#42 “In the Waiting Room” (Elizabeth Bishop)

“In the Waiting Room” by Elizabeth Bishop provides a simple, familiar situation for which we don’t really have a name. It might be termed an “existential moment,” though that phrase is too vague. It’s the moment when you realize that existence, for want of a better word, exists. There’s no way out of it – well, death is a way out, but there is no way out of death itself. The option never to have been is unavailable.

Until a young person reaches that moment, the question of existence or nonexistence is pretty much all the same: not worth thinking about, because it’s never really presented itself as a genuine problem. Such a young person can act like someone who’s passed that watershed, talk like them, read Hamlet like them. But the instant that that existential moment is past, the child enters a different plane of existence.

For Bishop’s speaker (who is called “Elizabeth” and is the same age as the poet, but it hardly matters if it’s “really” her or not) the realization of her own existence is bound up with the realization that she is both connected to and separate from other people, particularly her aunt. (The “real” Elizabeth Bishop did not have an “Aunt Consuelo.”) Not as fused to her as a parent or even grandparent might be, the aunt is nonetheless so close as to seem almost the same person at certain moments – to have the speaker’s voice, her mannerisms. It’s like looking in a mirror, said by some psychologists to mark a crucial moment in development. But it’s a mirror with a mind of its own; it’s a separate person. When we realize that the world is full of free agents, and that we too are free agents, the awe of a single, separate existence becomes instantly alive for us.

I don’t know of any other poems that talk quite so perfectly about an experience we surely all feel but have no words for. There are several others on the Countdown, still to come, that talk about children, maturity, existence, and empathy. But “In the Waiting Room” is a stark description of an essential moment. Since it can’t be analyzed, it’s appropriate to poetry, where the only words are those of feelings, not of clinical psychology.

At the same time, the language is completely plain, not dressed up in the slightest. It resembles that of a child. In fact the child might have said exactly this – but we suspect that it took her 50 years to find the right words.

33 responses to “#42 “In the Waiting Room” (Elizabeth Bishop)

  1. firewaterboi321

    Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of individuals in an indifferent universe. My first impression of the poem, towards the end, was the feeling of a sense of isolation and a realization of the world without any kind of positive emotional attachment. Like “Armadillo,” I wasn’t quite sure where Bishop was going with her language. At first it felt like the Elizabeth in the story was feeling shy and embarrassed by what she saw in the magazine, and was the moment we all have as children when shamed by adults. When I see the word “existentialism” used to describe this poem, I begin to think about what it was like as a child when confronted with a world I didn’t understand. My realization of my own “smallness” within that world didn’t have a word to describe it. It makes sense to me why she would wait fifty years to write about this experience. We do not possess the knowledge or power of our words until we’re in our later years. Age, experience and even wisdom come to us in time. It wouldn’t surprise me fifty years from now if I remember a moment in my distant childhood, and am able to put words to a moment.

  2. It’s interesting how she was thinking of such “extreme” thoughts at such a young age; aging, dying, existence. Indeed the poem is hard to compare to any other so far when it comes to how “extreme” it is but for some reason when I read this poem I thought of “A Song in the Front Yard”, because of how she was thinking about something that she experienced in her younger days. Another thing I found interesting was the age that she found the right words being approximately the same age as her aunt was when she was in the waiting room, the same aunt who she found “foolish and timid” and found that she was turning into her, I feel like she may have had similar thoughts now in her fifties and a realization maybe that she has turned into that same woman, and maybe still doesn’t know why she is where she is.

  3. This poem brings back early memories of becoming aware of my own existence. I can’t remember the exact moment of becoming aware but I remember feeling afraid. I would have these moments of anxiety and I would move past it for the moment until the next. I had to struggle with myself about the gravity of my own existence and the responsibility I had to myself. I don’t know how old I was but I know I had to be older than six. It’s amazing to think that this child of six could already read and understand National Geographic. Again, this “awareness” of existence is something I think we all experience at some point in our lives. Each of us handles it differently but I feel that those of us who are sensitive tend to feel the weight of it more than others. I have tried to talk to some of my relative about the moment they became “aware” of their own existence and how they handled it. I found that the most shy of my family tended to have struggled with it. The more outgoing of us didn’t really have a problem with it, it was just another problem to face and move on. I still struggle with my existence, I’ve only got one shot at this and I want it to really count. It also makes me question religious beliefs about the soul, the afterlife and reincarnation.

