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The Bean Eaters

The Bean Eaters


by Gwendolyn Brooks

Stanza 3 Summary

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

Lines 9-10

And remembering ...
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,

  • If you happen to have grandparents, you know that they tend to spend a good deal of their time remembering what happened "way back when." Well, this particular old couple places so much emphasis on remembrance that our speaker repeats the word twice!
  • Here's the nice thing about remembering things, though: all the passion that went into your initial experiences fades somewhat, so that joy and desperation become, in turn, "twinklings and twinges." That's actually not all that bad a thing – it keeps you from going nuts whenever you re-live a particularly nasty experience from your past.
  • Of course, the fact that this couple has only faded emotions (instead of accumulating new ones) isn't all that great, either. After all, how would you like to know that all of the action and adventure in your life has already happened?

Line 11

As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that is full of beads and receipts and doll and cloths, tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.

  • Wow! Talk about a long line! (In case you're wondering, this huge long list is actually supposed to be one line. We just don't have the page space to make that happen.)
  • Why does having such a long list of things matter? Well, for one thing, it helps us see that the old couple's life is chock-full of trinkets and tokens from their past life. They have indeed lived a full life, and now they've got the stuff to prove it!
  • Don't you think it's strange that "The Bean Eaters" would end with a shift away from the couple to the stuff that surrounds them? It's almost as though the poem itself is enacting the sort of pulling away from their inner thoughts that the rest of the world has already done. It'd be pretty easy to think of them as two crazy old people with bunches of useless stuff. In fact, the poem doesn't ever dissuade us from thinking just that.
  • That's what makes this piece so sad. We're almost asked to repeat the same form of evasion and blindness which makes these people's lives so lonely. After all, everyone else has forgotten about them. Why shouldn't we?

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