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In "Stings," . . . she and a man in "white smiles" remove the honey cells from the hive. Once again the queen bee does not show herself; if she exists at all, she is old, "Poor and bare and unqueenly and even shameful." All that the speaker recognizes are "winged, unmiraculous women / Honeydrudgers," with whom she does not want to identify, although she wonders if "These women who only scurry" will hate her. In control now, she sees "A third person watching," who has nothing to do with the bee-seller and herself. He is "a great scapegoat," the person the bees attack. "They thought death was worth it," but the beekeeper refuses that death. "I / Have a self to recover, a queen," she admits, although again she does not find her but imagines her as a flying "red comet."

This curious choice between revenge on the man which means death and recovering a self which signifies life introduces a prophetic note into the poem.


From Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Copyright © 1979 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.