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Marking Time Versus Enduring In Gwendolyn Brook's "The Bean Eater's" - Paper

Marking Time Versus Enduring In Gwendolyn Brook's "The Bean Eater's"


Marking Time Versus Enduring in Gwendolyn Brook's "The Bean Eaters"
Gwendolyn Brook's poem "The Beann Eater's runs only eleven lines. It is written in plain language about very plain people. Yet its meaning is ambigous. One critic, George E. Kent, says the old couple who eat beans "have had their day and exit now as time-markers"(141), However, another reader, D. H. Melhem, perceives not so much time marking as "endurance" in the old couple (123). Is this poem a desparing picture of old age or a more positive portrait?
"The Bean Eaters" describes an "old yellow pair" who "eat beans mostly" (line1) off "Plain chipware" (3) with "Tin flatware" (4) in "their rented back room"(11), ...

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a separate stanza:
Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away. (5-8)

Brooks emphasizes how isolated the couple is by repeating "Two who." Then she emphasizes how routine their life is by reating"putting."
A pessimistic reading of this poem seems justified. The critic Harry B. Shaw reads the lines just quoted as perhaps desparing: "they are putting things awau as if winding down an operation and readying for withdrawl form activity" (80). However, Shaw observes, the word but also indicates the couple's determination to go living, a refusal to give up and let things go" (80). This dual meaning is at the heart of Brook's poem: the old people live a meager existence, yes, but their will, their self-control, and their connection with another person--their essential humanity--are unharmed.
The truly positive nature of the poem is revealed in the last stanza. In Brook's word, the old couple ...

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"Marking Time Versus Enduring In Gwendolyn Brook's "The Bean Eater's"." Essayworld.com. November 24, 2008. Accessed May 17, 2022. http://www.essayworld.com/essays/Marking-Time-Versus-Enduring-Gwendolyn-Brooks/93597.
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PAPER DETAILS
Added: 11/24/2008 09:13:45 PM
Category: Poetry & Poets
Type: Premium Paper
Words: 517
Pages: 2

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