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Wild Bees by James K. Baxter Essay

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As people, we naturally “size people up,” or rather determine their value and treat them
accordingly. If we come across someone with money or someone well known, we tend to
determine that they have a higher value and place them on a high pedestal. Whereas, when we
come across someone with noticeably less money seen in the way they dress, the type of house
they live in, or what job they possess, and automatically assume their value is less, deeming them
not as important as someone more well off. We essentially treat the wealthier better than the less
fortunate. But what gives us the right to treat people differently? I ask the same questions while
reading the “Wild Bees” by James K. Baxter. The poem addresses a group of boys attacking a
beehive in a horrific way, reminiscent to that of genocide. Similar to people devaluing one
another, the boys devalue the bees and wind up destroying the beehive. In the poem, Baxter uses
the scenario to address people’s tendency to define another individual’s worth and how the
affects may lead to violence.

Baxter addresses the negative side effects of determining someone else’s value by
referencing Ophelia from the Shakespearean play Hamlet. In Hamlet, Ophelia was the love
interest of Hamlet, but is driven crazy by Hamlet’s sudden disregard of Ophelia and her feelings.
As a result, she drowns herself in a river. One may argue that Ophelia drowned herself because
Hamlet devalued her and deemed her unimportant and useless to himself, therefore, causing her



to see herself as unimportant and useless. The poem states, “Often in a summer… downstream
between willows, a safe Ophelia drifting / In a rented boat” (line 1-3) which may be hinting
towards the noti...


... middle of paper ...


...rst devalued
them, assumed themselves more superior and acted in destroying them. Violence occurred for
the boy’s enjoyment and they were able to kill them successfully because the bees were smaller
than them. The bees were not less important than the boys, similar to how no person is less
important than another person. In today’s society though, we often place each other in categories
whether by stereotype, or significance, or based upon wealth. The overall message Baxter sends,
though, is that we do not have the right to place a value on another person (whether increasing
their value or lessening it), and that the violence that often occurs from doing so is senseless and
achieves nothing.




Works Cited Page

Baxter, James K. “Wild Bees” The Norton Anthology of Poetry. 5th ed. Ferguson, Margaret.
New York: Norton 2005. 1701. Print.




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