Beans symbolize poverty and frugality. They carry this connotation with them naturally. But they also are often thought of as a temporary form of sustenance in troughs of financial uncertainty and instability. The point of referring to the pair as "the bean eaters" is to demonstrate that they live in a permanent state of frugality with no hope of improving or social mobility. Their age attaches a resignation to this routine of eating beans.
The chipware, or chipped dishware, symbolizes the longevity of the old pair, the history they share together, and the wear incurred over time to both themselves and their possessions. In many ways, the creaking wood and chipped plates represent the old pair whose time has passed them by. Where once we could image sturdy, smooth wood and shiny new plates, we now see that the couple was also young once and enjoyed their prime.
The Bean Eaters Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Bean Eaters is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.