Critical Analysis of Sylvia Plath’s “The Bee Meeting”
“The Bee Meting” is one of the “Bee Poems” of Sylvia Plath, which also deals with the theme of power, uncertainty and insecurity. Bombardment of questions, in the minds of the poet, creates confusion. In fact, her attitude, in this poem is too puzzling. She knows nothing, neither about the people nor about herself. The poem mainly focuses on sense of weakness and physical nakedness, which makes her mentally vulnerable to the upcoming self-created psychological threats. In much of her later poems, Plath sought out self discovery. The imaginative power of the poet gives her confidence for a rebellious expressiveness but most of the time she remained failed due to her inner fears. Her worries and uncertainties, either they are minor or major, overpower the same and ultimately she gives up.
In very first lines of the poem, she is unsure about the people, who are there to meet her, and she feels herself insecure among them because of two reasons. Firstly, she does not know them. Secondly, she is naked, making her more defenseless. Robert Philip, while giving detail atmosphere of starting lines says:
“The Bee Meeting opens with a vivid imaging of the poet’s vulnerability before the hive.”
The threat in the minds of the writer is due to her inner psychological worries. She does not feel any protection among all the people. Giving description about the people, she writes, “The rector, the midwife, the sexton, the agent for bees” and then at the same time she alienates herself from these people as she has fear, which is expressed in these lines; “In my sleeveless summery dress I have no protection”. The attitude of the poet portrays her isolation from the society. She further reveals her suspicions, while saying “And they are all gloved and covered, why did nobody tell me?……..I am nude as a chicken neck, does nobody love me”. The fear of existence in this world is still in her mind. It reflects from the autobiographical incidents of the poet that lack of love, from blood relations and husband, makes her more sensitive. She expressed it in this poem by using his artistic talent. “does nobody loves me” expresses the whole life of the poet and forces the poet to accept death while rejecting the life.
Robert Philip very rightly judged and expressed the psychological condition of the poet in following words:-
“In the poem, all the villagers but her are protected from the bees, and she equates this partial nudity with her condition of being unloved.”
In the upcoming lines, the poet trusts the “secretary of bees”, when she cares for her. Although it does not last longer yet for the time being, her horror is veiled; “the bees will not notice. They will not smell my fear, my fear, my fear.” These lines clearly reflect the terror in consciousness of the poet and also give suggestion about the theme, used in this poem, which is fear and insecurity.
The next lines of the poem transpire the theme of isolation. The poet is unsure about the people. Bombardment of questions in her mind, which is rector, who is midwife, etc. shows that the poet is isolated from the social order. Apparently, the persona does not know the people, who are front of her, but symbolically, it has deep meanings; the poet has presented a society, in which, even the neighbours are unknown. Hence, they cannot be trusted. From the position of persona, it seems that she is forced to take such steps, which she does not want to take. It is because her mind does not allow her to do so. She cannot accept the society as it is, therefore, transformation either in society or in her is required. It is relevant to mention here that the element of ambiguity, in the poetry of Sylvia Plath, creates hurdle for the critics and so as for the students of literature. Hence, the critics rely upon linguistic and literary techniques to adjudge the meaning of the Plath’s poetry. Nevertheless, she is unknown about the people but the meeting of persona on the bridge, symbolically, discloses a link between something. Perhaps it is connection between the divided locales. Anyhow, now a hat has been given to the poet, which is fashionable. The poet is a rebel for them and they want to make her look like them. The lines, “they are making me one of them” suggest that instead of becoming like poet, the people are making the poet like them but it is unacceptable for the poet. Apart from a hat, “a black veil” has also been given to her. The poet is in control of the people. Symbolically, it depicts that a free mind, which neither accepts mental slavery nor physical annihilation is in control of the people. “I cannot run, I am rooted, and the gorse hurts me”. The poet is bound down to the rules of society. She wants to be free but is helpless and can do nothing. “I could not run without having to run forever.” The theme of death is presented in these lines. From the life of Sylvia Plath, we know that he tried many times to free herself from her body but in vain. She is fed up from it but compelled to keep it further.
The whole poem is a dream sequence, having too much symbolic significance. It is much difficult to understand the poem without knowing the personal life of the poet. Sylvia Plath is a tortured soul and without knowing about her life, it is impossible to dig deep the real meanings of this poem. Poet’s fear, her vagueness, her isolation, her effort for self discovery and her preference on death instead of life, in deep meanings, are discussed in this poem.
The conclusion of the poem has much magnitude. No one can give better description of the poem than Robert Phillips. This is how, he gives his opinions on the last lines of the poem:-
“If the central figure of authority, the Queen, is her father, then the daughter/worker must die after the incestuous act, as she does at the conclusion of “The Bee Meeting” and as Plath did at the conclusion of her suicide attempts. The long white box in the grove is in fact her own coffin, only in this light can the poem’s protagonist answer her own questions. “What have they accomplished, why am I cold.”