The Bean Eaters
The Bean Eaters
by Gwendolyn Brooks
  • Symbolism, Imagery, Wordplay
  • Stacks of Things
  • Beans
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Stacks of Things

Symbol Analysis

In case you missed it, this poem is chock-full of stuff. From plates to silverware to dolls and old clothes, objects seem to play a bigger role in the imagery of this poem than the people, the "bean eaters." Focusing on the stuff allows Brooks to create a more generalized social commentary instead of a poem that might allow us to sympathize with just two people. We're thinking big picture here, see?

  • Lines 3-4: The image of two people sitting down to eat off of chipped plates and cheap silverware gives us a good starting point for imagining their lives as people who are barely scraping by.
  • Lines 7-8: More images of stuff: in fact, our speaker makes the stuff-ness of this poem explicit when she says that they spend their time "putting things away."
  • Line 11: Stuff, stuff, and more stuff. In fact, our speaker seems intent on piling images of stuff on top of each other, giving us the sense that the poem is as crowded as this couple's room!