by Elizabeth Bishop
Stanza 5 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Why the extraneous plant?
Why the taboret?
Why, oh why, the doily?
- Whoa. It's a veritable question explosion up in here as our speaker asks why these three things are present in the scene?
- Before we investigate what's behind these questions, let's figure out what all three of these things have in common. They are all indicators that this place, despite its filth, is a home. The plant, the taboret, and the doily are all nice accents meant to make a place homey and nice. They're the kind of things a lady of the house might decorate with.
- So why the "why"? Bishop is asking why bother with all of these nice things in such a filthy dump? The "why" really means, "what's the point?"
- The repetition of "why" makes us feel like the speaker is really worked up.
- But there's another angle here, too. The "why" could be wondering how these things got there. Who put them there? Surely it wasn't the grimy proprietor and his greasy sons.
(Embroidered in daisy stitch
with marguerites, I think,
and heavy with gray crochet.)
- It's vocab time, Shmoopers: marguerites = daisy-like flowers. And crochet = yarn stitched into fabric to make a pattern.
- Everything within the parentheses refers to the doily, which means the speaker is telling us that the doily was embroidered to look like flowers. She's really honing in on the small stuff here.
- So while the speaker thinks, "what's the point?", she still goes on to observe with great detail what this little doily looks like.
It's becoming more obvious that, although the speaker doesn't understand this makeshift, dirty filling station home, she is captivated by it, and maybe even a little charmed by it. It's not all bad.