  4. “In the Waiting Room” to me is a poem based on isolationism and ignorance. Isolationism because the speaker was isolated and separated from other people with different cultures, background, and race. Ignorance because she wasn’t aware that such people existed outside of her own “bubble”. While I was going through the poem, I got the feeling that she had never been exposed to the world; she had always been sheltered and not allowed to see the world for what it really was. But then all that came to an end when she stumbled upon the magazine. This poem is had so many similarities to the “Incident” by Countee Cullen. In both poems, both speakers experienced something memorable and shocking at an early age. To me I feel like what they had experienced had a lot to do with racial issues. In the “Incident’, the little boy was racially humiliated and put down by another kid racially “superior”; while “In the Waiting Room” the little girl became racially aware of other existent races. This poem is definitely deep because the readers can relate to it in some way or the other; also this poem by Bishop is so much more easier to understand than her other work the “Armadillo”.

  5. In the poem, “In the Waiting Room,” the speaker experiences an existential moment that would seem insignificant to many people, but to her it was an unforgettable memory. It is in the small, insignificant moments of life that we usually have the greatest epiphanies about our existence, the existence of others, and the existence of God such as the observance of the activity of an ant hill, the sound of the wind, our own breath on a cold morning, the beat of our own heart, or gazing at a star while reciting “Twinkle, Twinkle, little star.” With each of these experiences, a certain amount of innocence is lost never to be regained. In Elizabeth Bishop’s poem, the speaker encountered a culture shock at a young, impressionable age. I’m sure the imagery was graphic and perhaps her first encounter with some of the concepts and ideas presented in the National Geographic Magazine. In lines 17 thru 32, the imagery of the black volcano spewing out rivulets of fire, the dead man slung on a pole, and the black, naked women with pointed head babies and horrible, hanging breasts would be appalling to some adults nevertheless a young, sheltered, most likely white, little girl. The speaker’s initial shock changed into wonderment with her existence, her Aunt Consuelo’s existence, the existence of the people in the waiting room, and the existence of people and humanity outside of her sheltered world in Worcester, Massachusetts. I think it took her fifty years to write this poem because she had another existential moment that brought clarification and understanding to her previous existential moment. Maybe that moment occurred when she moved suddenly to Brazil and wrote the “Armadillo.”

  6. This poem reminded me of the poem “Incident”. In both poems the speaker is a young child. The big similarity, I thought, was that in both of these poems the speakers are describing a moment that wouldn’t seem very significant to everybody, but to them the experience they are writing about is very important. Both speakers express a feeling of shock and awareness. In both poems there is a clear message that this experience was a moment of maturity. The reader can tell that this experience was very important to the child because they describe every detail of it so precisely. You feel as if you are in the waiting room with this almost seven year old. Not only does the speaker describe her surroundings so vividly, she also expresses the way she felt so well that the reader becomes empathetic with the little girl. Also, as most great poems do, this poem makes me recall a similar instance from my childhood when I felt similar.

  7. Thinking about the speaker in the poem I can’t help but think about my niece and nephew. I used to be able to see their parents in their mannerisms and now I have seen them come into their own, they have become their own person. I can only imagine when they had their own existential moment and if it was anything like the speaker’s in the poem. The way I interpreted the poem was that the speaker merely wanted to be elsewhere, and felt as though she didn’t belong. I suppose I wasn’t too far off, but she also wanted to know why she was where she was. I have felt that way plenty of times, many existential moments I suppose. The most recent has been when I first started college, and I realized soon enough I would have a career and I would have to support myself. It was a kind of scary thought, but it is something you just have to accept. There have been other times where I realize just how much I am like my mother, and that reminds me of the speaker from the poem and her aunt. It seems as though she wants to call her foolish and timid, but she is so much like her. I wouldn’t call my mother those things but she does have a couple mannerisms I would like to do without. I think we try so much to separate ourselves from those we are most like. And those moments when we realize who we are mirroring it comes as a shock, but everyone else has noticed it all along. I enjoyed this poem, it took me a while to understand what the speaker’s point was, but I appreciated her thoughts once I realized what she was talking about.

