The Bean Eaters

The Bean Eaters Literary Elements

Speaker or Narrator, and Point of View

The speaker takes on an airy, dispassionate third-person omniscent perspective.

Form and Meter

Free verse with irregular meter and rhyme scheme

Metaphors and Similes

Both the beans and chipware are metaphors for poverty. There are no similes present in the poem. The action of putting on clothes and putting things away is a metaphor for the ceaseless monotony of their lives.

Alliteration and Assonance

In the third stanza, the repeated "tw"-sounds in the phrase "twinklings and twinges" is an example of alliteration, linking two otherwise disparate words.


There is verbal irony in calling the couple's dinner of beans "a casual affair," because really it is no affair at all, but a slapdash arrangement of two people hunched over plates of beans. But the diction is part of the airy, dispassionate tone with which the speaker approaches the lives of the old couple.




A rented back room


dispassionate, airy, wistful

Protagonist and Antagonist

Major Conflict

The major conflict in this poem is that the old pair has been swept aside by the youth-obsessed culture of the 50s and 60s, and now they live in a back room with nothing but their memories of youth to keep them going.




The lines:

But keep putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

are understated ways of conveying the total monotony and boring repetition that has taken over the lives of this couple. By honing in on two seemingly benign tasks that everyone does, (even people who lead exciting lives) Brooks draws attention to the fact that these activities comprise most of what they do: eat beans, dress themselves, and clean up.


Metonymy and Synecdoche

"Bean Eaters" as a phrase becomes a synecdoche of frugal, impoverished people just trying to live their lives and get through the day.




Not an explicit onomatopoeia, but the word "creaking" could be said to resemble the sound it describes.