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In Sylvia Plath’s “The Arrival of the Bee Box” and T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” both speakers are burdened by great mental anguish caused by their feeling of insignificance and powerlessness in the world. They both fear and accept the prospect of death, while acknowledging life as its opposite. These are the two sides of the human experience. Through an internal monologue, Prufrock explores his feeling of uselessness and displacement in society, while in “The Arrival of the Bee Box”, the speaker is concerned with their powerlessness over their mind, and impending consequences.
Throughout “The Arrival of the Bee Box”, the speaker is concerned with their powerlessness to the noises in their mind. The speaker tends to contradict or argue with themselves as shown by contrasting tone and opinion. While the speaker knows that “(the box) is dangerous” they still “can’t keep away from it”. The speaker wishes to “be sweet God”, yet denies desiring power by proclaiming that “I am not a Caesar”. This bi-polar behaviour is also shown by inconsistent rhyming throughout the poem. In the first stanza “lift” is rhymed with “midget” and “it”, yet in other stanzas no rhyming is found at all. Inconsistently throughout the poem, internal rhymes are found – “square as a chair”, “din in it”, “It is dark, dark” – which add to the staccato feel of the poem.
The “din” of the ‘bees’ is emphasised profusely by using consonance and onomatopoeia – “It is the noise that appals me most of all. The unintelligible syllables” – that highlight the true noise and confusion in the speaker’s mind. The noise of their mind is highlighted by many metaphors that compare the sound to “furious Latin”, a “Roman mob”, “angrily clambering”, “a box of maniacs” and “unintelligible syllables”. The tone of the end of the piece seems to ask for help as the speaker asks many questions such as “how hungry they are?”, “if they would forget me?”, “how can I let them out?”, and “why should they turn on me?”. The speaker expresses a desire to be in control, but accepts that they are insignificant to the power of the noise in their mind.
In T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, Prufrock is concerned with his sense of his insignificance and displacement in society. Eliot makes use of metaphors – “measured out my life with coffee spoons”, “When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall” – to show that Prufrock compares life to coffee and feels like an insect on a wall. Contrastingly, Plath uses metaphors to emphasise an exact sound, the noise of the bees in the speaker’s mind. Eliot also uses much more alliteration than Plath in his poem – “Before the taking of a toast and tea”, “fix you in a formulated phrase”, “When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall” – whereas Plath nearly did not use any alliteration at all apart from “black on black” perhaps since her piece sounds more like a story using conventional words when compared to Eliot.
Both Eliot and Plath personify many objects in their pieces. Plath describes the bees as a “Roman mob” and Eliot compares the yellow fog and smoke to a cat as it “licks its tongue”, “leap(s)”, “rubs its muzzle” and “curled… and fell asleep”. A unique literary device that Eliot uses is anaphora – “To have… To have… To roll… To say…” – which in this instance describes all the things that Prufrock could have done, but never did.
The central connecting burden that both speakers are plagued with is a powerlessness to their Sword of Damocles; the bees ruling the speaker’s powerless mind and Prufrock’s feeling of alienation and uselessness in the real world.