by Elizabeth Bishop
Sestina Theme of The Home
Everything seems just fine on the surface in "Sestina." The grandmother and grandchild are in the kitchen making tea and having an afternoon snack together. Cozy and cute, right? But something is totally off here. The house is cold, and there seems to be all sorts of forces keeping this from being a happy home. Where is the rest of the family? Why is the grandmother so sad? Why is she hiding it? Despite the stove and the tea, everything has a sad chill to it, and we can't help but wonder if this home isn't broken.
Questions About The Home
- Where is everybody? Do you get the feeling that the grandmother and the grandchild are the only two living in that house? What do you think happened, if this is the case?
- Do you think the grandmother's tears have something to do with their domestic situation, or do you think the two have nothing to do with one another? What does the poem tell you?
- What about the house makes it seem like a sad home to you? What evidence can you find in the poem?
- How does the description of what's going on outside the house—the rain beating down on the roof for example—affect your idea of the home?
Chew on This
It actually is a happy home, it's just a rainy and chilly day. Stop making something out of nothing.
The child has been abandoned by the rest of her family and the grandmother is sad and worried about their future. That's why they're both so down in the dumps.