What is an analysis of "Bitter Strawberries" by Sylvia Plath?

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"Bitter Strawberries," by Sylvia Plath, describes a conversation that takes place among farm workers who are picking strawberries.

The conversation is about "the Russians," who pose a threat to the farmers' country, which is presumably the U.S.A. (The poem was first published in 1950, when fear of Communist Russia was rampant in American.)

One woman, who is identified as "the head woman," takes a militant stance against the Russians.  "'Bomb them off the map,'" she says, and "'We ought to have bombed them long ago.'"

The head woman's opinion is opposed by Mary, who is concerned about her "fella" (boyfriend) who is "'Old enough to go [war] / If anything should happen...'"  The head woman is also opposed by a little girl who says, "'I can't see why / You're always talking this way.'"

The head woman ends the discussion by ordering everyone, in a "businesslike" tone, to go back to work.  The workers return to their task, and seem to be absorbed by it:

Kneeling over the rows,
We reached among the leaves
With quick practiced hands,
Cupping the berry protectively before
Snapping off the stem
Between thumb and forefinger.

On one level, the poem can be seen as a discussion of xenophobia, the fear of foreigners.

On another level, it can be seen as a reflection on how the routines of life continue, despite the fact that many larger, ominous questions remain unanswered.  On this level, the poem reminds me of "Out, Out" by Robert Frost, in which a boy is killed in a freak accident, and his family and neighbors quickly go back to their routines.


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