Summary and Analysis of The Arrival of The Bee Box by Sylvia Plath: 2022


Sylvia Plath is regarded as one of the greatest American poet. Plath was born in Boston, in the year 1932 and her life took an abrupt change after the death of her father in 1940. Plath is known for her brutal works that revolve around the genres of death, mental illness and psychological diseases. Plath herself suffered from anxiety and depression most of her life and committed suicide at an early age of 30.


The Arrival Of The Bee Box is an amazing poem by Sylvia Plath. Like most of her major writings, this poem also revolves around the genre of psychological diseases and mental illness. The poem can be understood in a both, literal and metaphorical sense, depending on the perspective of the reader.


On the outside, the poem is set around a literal bee box bought by the speaker in an attempt to undertake bee keeping for the first time. Metaphorically, the poem revolves around mental illness and the suffering, the setting of the poem being  the speaker’s minds occupied with troubling thoughts, the bee box representative of the troubled mind.


“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.”
The bee box is a metaphoric representation of the poet’s/the speaker’s mind, suffering from anxiety and depression.
“It is dark, dark”
“Black on black, angrily clambering”
“Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!”
“I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs”
The poem has been composed in blank verse with no set rhyme pattern. The poem follows the rhythm of natural speech.


“”The Arrival Of The Bee Box” by Sylvia Plath can be read and understood on both the levels, literal as well as metaphorical. In the first stanza, the speaker describes the bee box that has arrived. The box has been described as a “clean wood box”, it is almost too heavy to lift and is square in its form. This imagery of a seemingly normal wooden bee box turns dark in the next few lines, the speaker compares the box with a coffin or a square baby, both the images are horrifying. But she is fast in discarding these options for coffins and death are associated with stillness while the box is filled with bees making intimidating noises.  
In the second stanza, the metaphorical aspect is more prominent. The box has been described as dangerous, the speaker has to keep it with her overnight, there are no windows in it so one cannot see what lies inside the box, she has to live with the box that does not have any exit. Metaphorically, the box can be seen as human mind troubled with illness. The author herself suffered from severe depression and anxiety which makes the comparison of the mind with the box clearly understandable. Like the box, there is no exit from the mind and the troubling thoughts, there is no window to the mind, one can never see what lurks behind the darkness and there is no escape from the mind either.
In the third stanza, the speaker tries to look inside the box but can only see darkness, the bees inside seem to be black, agitated and angrily clambering over one other. She compares this darkness to the situation of the Africans who were forced into slavery. Again, the poet here compares the inside of the box with the suffering human mind where only dark thoughts lurk leading to anger and frustration. The person suffering from depression is a slave to his own mind and thoughts, his situation is just like the Africans who were forced into slavery, there is no escape, just physical and mental degeneration and anger.
In the next stanza, the speaker yearns to set the bees free but is stuck in a dilemma as to how to accomplish the task. She admits that the unintelligible gibberish, the noise created by these bees is most irritating of all. Metaphorically, the poet seems to be frustrated by the unwanted noises of her troubling thoughts and yearns to set her mind free somehow.
The speaker makes an attempt to understand the noise but it might as well be another language, she feels as if the bees are speaking roman. She admits defeat for she is not Caesar and considers the fact that she has ordered a box full of maniacs. The speaker reassures herself that the box can be sent back, she does not need to feed the bees, they can die, after all she is the owner, not them. Here, the poet seems to admit defeat for she is not able to understand her own thoughts anymore but she is still strong enough to realize that she can conquer this disease for she is the one who is more powerful, she owns her thoughts and mind, not the other way round.
The speaker wonders how hungry the bees are, if she could set the bees free, if they could forget her, she can be saved from the bees by turning into a tree. The poet here portrays her wish to be set free from her thoughts, to be saved from her illness someway. The speaker contemplates freeing the bees again, she says that since she is not a source of honey, there is no reason for the bees to attack her, she will be safe in her beekeeper suit. The speaker says that the bees might ignore her completely. Plath, in the last stanza questions the reason for her suffering and realizes that only death can rid her of her depression. According to Plath, “the box is temporary”, the end of her physical form will also lead to her freedom from mental slavery.


This skillful composition by Sylvia Plath brilliantly portrays the horrifying experience of a person suffering from depression and anxiety. The notions of helplessness, fear, anger, defeat, hope and  strength are articulately conveyed through vivid imagery and excellent use of metaphor.


The tone of the poem is calm with the undertone of fear and power play that runs throughout the poem.


The Arrival of The Bee Box by Sylvia Plath is an amazing composition. The poet is successful in articulating the emotions of a person suffering through depression and anxiety through vivid imagery and a skillful use of metaphor.
Contributor: Radhika Goel

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