Rose Kamel: On "The Arrival of the Bee Box"

In "Arrival of the Bee Box" and "The Swarm." the victim’s counter-aggression takes a political rather than sexual form. In the former the persona-beekeeper contemplates a box of dangerously noisy bees:

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.

 

I put my eye to the grid

It is dark, dark,

With the swarmy feeling of African hands

Minute and shrunk for export,

Black on black, angrily clambering.

How can I let them out?

The bees now resemble exploited blacks in the Third World. Their mood is sustained by a series of link verbs, bound in a syntax written primarily in the active voice to suggest a much less helpless persona. As a kind of Pandora she toys with the notion of unleashing their violence on the world: "Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free. / The box is only temporary." Their release, however, would not ensure her safety, for their political instability has a long history:

It is like a Roman mob,

Small, taken one by one, but my God, together!

 

I lay my ear to furious Latin.

I am not a Caesar.

The "bees’" contemporary restlessness has a historic precedent that portends disaster for Pandora as well as for their political oppressors. Thus she contemplates disguising herself once again—first as a tree, then as a spacewoman:

I wonder if they would forget me

If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.

There is the aburnum, its blond colonnades

And the petticoats of the cherry

 

They might ignore me immediately

In my moon suit and funeral veil

I am no source of honey

So why should they turn on me?

But she contemplates donning these disguises after she has released the bees. The impulse to hide from forces beyond her control like those in "The Bee Meeting" exhibits in "The Arrival of the Bee Box" the "fingers in the ears" gesture of one who has every intention of unleashing violent aggression upon the world.

From "'A Self to Recover': Sylvia Plath’s Bee Cycle Poems." Modern Poetry Studies 4.3 (1973)

Details

Criticism Overview
Title Rose Kamel: On "The Arrival of the Bee Box" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Rose Kamel Criticism Target Sylvia Plath
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 29 Jan 2014
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication A Self to Recover': Sylvia Plath’s Bee Cycle Poems
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