Critical Analysis of Sylvia Plath’s “The Arrival of Bee Box”
“The Arrival of Bee Box” has been written by Sylvia Plath with great confidence because after completing the bee sequence poems, she was well aware that she is now a complete and successful writer/poet. She was sure about her genius as revealed by her letter, written to her moth in October, 1962. In the letter, she has written “I am a writer . . . I am a genius of a writer; I have it in me. I am writing the best poems of my life; they will make my name”. She has believed that the bee poems are well written and they will make her name. Though these poems are good and well written yet they are not well enough to give her fame. If she is remembered today in many modern hearts, it is because of “Ariel” and “Lady Lazarus”. The category of bee poems contains five poems; in all of them, she talks about her with the society. These poems also reveal the connection between outer world and her mind’s world. Self realization is also common theme in bee poems. She has written poems on bees because she has good knowledge about them, which was inherited to him from her father. Otto Plath was an entomologist, who has written many books on insects, therefore, Sylvia has good knowledge of bees. Technique of symbolism helps her in this regard. She uses bees as symbols and then conveys a message to her readers.
The poem starts with the arrival of a bee box, which has been ordered by the poet. Initial lines of the poem reveal that subject matter of the poem is: “death”. With the description of bee box, she starts her poem. Wooden box, which contains honey bees, has been arrived. It seems much heavy to the poet. She says that if there would be no noise, she has probably misinterpreted the box as coffin as there are now windows in it. An honest description of the box has been given by her in starting stanzas of the poem.
Next stanza is most important part of the poem. When she sees the box through grid, she cannot see anything because of darkness. “it is dark, dark” symbolizes for darkness in the life of Sylvia Plath. She has lived a depressed life and in every poem she talks about it. These lines also spread light on mentality of the poet. Symbolically, it means that when poet sees her future, she cannot see anything but darkness; there is no light in it as she has become hapless after experiencing pains of life. Second symbolism is general; it is not related to poet’s experiences. She talks about the Negroes. Indirectly, she is talking about slave trading or African people, who were once under colonialism. They have suffered a lot because they were being deprived from their rights. The bees are fierce and full of anger; their freedom has been snatched from them. Generally, she is referring to those people, who were shipped from one place to another like animals, especially Africans. A container, for instance, full of people was shipped to other countries from Africa many years ago; the container had no window but a grid. Most of the people die on the way to the destination country. Just like bees, the people were put in a box like container and were sent to other countries. “Black on black, angrily clambering” refers the furiousness and anger of those people.
Next lines carry on the same atmosphere; the poet cannot understand their voices though she is attentively listening to them and trying to understand them. Their fierce is horrifying the poet but she cannot free them as she is powerless. “How can I let them out?”. The poet wanted to free the bees and so as the people who are being transported but she cannot do so. Theme of powerlessness is conceptualized here. Perhaps, she has power but she cannot use it. A comparison between power and limitation has also been shown in these lines. She wanted to do something for them; perhaps she can help them even then she cannot do their help. “Power and Limitation”; it is the ability of possessing a power but restriction from using it. For instance, a person has power to break the law but he cannot do it due to fear. Similarly, another person who can commit a sin but cannot do because of ethical qualities; powerlessness, even after possessing a power, is the name of “Power and Limitation” and this theme is beautify expressed by Sylvia Plath in this poem.
“It is like a Roman mob”. She finds that bees are protesting and they are on their right but she is “not a Caesar”. Perhaps, these are the lines, due to which, she has expected that the bee poems will make her name because, a general theme instead of autobiographical has been presented here. The poet tries her best to listen the bees and so as the confiscated people but she is not “Caesar”, who could know each and everything about them. “I have ordered a box of maniacs. They can be sent back. They can die…. I am the owner.” These are very impressive lines and express the creativity of Sylvia Plath. The poet is the real owner and being owner she has every right to do anything with them. Again, a general theme has been presented here. A lot of meanings can be obtained from it. Let’s take an example. God is the owner of everything. He can do anything with mankind. He can give them everything or nothing. It is on Him because He is the owner. Likewise, the owner of slaves can do anything with his slaves because he has ownership and right to use his product (slaves were considered as property and product) in any manner. He can kill them; he can send them back; he can sell them; he can free them. It is about owing the power and showing the power; “I need feed them nothing”. Whatever an owner wants, he can do it with his belongings. It is a theme, which is much complex and can only be understood with attentiveness.
It is lucky day for the bees. The poet is not using his aristocratic powers over them and wants to feed them. She wants to set them free. Symbolically, she wants to free her unbearable and annoying thoughts. Perhaps, she is thinking to free her soul from the body because in next lines death is highly glorified by the poet. Moreover, “they might ignore me immediately. … I am no source of honey.” The poet thinks that after her death she will be ignored as she is not beneficial for anyone. She does not consider herself a valuable thing or people do not consider him precious; what may be the case, the poet expects that people will forget her soon after her death.
The poem ends with the freedom from enslaved thoughts. The poet has conceded the power of creature and gives up on her own powers in front of them. The poem is not only autobiographical but also general in nature. A number of remarkable general themes are there in it. This poem has not made Sylvia much famous as compared to “Ariel”, “Daddy” and “Lady Lazarus” but it indeed reflects the poetic achievement of the poet.