possibility of something darker, more painful at work. She will be “sweet God” and set them free. But what exactly does ‘setting free’ mean. What if we consider that it is God who has power over life and death. The box is only temporary…..could we substitute ‘mind…or….life’ for “box”?
Concluding points This poem could be read on a purely literal level. But knowing how everything is symbolised in Plath’s work the box may be regarded as a metaphor for the poet’s unconscious mind and the angry, threatening bees as the dark, destructive aspects of her own personality. This suggest, then, that Plath was both drawn to….and afraid of exploring the depths of her psyche because this wuld involve unleashing the terrible demons that lurked within.