Robert Phillips: On "The Bee Meeting"

The Bee Meeting" opens with a vivid imaging of the poet’s vulnerability before the hive. 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 symbolic marriage ceremony which follows, a rector, a midwife, and she herself—a bride clad in black—appear. She seems to remember that even the arrows which Eros used to shoot into the ground to create new life were poisoned darts. And just as her search for a Divine Father was tempered by her fear there was none—that God would be nothing more than, say, the Wizard of Oz, a little man with a big wind machine—so, too, her search for consolation from her earthly father creates an intensity of consciousness in which she no longer has any guarantee of security. Eros for her is ever accompanied by the imminence of death. (I am reminded here of the frequent word play, in Italian literature, between amore [love] and morte [death]). Certainly every mythology relates the sex act to death, perhaps most clearly in the tale of Tristan and Iseult. In nature, the connection is even more explicit: Always the male bee dies after inseminating the Queen. Plath’s personal mythology anticipates this. 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.")

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Criticism Overview
Title Robert Phillips: On "The Bee Meeting" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Robert Phillips Criticism Target Sylvia Plath
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 27 Jan 2014
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication The Dark Tunnel: A Reading of Sylvia Plath
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