fifth poem

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fifth poem

Post  Ms.B on Sun May 31, 2009 7:24 pm

All of our poets this quarter have been modern, and the next one is no exception. This one is by Gwendolyn Brooks. You might know one of her poems from Mr. De Rose's room a year or two ago. I remember seeing it in his room, entitled "We real cool."

This one is called "The Bean Eaters" -- I hope you enjoy it.

The instructions are the same.... short first entry, longer second entry.


The Bean Eaters


They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Tin flatware.

Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

And remembering . . .
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that
is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths,
tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.

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Re: fifth poem

Post  Bibi on Tue Jun 02, 2009 5:30 pm

"Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,"

What my interpretation grasped was the fact that this poem is portraying the daily routine of a married old couple, who, as individuals, seem to be carrying such an ordinary, monotonous life as if they had experienced the highlights of living, and were now just in a crude stage of awaiting death. This line is significant because it seems to reveal both their positive and negative remembrances, since "twinkling" means the act of shinning and gleaming (which refers back to the topic of them having gone past their apse of living, the "golden times") and "twinges" are sudden sharp pains that could be associated with old age and its physical fallacies. Thus, the author is suggesting that this pair of elders is living off by comparisons, much like Janie, since they will carry on their remaining years with memories, both "good" and "bad," that have shaped them and defined the paths taken and words said.
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Re: fifth poem

Post  leitz on Tue Jun 02, 2009 7:46 pm

I read the poem much earlier and came up with a similar conclusion than Bibi, just in case I sound repetitive. The phrase "They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair", demonstrates the simplicity and monotonous nature of the life of the pair described in the poem. The beans are a random and simple food that shows the "everydayness" of the life described, while the use of yellow serves to demonstrate aging; when white or light colored objects age, they have a tendency to become yellowed, such as paper, thus showing the passage of time. The monotonous nature of the life is also expressed through the lines that state "two who have lived there day, but keep putting on their clothes, demonstrating a never ending and stubborn cycle, that "keeps" happening.

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Re: fifth poem

Post  rapoch on Tue Jun 02, 2009 8:18 pm

Two who are Mostly Good"

After having read the poem, I had a difficult time stating with certainty what the selected quote signified. Because the adjective "good" is a vague term (thus, the fact that it is an ACK Word), I believe this line is opened to a myriad of interpretations. My best guess, however, is that the word "good" is employed to describe the level of satisfaction experienced by the couple. Because the first stanza depicts the humble and simple lifestyle of the two individuals suggesting a wounded state of mind, Gwendolyn Brooks immediately shows that is not the case. Despite the poverty, the couple is mostly satisfied with their lives. The adverb "mostly" is used for it would be inaccurate to state their lives are all they ever wanted. Nevertheless, they go on living, remembering the ups and downs in a peaceful manner as they "lean over" in a state of relaxation.
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Re: fifth poem

Post  Milla on Tue Jun 02, 2009 8:33 pm

"Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Tin flatware."

This quote suggests the simplicity of the couple's life. It is reinforced from the repetition of the adjective "plain" to describe the chipware and the wood, which also reflect their monotonous life: everything they own is common, plain. The word "chipware" also relates to the worthless ware they have, and the fact that the wood is "creaking" suggests the worn out of the table, showing the age of the material - which relates to what Leitz said about the aging of the couple. By placing "Tin flatware" in another stanza, the author emphasizes the fact that everything of the dinner is plain and cheap; it gives the impression that not ONLY are the chipware and wood plain, but the flatware too, is made of tin (a cheap material).
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Re: fifth poem

Post  Bia on Tue Jun 02, 2009 8:42 pm

"Dinner is a casual affair."
This line shows that the old couple depends on each other to hold on through this “predictable” and firm moment in life. The fact that the dinner is casual demonstrates that it is informal, meaning that it happens periodically; the metaphor (in relation to affair) also shows that the dinner is indeed an important event. What is interesting is that, even though time has passed and their lives were shaped by moments of happiness and sorrow (as stated by Bibi), they have the conscience that if they continue together they can overcome all of the difficulties presented by life, even these "yellow days" (until they seize to exist).
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Re: fifth poem

