The Bean Eaters

The Bean Eaters Summary and Analysis of Stanza 2


The second stanza retreats from the immediate domestic scene and moves into more abstract musings about the couple's life. They are described here as "Mostly Good," and having "lived their day," which inspires the reader to imagine the couple's youthful pasts. These first two lines are juxtaposed with the banal activities described in the second half of the stanza—"putting on their clothes" and "putting things away"—which speaks to their resilience in the face of aging and boredom in a society that doesn't pay attention to them.


The second stanza follows a BCDC rhyme scheme. The "B" rhyme sonically links this stanza to the first, and the end-rhyme of the second and fourth lines loosely link the first and second stanzas on the basis of structure. Overall, this second stanza contains more-consistent line lengths (three of the four lines are six syllables), and its content veers out of the concrete scene of the couple eating dinner and into more abstract territory.

This stanza is divided down the middle by content which recalls the couple's younger years and content which refers to their current lifestyle. The first two lines evoke a strong feeling of nostalgia. The capitalization of the phrase "Mostly Good" puts the phrase in context with grand, dialectical ideas like Good versus Evil. The addition of the word "Mostly" leaves room for interpretation, but tells the reader that a net judgment of the couple's life decisions and actions would lean toward goodness. The very next line, "Two who have lived their day," looks back on their lives and concedes that their time has passed. The repetitive nature of these two lines, one after the other, both beginning with "Two who," leave us with the expectation that they are in reference to the same subject—thus, "Two who have lived their day," recontextualizes "Two who are Mostly Good," as perhaps a comment on the degree to which the couple allowed themselves to "be bad," in other words, rebellious, when they were experiencing their own heyday.

The second half of the stanza refers to the drudgery of the couple's everyday lives. Brooks portrays the couple as going through the motions of life. Even when they take their meals, they are performing a repetitive action. They clothe themselves and put things away, but the way these two lines are presented forces the reader to ask, for what? Why would they put things away if they're just going to turn around and use them again the next day? On the other hand, there is a subtle admiration of their resilience. They put on clothes and put things away because they have no other choice. They have been swept aside to make room for a new generation, and all they can do is keep on living.