An analysis of “In the Waiting Room” from Elizabeth Bishop
There are few poets in 20th century, who portrayed their life in their poems as prolifically and thoroughly detailed as Elizabeth Bishop. Nevertheless, she became a prominent figure only in the end of the 20th century, and would be acknowledged by many critics as one of the greatest American poets just after her death. Her poetry would certainly be “placed” in the era of many categories such as postmodernism, post colonialism and so on. She never wanted to be considered as a lesbian or even a feminist poet, even though Bishop vehemently favoured feminism. What made Bishop a prolific poet, is the different fluctuation stages of her life and her ability to draw objective images from them. Since at a very early age, Elizabeth Bishop experienced her father’s death, and later on, as a result, her mother’s mental illness. After her mother was confined in a psychiatric hospital, Bishop was taken by her grandparents to live in Nova Scotia; a period she attributed in her writings. Later on, she was adopted by her paternal family and moved to Worcester, Massachusetts. However, during her stay in Worcester, Bishop felt lonely and never quite enjoyed the life there. This disliked lifestyle was accompanied with chronic asthma, which followed her for the rest of life. After a while, she was sent to Vasscar College to finish her graduate degree. The years that she spent there were more than significant to her career, as she met Marianne Moore, a Pulitzer Prize winner. Moore encouraged and invigorated Bishop’s affection for poetry. The two established a relationship that often is considered as a mother-daughter paradigm and it lasted until Moore’s death. Moreover, because of her inheritance, she had an independent income, which she used mostly to travel. One of the most notable travels she took was in Brazil, where she met a girl, who with, later on, she established a relationship. This relationship aggravated in its late years, and left Bishop emotionally unstable causing her depression, alcoholism and so on. When her former lover committed suicide, she moved to the United States, until her death in 1797. Furthermore, Bishop during her lifetime was awarded and honoured by many prices such as, Pulitzer Prices for Poetry in 1956, American Academy of Arts at the Library of the Congress in 1950, National Book Award for Poetry in 1970, and the most recent one is New York Writers Hall of Fame in 2010. In this paper, I am going to analyse Bishop’s “In the Waiting Room”; an ambiguous poem she wrote during her stay in Worcester. The venture to becoming an adult sometimes can be overwhelming and very hard to handle. Very often, when young, during this course of this journey, people have the feeling of uncertainty and intimidation; feelings that do not seem to assuage over the time. Through a lengthy stanza of fifty three lines and a free verse, with no set of scheme of rhyme or even a specific meter, Elizabeth Bishop portrays, a detailed moment of hers as a young child, who’s waiting in the dentist’s waiting room for her aunt, while she is getting her teeth fixed. This poem tries to explain the young girl’s path through a period of self-awareness and therefore a realization of where she stands among the other people and why is she different from them. On one hand she feels that she is separated from the people waiting in the waiting room, portraying them as “grown-ups” but on the other she feels that she is connected to her aunt, who midway through the poem, she thinks that the aunt and her are the same person. The poem starts off by describing the place of the waiting room.
“It was winter. It got dark
early. The waiting room
was full of grown-up people,
arctics and overcoats,
lamps and magazines.”
Here, the author tries to convey the mood of the room, where the story takes place. These lines lead us to think that the young girl was not feeling very comfortable...
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