Post  ana on Wed Jun 03, 2009 5:37 pm

I chose to analyze the title: "The Bean Eaters"
The fact that the custom of eating beans defines the people in question shows how there is an unchanging pattern in behavior. Since this behavior defines them, and they are not known by names or by achievements, they seem unimportant. Yet, a poet would not right of "nobodies" (excuse the term) without a purpose, and i believe the title helps understand that it is unacceptable to be known for something so simple, so insignificant as eating beans. These people are old and all they are known as is "Bean Eaters". It's sad... the title reflects the boredom in their lives as well as their insignificance.
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Re: fifth poem

Post  Luisa on Wed Jun 03, 2009 8:48 pm

To me, Gwendolyn Brooks exposes the poem's message objectively in the line where she says "two who have lived their day". Not that she doesn't suggest it throughout the entire poem, but here she openly establishes the fact that the couples in her poem no longer live but merely exist. To confirm this, she contrasts the "times" we live during our lives, one being the apse of our life (as put by Bibi) or, the moment when we have the most vivid and important experiences of our lives and the other being the monotonous and boring passage of time, in other words, the daily routine of an elder who involuntarily awaits for death. This idea can be clearly identified once she puts the line "but keep putting on their clothes, and putting things away" after the one where it is said that they are done living their days. The idea of putting their clothes and putting things away suggest the methodic life led by elders who no longer have the energy neither the aspirations of a younger person.


Last edited by Luisa on Thu Jun 04, 2009 9:42 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: fifth poem

Post  Oscar on Thu Jun 04, 2009 1:28 pm

"Remembering [...]
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room"


This quote creates a relationship between the action of "remembering" and eating beans. The couple remembering their past when eating beans suggests that this action is a temporal reference in their life, empty of any other significant event. Thus, the reader can infer that the only way for them to mesure the passage of Time is eating beans, and by extension the three meals per day; such perspective is depressing and points out the hollowness of routine. The fact that "they lean over the beans" - or bend toward their plates - demonstrates their avidity to eat such a rudimentary meal, enjoying one of the most important part of the day. The fact that they eat in a "rented back room" further implies that they are not quite rich, idea already suggested by their basic alimentation.
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Re: fifth poem

Post  Nabiyah on Thu Jun 04, 2009 5:11 pm

"As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that
is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths,
tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes."


I believe that what Gwendolyn Brooks tried to express through this poem, is not only the insignificance and boredom of old age, but the worthlessness of this couple all through their life time. To begin with, the act of eating beans in "plain chipware" and in a "rented back room", demontrates the couple is not wealthy. Particularly, the phrase above, in which the couple looks back to remember the life they lived, exposes their unimportance, since they resemble the mere simplicity of objects they posessed ( even though they may represent a greater meaning), rather than recalling good moments, victories or important roles played. Nevertheless, the "fringes" remembered show how they have lived on the border line of life, trimming not to fall out the margin, what suggests a possible lack of money situation.
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Re: fifth poem

Post  leitz on Thu Jun 04, 2009 6:08 pm

Most of the comments sound fairly similar so I chose Bia's which is the least similar to mine. Bia's response states that the quote "dinner was a casual affair", demonstrates the repetitve nature of their life, as dinner together for the couple has already become so common since they have been doing it for a long time. This is reenforced by the phrase in the poem, "and remebering", which put the memories almost as an afterthought, since they had alreday become so common place after such a long period together. I disagree though with her definition of "yellow days", since in my opinion yellow brfore the days serves to show how old they are, such aging paper becomes yellow, so do the days of the couple as they age and the days reamin the same.

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Re: fifth poem

Post  Mai on Thu Jun 04, 2009 7:16 pm

"But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away."

