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The Bee

Symbol Analysis

Oh, the bumblebee. He's only in the poem for the first half, but he's hugely significant in developing the themes of sexual tension and desire and passivity in this poem. Also, he's kind of a baseball-bat of a symbol – remember the euphemism "the birds and the bees"? Oh yes. Hughes was not playing coy when he chose this particular insect, that's for sure.

  • Lines 4-5: Introduction of the bee. He's not the most graceful thing on the planet, but then again, he is clambering up into something that's described as "drunken." Also, the word "clambers" implies a kind of haste, as if the bee can't wait to get to the flower's center.
  • Lines 8-9: This is where the bee also gets personified for a second – we'd be hard-pressed to say whether or not a bee was enjoying itself, but that's exactly what the poem does. So the goblet of the flower lives up to its "drunken" description as it intoxicates the bee. While his gathering of nectar is work ("difficult"), it's also extremely pleasurable.
  • Lines 10-11: We would have done lines 8-11 in one big chunk, but the focus here shifts from bee-as-subject to bee-as-object. What we mean by that is that the poppy becomes the thing doing the action, even though the action is "helpless" – so we see, in further personification, the poppy as skirt-wearing woman, totally passive, embracing the bee.

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