A feminist poem written by Plath to highlight the relationship between her and her husband – as can be seen from the ‘He and I’
The structure of the poem is twelve 5 line stanzas – and enjambment is used throughout to extend the thoughts of the speaker
Poem shows her resentment towards men in her married life and also towards women who sacrifice themselves for men
The opening of this poem is a very tender one which uses details such as ‘the man in white smiles’ ‘our cheesecloth gauntlets’ ‘white with pink flowers’
The repetition of the term bare handed shows the trust the Plath has in her husband (bee keeper)
A thousand cleans cell between us – they seem to have been married quite a long time and the word clean signifies their virtue and purity
‘eight combs of yellow cups’ – eight is also mentioned later in this poem and refers to the 8 years plath and her husband were married
I believe the beginning of the poem talks about her former love and her perfect married life until her husband committed an act of infidelity
‘White with pink flowers
with excessive love I enameled it,
Thinking, ‘Sweetness, sweetness’
Plath here seems to show us that she put all her love and efforts into being a good wife and mother and attempted to build a perfect life for her family
The ferocity of the later stanzas makes it quite easy to forget this tender opening but I would like to draw our attention to the fact that this poem begins on a quite peaceful if not happy note. At the beginning the use of ‘He and I’ and the line ‘The throats of our wrists brave lilies’ lead us to believe that she does acknowledge a happy time with her husband.
‘Brood cells gray as the fossils of shells
Terrify me, they seem so old.’
From this point onwards – there is a shift in the poem – from her recollection of happy memories to the dismal reality
The speaker talks of the ‘unqueenly’ and ‘shameful’ state she finds herself in –
‘her wings torn shawls’ bees with torn wings are considered to be beneath the males as well as those women with healthy wings . Plath is saying that she has fallen beneath everyone
‘Of winged, un-miraculous women’ This is a paradoxical statement seeing as a women with wings would most certainly be considered miraculous. The drudges then, I believe, may represent women who’s strangeness has evaporated over the years spent in service of others
‘ I am no drudge’ Although she makes this statement, we can tell that a drudge is exactly what she has been for many years. Plath states this followed by a contradiction ‘though for years I have eaten dust and dried plates with my dense hair’ This is an allusion to the Bible in which Mary washes the feet of Jesus and proceeds to dry them with her hair. Even though she claims to not be a drudge, for years she has carried out the domestic duties required of a married woman.
Plath’s ‘strangeness’ and ‘dangerous skin’ could refer to her individuality. Plath makes the use of a metaphor here comparing her individuality to evaporating dew.
‘Will they hate me,
These women who only scurry,
Whose news is the open cherry, the open clover?’
Plath seems to believe that her strangeness will not be accepted – by the submissive women that ‘only scurry’ – the submissive women that have lost their ‘strangeness’ (individuality) – in the service of men
‘Whose news is the open cherry, the open clover?’
sexual imagery – Plath states that normal housewives focus only on womanly duties, specifically reproduction and sexual intimacy.