How does Plath convey her alienation and increasing paranoia in the bee poems, focusing on "The Arrival of the Bee Box"? Essay
“The Arrival of the Bee Box”, “Stings” and “The Bee Meeting” all convey Plath’s increasing paranoia, and alienation through the use of literature terms, structure of the poem and tone of the poem - How does Plath convey her alienation and increasing paranoia in the bee poems, focusing on "The Arrival of the Bee Box"? Essay introduction. The time in which she wrote these poems her and her husband Ted Hughes had recently separated leaving her and her two children, in Devon surrounded by the countryside, isolated form family, and friends. The “Bee Box” personifies Plath’s afflictions of women, with her voice being fundamentally feministic.
Plath herself has suffered as a mother and as a wife that has been confined to the house being her “box” of alienation. Plath however is conscious of her imprisonment and expresses her optimism that this is only a “temporary” phase that will pass she will wins her emancipation from not only her stereotypical role as a wife and mother given to her by Ted Hughes, but society as a whole. This feminist voice is continued in “Stings”, as Plath’s embodies a “bee” and conveys that although she may have been a drudge before, she will not be one any more.
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She refuses to submit to the hard working drudge of a society, and believes she is more than that, perhaps even a “queen” as she is independent and resentful towards her adulterous husband Ted Hughes, as he is “the engine that killed her”, but a previous weak Plath not this new Plath, that has risen above his cheating ways, and doesn’t need a man to make her strong, taking a feminist attitude towards the situation.
In “The Arrival of the Bee Box”, the introduction of the bee box instantly presents the reader to Plath’s conflicting feelings toward the contents inside including Plath’s heightening paranoia. The “box” is a metaphor for Pandora’s Box which in Greek mythology, was carried by Pandora whom when opened it unleashed all the evils of mankind upon the world which included greed, vanity, lies, envy but it also unleashed hope. The bees contained in the box are Plath’s externalisation of her mind which includes her thoughts and memories.
The thought of death is constant with the use of “funeral veil” and “coffin” this is reinforced in “Stings” with the use of “mahogany” which is a word used to make coffins. In addition the use of the repetition of “dark, dark” echoes the grim reaper who is trying to consume Plath not only physically but mental, and Plath has to reassure herself by claiming she is “the owner” of her own thoughts, even though she does “wonder how hungry” death is.
The use of “I am the owner” juxtaposes with the use of “I am not a Caesar” therefore conveying the conflict and paranoia Plath has within her own mind. Plath knows that the box which contains her mind “is dangerous” that is why the box is kept “locked” however Plath cannot help herself as she “can’t keep away from it”. Plath is attached and drawn to the “dangerous” box as she is drawn to things that won’t do her any god, like Ted Hughes for instance.
Therefore Plath is paranoid as she knows something bad is going to happen if she “can’t keep away” from bad things, therefore by being near the bad she alienates herself from the goodness and purity she is always trying to reach. In “The Arrival of the Bee Box” Plath self-reassures herself that she is “the owner” of her thoughts, this self-reassurance is continued in “The Bee Meeting”, with the use repetition through “my fear, my fear, my fear” which gives the a sense of paranoia and panic quality that Plath was feeling
Plath views the “bee box” as a “coffin of a midget, Or a square baby” but then rejects her initial thought because of the inward rhyme of “din in it” which is solipsistic. This can be viewed as Plath’s inward reflection of herself and her mentality of paranoia, as on the surface she may seem to be at rest, with her mind being quiet and idle like a “coffin”, however the turmoil beneath the surface forces her to quickly acknowledge otherwise “I have simply ordered a box of maniacs”, which is the true state of her mind.
However, “There are no windows” so Plath cannot see a way out of her “dark, dark” mind , thus making her increasing paranoid, as she cannot see the unknown. Plath’s inability to expose the contents of the box/mind strengthens the perception of the box as a symbolic of her paranoid and alienated mind, as not even herself can sort her hostile and isolated mind . The use of the simile “strips of tinfoil winking” personifies the lifeless tinfoil and brings it to life; this illustrates how Plath feels about how the world is turning against her, giving the poem a paranoid tone to it.
The plants then become human with the use of the simile “leaves like bored hearts”; this imagery reinforces the notion of Plath feeling increasingly isolated and paranoid as well as vulnerable. Plath’s vulnerability is shown through the use of the simile “I am nude as a chicken neck”. By feeling “nude” Plath conveys that she feels vulnerable and exposed, as she says “I have no protection”. Also the “neck” is a very exposed place and depicts Plath’s desire of suicide through the use of the hyperbole “slit form my neck”, which conveys her vulnerable emotional state.
This motif of death is continued in “The Arrival of the Bee Box” with the use of “coffin” and “funeral veil” as if Plath is imagining being at her own funeral. Plath feels alienated from everybody and everything this is shown through the use of “I cannot run, I am rooted” this quote suggests that Plath feels metaphorically paralysed and chained down, through the use of the word “rooted”. The use of “rooted” could symbolise Plath feeling firmly implanted in the belief that since Ted Hughes had left her, she is unable to move on.
Plath doesn’t know what to do as she “cannot run” and hide from this situation as she has her two children there with her. The use of the verb “run” highlights Plath’s increasing paranoia as if somebody is after her and is trying to catch her. This motif of somebody/something constantly out to get and catch Plath is continued in the poem “Stings” with the use of symbolism in “she is flyingi?? the use of the verb “flying” symbolises that Plath is trying to be like a bird and fly away from the situation and not let misery consumed/catch her, as misery loves company.
Therefore the use if the verbs running and “flying” convey how paranoid Plath was feeling. “The Bee Meeting” was completed on the 3rd October 1962 and was the first of the bee poems. It consists of five lines per a stanza until the last stanza that consists of 6 lines composing of three words “am I cold”. This is self-questioning however Plath has chosen not to use a question mark but a full stop, which gives the line a hollow quality, as if she is dead inside, due to the alienation from life itself, as the “model” of her father that promised never to leave her did.
Therefore Plath feels vulnerable and paranoid with the feeling that everybody around her will turn their back and abandon her, like Ted Hughes did. “The Arrival of the Bee Box” was written on the 4th October 1962 and consists of five lines per a stanza, the same structure as “The Bee Meeting”, however the last stanza is isolated by itself and is only one line, saying that “the box is only temporary”, and gives a sense of a question and is very solipsistic as the “box” holds her mind within it, as the “bees” are Plath’s thoughts. The use of “temporary” questions was the box ever truly going to control her mind.
Therefore conveys Plath’s increasing paranoia as she is constantly questioning herself as if she is being watched by everybody that is waiting for her to male a mistake. By this line being isolated it symbolises Plath’s alienation for society as she is living in Devon surrounded by the countryside. “Stings” follow the strict regime of five lines per a stanza, not deviating via the last stanza like “The Arrival of the Bee Box” and “The Bee Meeting”. Therefore showing her increasing paranoia as Plath is too afraid and too alienated to make a wrong step and deviate from what is safe, which is the routine.
Also Plath feels so paranoid that if she makes a wrong move something bad will happen. To conclude “Stings”, “The Arrival of the Bee Box” and “The Bee Meeting” all convey Plath’s feelings of paranoia, and alienation whether these feelings were exaggerated or not through the use of literature techniques, structure/form of the poem and tone of the poem. These three bee poem all convey these feeling similarly and differently, maybe to contrast how bad these feelings were on the day she wrote these poems.