In the Waiting Room
by Elizabeth Bishop
In the Waiting Room Foreignness and 'The Other' Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Osa and Martin Johnson
dressed in riding breeches,
laced boots, and pith helmets. (21-23)
Elizabeth sees a photo of the famous explorers in the magazine. It's possible that, as she continues to look through it, she identifies with them just a little bit. She's going on her own adventure in her imagination.
A dead man slung on a pole
—"Long Pig," the caption said.
Babies with pointed heads
wound round and round with string;
black naked women with necks
wound round and round with wire
like the necks of light bulbs.
Their breasts were horrifying.
I read it straight through. (28-32)
Elizabeth doesn't know how to react to all of the unfamiliar people in the magazine – a dead man, babies with pointy heads, and naked women. She's scared, but she's also intrigued by their foreignness, or "otherness." She can't bring herself to stop reading, even in spite of her fear. She's both attracted and repelled by these "others."
But I felt: you are an I
you are an Elizabeth
you are one of them. (60-62)
Is Elizabeth an individual, or is she part of greater humanity? Is she part of "them"? Can she be both an individual and part of the human race at the same time? How can she be so different from but also so much like the naked black women in the magazine? This is what she wants to know.