The Bean Eaters

The Bean Eaters Summary and Analysis of Stanza 3


The final stanza leaves the reader with the impression that, for the most part, the pair exists in a constant state of reminiscence. The sadness of the final stanza comes from the idea that these two people are hunched over a plate of beans, feeding themselves simply to keep their bodies alive, without anything to look forward to.


The third and final stanza contains only three lines, but the final line is considerably longer than any other line in the poem—over thirty syllables. This stanza follows an EFF scheme, where the second line rhymes with the extended final line. The length of the final line creates so much space between the end rhymes that it almost feels like there is a line between the second and third. The extended length of the last line feels like an outpouring of bottled emotion which we know exists from the tension created by the tone and metrical irregularity of everything that comes before it.

The couple is described as "remembering," but, we are not told exactly what they are remembering, just that they are engaged in the process of remembering. In this way, remembering is not limited to whatever few memories could be delineated in a poem of this length; in fact, the omission of concrete memories from the poem leaves the reader with the impression that remembering is an obsession of this couple, that it doesn't matter what they are remembering as long as their thoughts are preoccupied with the past. Memory, rather than a vehicle with which to occasionally conjure specific moments in the past, becomes a constant coping mechanism to keep the couple out of their bleak present.

But despite the couple's desire to escape their bleak present, Brooks nonetheless portrays it to her readers in the last line by listing the contents of their "rented back room." Brooks carefully chooses the objects which litter and adorn their living space: beads, vases, and fringes are ornaments, conveying their concern with surrounding themselves with objects that please them. Vases are vessels for living things like flowers, and their rented back room is very much constructed as a vessel in this poem, too. "Fringes" takes on a double valence, meaning both its obvious, ornamental definition, and having the connotation of marginalization and being on the periphery, much like the old pair in the poem. Tobacco crumbs allow us to imagine the couple taking enjoyment from smoking, and the presence of receipts reminds the reader that despite the fact that society has cast them aside, the couple are still forced to be consumers.