Filling Station by Elizabeth Bishop

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The ‘Filling Station’ by Elizabeth Bishop is a very interesting poem. It is fairly short and devoid of strong emotions. To give a brief synopsis of the poem, a third person omniscient narrator is describing a father and his ‘several quick and saucy sons’ running a filling station. She moves from describing them to describing the station itself, complete with furniture, a ‘dirty dog’ and plants. The poem then changes tone to reflection of why the station is the way it is, and is concluded by a very poignant line, “Somebody loves us all.” Something important to be noted is that there is no female figure present in the family, otherwise complete with a father, sons and a pet.

Bishop uses a variety of literary elements in her poem such as repetition, irony, personification, syntax and imagery. She uses these elements to show that even in the face of hard working life, a caring family exists. In this family, she hails the mother figure as the one who takes care of all. The rich imagery of the poem successfully paints a vivid picture of the filling station. This is done mainly in the first half of the poem, in the first two stanzas. Here, there are three important images constructed by Bishop. The first of these is dirt; in the first line of the poem, Bishop writes, “Oh, but it is dirty!” This is followed by ‘black translucency’ in line 5, ‘dirty’ monkey suit in line 2 of the second stanza and ‘dirty dog’ in the last line of the third stanza. Imagery of oil is also present in the first half of the poem, especially in the first stanza. Bishop writes, “- this little filling station, oil-soaked, oil permeated”, give us the image of a gas station dripping in oil. The second stanza continues with describing the monkey suit as ‘oil soaked’ and the sons as ‘greasy’. Lastly, the image of dullness and dreariness is prevalent throughout the poem. In the first stanza, Bishop gives the filling station an atmosphere of ‘disturbing, over-all black translucency.’...
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