Questions of Travel
by Elizabeth Bishop
In the last eight lines of the poem, everything changes. The form changes, and even the speaker transforms into a more generalized traveler. Instead of speaking to us directly, she writes her thoughts in a notebook. We read over her shoulder, and find out that she's still asking the same questions. Should she stay or should she go? Is there really no place like home? By making these important changes, Bishop shifts our point of view. Before, we were inside the speaker's head. It was warm and cozy. We felt like we knew her. But now things aren't quite so intimate. She could be anyone—and that's the point. We should all be asking these questions of travel. Here, the speaker is simply a stand-in for all travelers and would-be travelers.
- Lines 60-67: The speaker has become a "traveller" who writes things in her notebook. She wonders: do we travel because we lack imagination? Would we be better off at home (as Pascal, the philosopher, has suggested)? We are limited in our experiences and opportunities. Should we throw in the towel and commit to a lifetime at home? The "we" of the poem's final lines now seems to include us: the readers. We are in the same predicament as this mysterious "traveller." Her questions are our questions.