The Bean Eaters
The Bean Eaters
by Gwendolyn Brooks

Sound Check

Read this poem aloud. What do you hear?

We've got to say, this poem sounds a lot like a museum guide taking us through dioramas of modern life. Sure, it's full of imagery, but it uses easy language and no overt figurative language. It's almost as if Brooks doesn't want us to miss out on the starkness of this couple's life – and she's determined to make her language match that spareness. Instead of bemoaning their sad fate, the speaker contents herself with short remarks such as "they eat beans mostly." Seriously, no one is about to start sobbing as a result of such heart-wringing declarations, are they?

We didn't think so. And it's precisely this museum-guide tone that forces us to think about this poem instead of immediately reacting emotionally.

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