I ordered this, clean wood box
Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the coffin of a midget
Or a square baby
Were there not such a din in it.

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?
It is the noise that appalls me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
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.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.

I wonder how hungry they are.
I wonder if they would forget me
If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.
There is the laburnum, 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?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.

The box is only temporary.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Sylvia Plath's poem The Arrival Of The Bee Box


  1. Dan O’Hanlon says:

    All flowers and bunnies and such, Sylvia Plath had her own facile explanations for her poetry—never more so than for her “The Arrival of the Bee Box.” But I think she was hiding something. Specifically with respect to her “Bee Box,” I think she was hiding a great deal.

    Plath is reported to have written her Bee Box between October 6–10 1962.

    Russian Missiles arrived in Cuba a month earlier—specifically, on September 8th. The American government at the time (under JFK) had reports, but did not officially confirm this until it obtained photographic evidence, on October 16th—thus, to begin the infamous thirteen days Cuban Missile Crises” during which the world—and me among them—held its breath. Owing to loose Cuban tongues, however, word of the missiles had leaked out well before then. So it is quite possible Plath could have known of them when she wrote her Bee Box. Read in this context, it would seem she did, indeed, know.

    Just imagine, for a moment, that the narrator of poem is Nikita Khrushchev—as he debates in his mind the decision to send the missiles to begin with, Imagine the bee box(es) are the long “coffin-like” boxes they were shipped in.

    Here are just a few of its most indicative lines

    “I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
    They can be sent back.”

    “ If I just undid the locks ,,, and turned into a tree.

    “ It is like a Roman mob,
    Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!”

    “How can I let them out?”

    Mention of a “chair” (political debate—the UN—at a *table*), a “ballistic missile) “grid”; such phrasing only further adds to the imagery.

    Long a depressive, Plath committed suicide two months to the day after the crisis ended.

    Regards to all
    Dan O’Hanlon

  2. Zobair says:

    Her thoughts in “The Arrival of the Bee Box” are quite uneasy and call for an ephemeral entrance into the world of imagination. Carefully constructed cadence is made in order that a fancy-like thought might be inculcated. Her mind (box) is copiously replete with predicamental situation (bees) ,enforcing her to unravel howsoever. But, at the same time, a fear of disclosing such oscillating hallucinations is thwarting her. Her ‘Bee Poems’, some critics opine, reflect her staunch support for “Feminism”. In bees’ way of living, all is reigned by queen-bee. Her idea of victimisation incessantly haunts her in such mail dominated society. As David, or maybe someone else, asked whether it was a high time for Plath to commit suicide when there wasn’t any sort of restrictions on “expression thoughts freely” ? Certainly! Definithly! America was not America of today! But this was, in actual, never a core cause of her untimely suicidal act which in nothing but an aftermath of pessimism. Lash is quite right in dealing with Carley who just seems more perplexed than Plath 🙂
    We may easily distinguish her poetry from of the Renaissance.

  3. Karen says:

    Plath muses about suicide, she speaks about setting her thoughts free, playing ‘sweet God’ with her own life. Although as she says ‘tomorrow’ I sense that she is not yet ready for this huge step.
    Whilst suicide might not be her first option right now she does acknowledge that ‘The box is only temporary‘ and that death will ultimately be the only way to escape this ‘box of maniacs’

  4. shane says:

    what do you think is the main mood and tone behind this masterpiece?

  5. Matt says:

    This poem was ultimately an example of Sylvia Plath’s life. She felt “boxed up” and trapped and the final line speaks of how she views suicide as an escape. What several of you have said about the “government control” is very intelligent and kudos to you for noticing it. However, I don’t personally think that Sylvia was thinking about government control when she wrote the poem, in fact, through-out most of her poetry she appears rather politically-apathetic.

  6. killian says:

    This poem is truely an amazing insight into the workings of a tormented mind. She describes in graphic detail her inner torment which threaten to overwhelm her like a ”Roman Mob”. I feel the poem shows how deep the poets depression actually was and even though she acknowledges her control over her thoughts (”I am the owner”) in the end she describes the box as ”only temporary” which perhaps shows that the poet was already contemplating suicide. Deep down she knew that her demons would eventually overwhelm her.

  7. Shilpa says:

    Try reading the poem from end to start. It makes sense just as much as it does the normal way.

  8. chloe says:

    i’ve been studying this poem for my gcse drama exam! i think its fantastic! it talks about so much! it goes into so much depth about so many different things. obviously it shows how emotional she still is over her father, but it also shows power of people over others, and not only that, but power over the world! For our final exam, we have used this to show the woman resembling our goverment, and the bee’s resembling us, How were all trapped in one community and how it’s up to us to make a difference by working together, but to also show the goverments power over us, they provide us with everything we need, but if they slip up once, we get damage! but in the end, it’s only temperary because they’re just people, just like us! i hope everyone else can also see this! sylvia plath is an amazing poet! its nice to know she’s appreciated by so many!

  9. emmy vics says:

    i think this poem is a wonderful way of talking about power. it has been a very useful poem as it has contributed to my drama practical exam on power.

  10. sammy lou says:

    i think this poem is great it realy makes you think it could show how mad her mind is but i think it has a deeper meaning in it that no one will find out about.

  11. Ali says:

    I think Natasha’s comment was a little ridiculous, who is she to say what a poet should write about, she has cleary stated that she is not one herself! I think this is an excellent poem. I think people look at it as just a bee box too much, i feel Plath is using the bee box to describe what is going on in her own head, as if the bee box is her mind! Chaotic and almost dangerous! I love the way the tone changes half way through and she becomes so powerful “they can die, i need feed them nothing, i am the owner.” I agree with Brittany and Lenore, i also think the poem has a lot to do with her fathers death! He was an entomologist and he had written a standard work on bees called ‘bumblebees and their ways’.

  12. lenore says:

    Her father was a professor of German and Biology. His specialty was bees. Bravo to Brittany for noticing the damage of her fathers death.

  13. sohaila says:

    this poem in my opinion reflects her deepest feelings towards her inner feelings.she says”i have to live with it overnight”as if it is her feeling she has to live with her deep depression is deeply expressed in this poem.

  14. Brittany says:

    Perhaps the poem seemed stupid only because you have to look deeper than the words. While this and her other poems about bees tried to have an optimistic outlook, this poem seemed to have reflected on emotional damage from her father’s death. The poem opens with “I ordered this”, perhaps giving an outlook on again, power and control. There is “no exit”, for the bees or the keeper of the box. Political connotations, relating to the “Roman mob” and African being exported “shrunk for export”. Ahhh, too much analysis, I’ll write more some other time.

  15. Natasha Stacey says:

    the bee box is totally S T U P I D a poet should write about things that do not seem real but are If i were a poet i would think to myself whom will this make sense to definately not me.

  16. Liz Kidney says:

    In my humble opinion this poem is one of Sylvia’s greatest poems and it brings us to a great understanding of the poets work. She is both torn and troubled as if by chance the dismal package has beseiged her life and is doing a termendous job at causing up-roar and dispair.

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