Study Guide

Filling Station Their Oily Home

By Elizabeth Bishop

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Their Oily Home

For the speaker of "Filling Station," oil is straight up gross. At the station, it covers just about everything—including the people. But as we move through the poem, all that grease and grime gradually gives way to images of the home, which, though oil-soaked, are no less domestic. That, dear friends, is little thing we like to call juxtaposition. By juxtaposing the oil-soaked stuff of the station with the cozier images of doilies and dogs, Bishop reminds us that a home can be made in even the unlikeliest of places.

  • Lines 1-3: Ladies and gentlemen, this place is a straight up oily, greasy mess. That's the takeaway here. There's literally not a single surface in this station that hasn't been grime-ified. 
  • Lines 7-8: Here's the first juxtaposition of homey comforts and a greasy mess. This man's clothes—his clothes!—are covered with grease. Bummer, dude.
  • Lines 9-10: The sons are dirty, too, but hey, at least they're family.
  • Line 12: All right already, speaker. We get it. This joint is a dump.
  • Line 15: Around the middle of the poem, things start taking a turn for the cozy. At least in a relative sense. Here the speaker notes that the station has a porch, which could be a sign that these folks call this place home.
  • Lines 19-20: Aw. No home's a home without a puppy. Even if the dog is dirty, at least he's a sign of domestic bliss… or something.
  • Lines 21: Comic books are a sure sign of kids, or at least, young men. This line gives us the sense that these guys may have grown up in this filling station. 
  • Lines 27: The begonia may not be blooming, but it looks well cared for at least. We're betting this bit of green shines bright in the gray surroundings of the station.

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