Just like what Bibi mentioned, I also believe that this poem is about about a couple of elders that have already lived through everything, and are now just waiting for their deaths. That view is evidenced by the quote selected, since the fact that they "keep putting on their clothes / And putting things away" just highlights that they are just living a day after the other, without having any adventures or challenges. I also agree with Ana when she says that the fact that they are bean eaters also shows how they are used to following a fixed pattern in their lives, also highlighting how the couple is bound to maintain a static life until they die.
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Re: fifth poem

Post  Bibi on Thu Jun 04, 2009 7:52 pm

Actually, Oscar and I were talking about this after school today while he was writing his response, so I am going to go ahead and explain a little of what I thought when I first read "as they lean over the beans" -- which slightly differs from his interpretation. When I attempted to visualize this image, I thought of the physical ordinary "leaning over" as in inclining the weight of the body so as to be supported by some object or person, so the idea that the old couple was "leaning over" the beans seemed rather strange, to say the least. Though Oscar explained to me that it can also mean to bend forward, I can't help but try to understand another possible intent the author might have had that goes beyond the actual movement. Going back to the previous definition of the word, if we assume that the beans are the only things that these individuals rely on for assistance or support, we can reiterate the conclusion that they have been left with nothing but each other and an occasional family meal. This is important because it's as if their remaining material possession is a plate of beans, which is something so ordinary and uninteresting that such understanding evokes a level of pity the readers feel for this couple. Nonetheless, we are also satisfied to see that though this is pretty much all they have, they are still able to share this one seemingly monotonous existence with one another, -- something most people search their whole lives for. So then there is a sutil change of perspective, and we come to no longer feel sorry for their current stage of life but either content and glad, in a way, that they have managed to surpass the difficulties, the "ups and downs" as said by Rapha, and still remain united, as one. Note how the author never talks about these two individuals, presumably a wife and a husband, as two separate and different people, but as "two who are Mostly Good" and "two who have lived their day," as equals, as complements of each other, as halves in a complete being.
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Re: fifth poem

Post  Bia on Thu Jun 04, 2009 8:35 pm

In relation to Lu`s post ("the couples in her poem no longer live but merely exist."), I agree with it to a certain extent. The way I see the poem is that, even though the author brings up the fact that age has made everything "common", her main point is to show how, as a couple, they can survive the difficulties of this old age. The words "their", "two", "they"… exemplify the importance of the couple being united. They “merely exist”, but the fact that they do it together is what should be highlighted; they can only hang on to life because they are passing through the same situation, knowing that one is able to understand the other.
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Re: fifth poem

Post  Luisa on Thu Jun 04, 2009 9:59 pm

I found Bia's reply to my comment very interesting, I must admit that I didn't think of it that way before. However, after considering the idea that the true core message is regarding the importance of "surviving" old age accompanied with someone who shares with you the same situation, I still don't see it as Gwendolyn Brooks' intention, even though anyone can interpret the poem according to what they believe to be more plausbile. Anyways, while considering Bia's point of view, and trying to see that there was a meaning behind having two bean eaters together, I actually came up with the conclusion that having two bean eaters reveals how this situation is of an universal nature meaning that it is not limited to one person or another, but to all that eventually reach "old age". I thought about the poem being entitled "the bean eater" and I am most sure it wouldn't have the same effect in terms of showing how this is not an exclusive case but rather an inevitable situation.
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Re: fifth poem

Post  Oscar on Fri Jun 05, 2009 7:42 am

"Two who are Mostly Good"

I do agree with Raphael that such phrase is totally open to interpretations, and I completely see the logic in his statement - "Mostly Good" defining the satisfaction of the couple about their lives - however, there could be an alternative interpretation, in which "Mostly Good" would relate to the honesty and integrity of the couple. First of all, the capitalization of "good" could imply that Gwendolyn Brooks refers to some high moral principle of goodness. Furthermore, their goodness would add to the interpretation that their lives are monotonous, that they have never created much trouble of any sort, that they are literally "good" people, with that sense of passivity it may contain in the context of their daily routine.
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Re: fifth poem

