Critical Analysis of “The Bee Meeting” | Poem by Sylvia Plath


To start critical analysis, first note that “The Bee Meeting” is one of the “Bee Poems” of Sylvia Plath. Like them, it also deals with the theme of power, uncertainty and insecurity. There are a lot of questions in the mind of poet, which require answers. These questions, create confusion in her mind. Her attitude, in this poem is too puzzling. She knows nothing about herself nor about the people, who are with her. Thus, this poem is also about finding true identity in society. However, it mainly focuses on sense of weakness and physical nakedness. These two are critical insecurities and the poet’s mind make analysis of them in the poem “The Bee Meeting”. This analysis makes the upcoming self-created psychological threats vulnerable.

Like this poem, in much of her other poems too, Plath sought out self discovery. Imaginative power of the poet gives her confidence for a rebellious expressiveness but most of the time she fails to express a rebellion attitude due to her inner fears. Her worries and uncertainties, either they are minor or major, overpower the same and ultimately she gives up.

Click here to read summary of “The Bee Meeting” instead of critical analysis.

Summary and critical analysis of initial stanzas of “The Bee Meeting”:

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 has no acquaintance with them; secondly, she feels herself naked. It is the reason, she experience defenselessness. Robert Philip, after doing critical analysis of “The Bee Meeting”, discusses in detail the atmosphere of starting lines of the poem in following words:

“The Bee Meeting opens with a vivid imaging of the poet’s vulnerability before the hive.”

Robert Philip on “The Bee Meeting”

The threat in the mind of the poet is due to her inner psychological worries. She does not feel any protection among the people; about them, she writes, “The rector, the midwife, the sexton, the agent for bees” and then at the same time she alienates herself from said people because of her fears. She expresses her distress in these lines; “In my sleeveless summery dress I have no protection”. The attitude of the poet portrays her isolation from society since long. 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”.

It reflects from the autobiographical incidents of the poet that lack of love, from blood relations and husband, makes her more sensitive. She has expressed it in this poem by using his artistic talent. The fear of existence in this world without love and hope is still in her mind. “does nobody loves me” is about the whole life of the poet in which no one has cared for her. every incident of her life is in her mind, which forces her to prefer death over life.

Robert Philip knows that the situation is critical and the poet has made analysis of every incident of her life, hence, he has rightly judged and expressed the psychological condition of the poet in the “The Bee Meeting” 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.”

Robert Philip on “The Bee Meeting”

Middle stanzas of “The Bee Meeting”:

In the upcoming lines, the poet trusts the “secretary of bees” because she cares about her condition. Although it does not last longer yet for the time being, she has veiled her horror; “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 of fear and insecurity.

Summary and critical analysis of Ending stanzas of “The Bee Meeting”:

Next lines of the poem transpire the theme of isolation. The poet is unsure about the people. Unanswered questions like who is rector, who is midwife, etc. disturb her. She does not know anybody even not her next neighbor. These questions show that her social life is badly in disorder. Apparently, the persona does not know the people, who are in front of her, but symbolically, they have deep meanings; the poet has presented a society, in which, even the neighbors are unknown and cannot be trusted. From the position of persona, it seems that she is forced to take steps against her wish but her mind does not allow her to do so. She cannot accept this society. As a result, society does not accept her. Transformation in one of both is required.

It is relevant to mention here that element of ambiguity in the poetry of Sylvia Plath creates doubts in the minds of critics and students of literature. Hence, they take help from linguistic and literary techniques in order to understand the meaning of her poetry.

In this poem, it seems that the poet does not know the people but her meeting at the bridge, symbolically, discloses a link; perhaps it is a connection between the divided locales. They give a hat to the poet. The poet is a rebel for them and they want to make her one of them. The lines, “they are making me one of them” suggest that instead of becoming like poet, the people wants to make her one of them but it is unacceptable for the poet. Apart from a hat, they have given “a black veil” to her.

The poet is in control of the people. Symbolically, it refers a free mind, which neither accepts mental slavery nor physical annihilation. “I cannot run, I am rooted, and the gorse hurts me”. The poet is bound down to accept rules of society. She wants to be free but she is helpless and can do nothing.

“I could not run without having to run forever.” The theme of death is presented in these lines. Sylvia Plath in her life has tried two times to free her soul from her body but in vain. She is fed up from this life but she is forced to live.

The whole poem is a dream sequence. It has 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 do critical analysis of “The Bee Meeting”. One cannot understand real meanings of this poem until he knows completely about poet’s life. Entire poem is about poet’s fear, her vagueness, her isolation, her efforts for self discovery and her preference of death over life.

Conclusion of the poem has much magnitude. No one can do better critical analysis and give better description of “The Bee Meeting” than Robert Phillips. This is how, he expresses his opinion 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.”

Robert Philip on “The Bee Meeting”

Related Questions:

  • Write a critical appreciation/analysis of Sylvia Plath’s poem “The Bee Meeting”.
  • Write a detailed critical note on the natural imagery in the poem “The Bee Meeting” by Sylvia Plath.