In the Waiting Room by Elizabeth Bishop: Insightful Poem about Gender Roles

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Amanda Currie
ENGL 353-01
Professor Bowdan
11th November 2012
Inconsistent History as a Tool to Parallel
Elizabeth Bishop’s “In the Waiting Room” is an insightful poem about gender roles, gender definitions, and what it means to be a woman that has stood the test of time for forty years. As Celeste points out, Bishop investigates these topics by inspecting her own life, from her pre-women's suffrage youth (1918) to fifty years later (1970’s), during the summit of the Women's Rights Movement when the poem was written. She does this in one swift movement, by “collapsing her life's experiences” into a one seemingly insignificant memory from her childhood (Celeste 3-8). The poem cites historical events that were relevant at the time it takes place, but in an unusual way: the history the poem tells is somewhat inconsistent with the actual historical events of the time. Bishop does this to add to the parallel of the Woman’s Rights Movement by jumbling up historical events out of chronological order. I plan to show this by citing lines of the poem, explaining how they were out of order with the date the memory takes place and clarifying how this topic was still relevant to use as a parallel.

In the beginning of the poem, the lines “…The waiting room / was full of grown-up people” (Bishop 7-8) starts off the scene by addressing that it will be told from the perspective of a child, or Bishop’s child self. Further along in the stanza and then in the first lines of the following stanza, a time frame is set: the National Geographic

February, 1918.
I said to myself: three days
and you’ll be seven years old. (Bishop 51-54)
As stated earlier, these lines give a time frame, in fact a very specific time frame. Although I recognize that magazines in dentist’s offices are mostly months behind, I believe Bishop used this as a time frame that the reader can recognize, so I assume the issue is current. Elizabeth Bishop was born February 8th 1911, so the exact day...
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