“Stings” is another feminist poem written by Plath to highlight the relationship between her and her
husband as can be seen from “He and I”. It can be compared to “Munich Mannequins” as both poems display the relationship of men and women and her views about women’s role in a relationship. This poem highlights Plath’s resentment towards men in her married life.
The women’s role in a relationship is depicted as a bee and the men depicted as a victim or a bee sting. She herself will be the one suffering even if she inflicts pain in the relationship. She depicted women as bees and being under control of the men (the bee keeper). And even if she tries to inflict pain on the third party, the consequence of death will still come back to her.
She yearns to be in control when she states “It is almost over. I am in control.” However, this seems impossible. She too rails against the fact the women are treated like objects in a relationship. Like how bees with torn wings are of a less superior state as compared to men, or other women that are in better state, other bees that are in better state, “Her wings torn shawl” like her wings are torn away. She has lost her abilities and is disabled.
The cultivation of the bee hive in the poem can be viewed as the cultivating the queen bee part of her which reinforces her identity. She wants to resurrect the part of her that matters. The part of her that has died in the relationship and the part of her that defines who she is.
In lines 51-60, Plath uses several poetic devices to express this feminist theme Lines 55-58 state: “With her lion-red body / her wings of glass / Now she is flying / More terrible than she ever was, red / Scar in the sky, red comet.” In these lines, her feminist attitude is revealed in large part by color imagery. “Red” is used in lines 55, 57, and 58 to express her independent lust, strength and power (archetypally, red symbolizes male strength, ex. Mars as the red planet). The lion-red queen emerging from all of the worker bees echoes the lines 82-84 of “Lady Lazarus,” in which Plath alludes to the Phoenix: “Out of the ash / I rise with my red hair / And I eat men like air.” Her allusion to the emerging “lion-red body” in line 55 accomplishes the same purpose. However, in the same line, Plath uses antithesis to assert her femininity as well — “wings of glass” seems
to express her delicate nature in contrast with the power of the “lion.”
The final lines, lines 59 and 60, of the poem reveal more of her contempt towards the stronger male identity. She is flying “Over the engine that killed her— / the mausoleum, the wax house.” It is ambiguous whether the word “killed” was intentionally used as hyperbole, or whether Plath believed that she was like the Phoenix, and rose from the ashes. These lines seem to imply that, as something “more terrible than she ever was,” will be seeking to assert her authority over the male identity.
The bee motif, which spans the entire poem, reveals much about Plath’s message. As the queen bee in “Stings,” she is independent and resentful of the other workers who die when stinging (females who “die” when sacrificing themselves for men), as well as contemptful the cheating nature of males.
Xioahui, Taralyn, Edmund, Atiqah