by Gwendolyn Brooks
Stanza 4 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
We wonder. But not well! not for a minute!
Since Number Five is out of the bathroom now,
We think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it.
- Line 11 opens saying that "we wonder" about the possibility of a dream in their lives. But then it goes on to say that they don't do it for very long, and not very well. So while they might entertain the idea of a dream briefly, they don't mull over it too long. Hmm. Things aren't looking good for that dream, folks.
- In lines 12 and 13 we see why they're not able to mull over the possibility of dreams too much—the fifth person to use the shower or bath (or maybe the person living in an apartment numbered five?) is out, and they've got to act fast if they want any hot water. Actually, it's lukewarm water that's the prize.
- Yay? In any case, there's really no time for daydreaming.
- Capitalizing "Number Five," rather than saying an actual name, has a similar effect to "we are things" in the opening line. It makes you think that the individual doesn't have much importance in a kitchenette where there are just too many people. To the people waiting, it doesn't really matter who is getting out of the bathroom, it just matters that he or she be next.
- The final line replaces the thinking about dreams with thinking about the lukewarm water. At first it looked like a dream might have a chance in this poem, but eventually it's replaced by a more immediate, practical desire—the desire to be clean and warm... well, kind of warm, anyway.
- The poem ends with the idea of satisfying your immediate needs, rather than fulfilling a faraway (especially for those living in the kitchenettes) dream.
- It's a jarring way to end the poem. Here we are cheering for the dream to rise above the day-to-day and Brooks brings us quickly back down to earth. And what's the big prize behind which the dream takes second place? It's turn number 6 in some used, half-warm bathwater. Woo. Hoo. How's that for a reality check?
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