Post  Milla on Sat Jun 06, 2009 12:38 pm

I thought Oscar's interpretatoin of "Mostly Good" was very interesting, and I would like to add another possible connotation to its meaning. The fact that, as most have agreed, the couple has lived through a monotonous life, by labeling them as "Mostly Good", capitalized, can relate to the fact that they do nothing in their lives and while they have never done anything good, they have also not done anything bad [sorry for the ack words =P] which is why the speaker indentifies them with a shallow label of "mostly good" - mostly meaning they are not entirely good, being vague, and therefore, superficial - since they do not show throughout the poem to have neither positive or negative qualities; they are as common and boring as beans. Sad
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Re: fifth poem

Post  rapoch on Sun Jun 07, 2009 6:36 pm

Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away."

Having read Maiane's response to the quote above, I do agree with her interpretation, but would like to add some more analysis to it.

As most people have already stated, the poem refers to an old, unwealthy couple whose lives seem monotonous, repetitious and paradoxically lifeless. In addition to that, the emphasis on the couple's routine only corroborates the above interpretation, shared by all of my classmates to a certain extent. Their reliance on "beans" as their everyday meal and their constant act of "remembering" are only some examples that suggest a dull and colorless existence. However, the above quote displays the couple's attitude towards such insignificance.

In this quote, the concept of routine is addressed through a metaphor. As Maiane stated, the passage "highlights that they are just living a day after the other, without having any adventures or challenges." However, Gwendolyn Brooks suggests, in the second line of the selected quote, that depite their tedious life, they wish to continue living, existing. The verb "keep" once again emphasizes the repetition of their lives, their continous routine. The "clothes", on the other hand, symbolize their willingness to go on. To put clothes on reveals their desire to get ready for that day, to proceed with their existence despite its meagerness. It is as if the couple is trying to hold on to their meaningless life, as if what seems worthless to the reader, is actually worth something afterall.

As stated in the last line of the chosen excerpt, the couple is aware that life is ending and that their vitality is fading. As a consequence, "things" must be put away, meaning that they are no longer capable of everything they once did, moments they remember up until today will remain in their memory and such activeness will not be reborn. However, that does not mean that the simplicity of life, its boredom and repetitiveness should make existence unbearable. Quite to the contrary, life is ending, time is slipping, the good ol' days are gone, but one must keep on living. The couple's house is rented, but they do have a home. The couple only eats beans, but they do have something to eat. Their life is monotonous, but they still have a life.
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Re: fifth poem

Post  Teixeira on Sun Jun 07, 2009 9:56 pm

"They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair."
Many of the passages chosen demonstrates a simplicity on the way the couple lives their lifes. The way they live of remembrance, only existing instead of living. The way Brooks uses language in this poem leads to the same kind of interpretation. This fragment clearly demonstrates this. The language is simple, expressing, this way, the feeling of the "old yellow pair" presented in the poem, of simplicity and monotony. However, this simplicity is not so explicit because of the way the author places the words. Commonly, this passage would be said "This old yellow pair (or couple) mostly eats beans". However, the order in which Brooks puts the words does not allow the reader to identify at first this commoness on the language being used, giving the poem a lyric feeling, in addition to the commoness being expressed throughout it.

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Re: fifth poem

Post  Teixeira on Mon Jun 08, 2009 7:06 pm

"Two who are Mostly Good"

I see some logic in Oscar's interpretation, but I do not agree with it. Many has been said about their simplicity, and their monotonous way of life. I believe that by characterizing this couple as "Mostly Good" only demonstrates Gwendolyn's will to illustrate them as a non-idealized couple. This expression, "Mostly Good", allows the reader to maintain a feeling of sympathy towards these characters, without making them look unreal. Basically, and effort to make us like them, without making them loose their humanity. Therefore, its only an addition or an emphasis to how these people being described are humane, characterizing, once more in the poem, the simplicity there lives and theirselves represent.

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