"The Bean Eaters" is dense with meaning. The title itself is symbolic, signifying the couple in the poem's poverty. Beans are a low-cost meal, and the pair consumes them so frequently that they are dubbed "the bean eaters," symbolizing the intensity of their poverty.
Furthermore, beans are one of the only foods that can be eaten without any other ingredients, thus making them easy to prepare and carry around with you. This is why poor people often lived off of beans; it was an inexpensive way to fill your stomach while still being able to afford other necessities like rent or food.
In conclusion, the term "bean eater" refers to a person who lives on cheap meals that contain little else but beans. These are usually not even their own choice of food; they just have no other option given their financial situation.
Gwendolyn Brooks' poetry "The Bean Eaters" is a brief and seemingly easy poem about a couple who "eat beans primarily." The poem is only three quatrains long, but via the use of literary elements such as symbolism and metaphor, it packs a lot of meaning into those words.
As you read through the poem, notice how many different kinds of poems there are within it. Quatrains are four-line stanzas, and this poem uses five: the first three lines of each stanza form a trio that comments on something mentioned before the end of the line. This type of poem is called a tercet.
Also notice how many different ways there are to say the same thing. The poet uses repetition and variation in word order to make each line unique while still keeping the sense clear. For example, in the first stanza, she begins with the phrase "They ate their beans," then changes tenses (from past to present) and persons (from third person singular to first person plural). This variation makes each line interesting while still getting her point across.
Finally, recognize that not everything in the poem is what it seems. Some words appear to be simple descriptions of the couple's behavior ("ate beans", "primarily"), but they actually have more hidden meaning.
Speaker for "The Bean Eaters" The speaker of this poem is a third-person observer who walks the listener through the situation using simple, uncomplicated language. This speaker is also omniscient, able to peer into the minds of the elderly couple and reflect on their feelings and ideas. Their perspective is our own; they are speaking directly to us, explaining what has happened and why it is significant.
The speaker is an invisible narrator who tells the story of the old man and woman by describing their thoughts and feelings. Like most narrators, he or she is present throughout the story but does not act upon these feelings or thoughts. Instead, they observe and record them like photographs. In this way, the narrator is both active and passive - he or she can see what happens but cannot affect it.
Since this poem is told from the point of view of an unobtrusive narrator, it is known as first person plural or omniscient. The phrase "it was then that..." used at the beginning of each sentence indicates that all parties involved are present in the mind of the speaker. Their names are familiar to us because we have been given their thoughts in detail, but they are characters in the story and not identifiable individuals.
Bean Eaters refers to the hungry ghosts, beings that dwell inside living people and eat their desires - their passions- to sustain themselves.