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The Bean Eaters

The Bean Eaters


by Gwendolyn Brooks

Stanza 2 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Line 5

Two who are Mostly Good.

  • As it turns out, this old couple is pretty much as run-of-the-mill ordinary as you're likely to find. They're not angels, sure, but they've done their best to be decent people.
  • Notice how Brooks chooses to capitalize the words "Mostly Good"? It's almost like she's making up official moral categories of people – which, as it turns out, we all tend to do. Remember the last time that you and your friends talked about someone who "had good intentions, but…" or is "rotten to the core"? (OK, fine, it's probably your mom who describes people that way – but you know what we mean.)
  • It's pretty clear that Brooks is trying to present her old couple as Everyman and Everywoman – they just happen to be everypeople who've had it kind of rough.

Lines 6-8

Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

  • You know those old couples that you see in the coffee shop of your local grocery store? They spend hours drinking one cup of coffee, then they count out their change together before slooooowly heading home. No one writes stories or poems about those people, right? After all, they're way past the time of being heroes or heroines. Their lives are pretty much over.
  • As Brooks points out, though, these old people whose lives are "over" actually go through the motions of day-to-day life, putting on clothes and taking them off in the evening. In fact, they're very much alive – even if the rest of the world seems to have forgotten that fact.
  • Note, as well, the almost-rhyme scheme in these lines. These lines (like several of the other lines in the poem) actually rhyme with each other (lines 6 and 8, to be precise). It's not the structure of a formalized rhyme, but it does have a soothing resemblance to something that could be a rhyme scheme. It's like the poem can remember a time when it would've been more active and formal (just like the people it depicts). Instead, it just offers the memory of a rhyme – a haunting reminder that things could have been different. They're just not.

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