  8. I feel that many of us look at our families and sometimes see the members that we really do not want to be like. Then there are others whom we want very much to be like! However, in this poem hearing “Aunt Consuelo’s voice” when it wasn’t Aunt Consuelo and when the poet said “I scarcely dared to look to see what it was I was” tells me that Aunt Consuelo might not be what was wanted or wished for. We try so hard sometimes to be different..to be what we don’t want to be…yet sometimes when we do not realize it, we are exactly or somewhat similar to those whom we want to stray from. All families, in my opinion, are somewhat dysfunctional. Some are just more public about it. In this poem, the author was wanting so hard to be her own unique person. In stanza three though, it all describes how alike she and Aunt Consuelo are. She didn’t like it or understand why but yet they are. Families will always have traits passed on to generations and we will all inherit something from someone we are not too find of, but that doesn’t mean we are them. We may be something in common, but we are still our own individual person.

  9. When I read the poem “In the Waiting Room” I looked at the poem from a different view. I did view her existence but through the eyes of her Aunt Consuelo. As mentioned she does not have an Aunt Consuelo but she was able to view the world through someone else, a complete stranger. I pictured a young girl turning seven just realizing who she will become as she matures in age. Almost like a reality check. As we get older we start to notice certain ways we may act, say, or behave that our ways from our parents. Elizabeth asked the question “why should I be my aunt, or me, or anyone”? This is true why a person should have to be someone else. We may inherit certain genes or traits from family members but we have a choice in other things we may inherit that is not physical. I have found myself plenty of times holding my hands like my mother or just talking in an unpleasant manner as she would. I begin to realize I am my mother’s daughter but I am not my mother. There are things about me that I picked up from my mother that can be changed. I read and interpreter the poem as Elizabeth now age fifty reflecting back in time when she began to notice her body change. When she saw the awful hanging breasts, heard the family voice and saw the hands of other people and pictured this is how she will be as she ages. As Elizabeth sat in the waiting room she was faced with a scary thought. A thought of one day becoming old, which is one that we all have had and will one day have to face.

  10. Reading this poem made me think about “The Ball Poem” from the last class. “Incident” is fairly smilar as well. But I thought that the speaker in “The Ball Poem” was very similar to Elizabeth (if she makes herself the speaker). In “The Ball Poem” the speaker identifies with the boy in an adult form, whether the speaker is the boy as an adult or not. It’s an adult trying to explain how a child feels learning something so powerful. “In the Waiting Room” and “The Ball Poem” both struck me as very intense poems. They describe feelings and realizations that children have and I could only imagine having at that age. Being so young, it’s very easy to lose yourself in thoughts like these. I would have been just as easy for Elizabeth Bishop to have never written this poem at all and to keep the realization to herself. It’s certainly not something that everyonhe can understand, because it’s not something that everyone will one day have to face, like they have to face loss. But for her to take the time to vocalize it, and to take so much time to find the right way express it, I think that this poem opens up the door for a lot more people, young or old, to experience the same realization for themselves. I think that it’s easy to say that you understand we’re all connected and all part of the same human race and blah blah blah. We get all that. I think the difficulty comes in making the audience of the poem feel like they are experiencing it as well. Trying to make the audience feel the tension and embarassment and excitement all over again (or for the first time) is where the poet takes the risk. But the risk is well worth it in the end because we get to feel, even if it is for the smallest moment, that we are that little girl who is just now learning to share her world with others.

  11. I took a total and complete different stance on this poem. To me, Elizabeth seemed to be an African American girl, “one of them,” referring to the women in the National Geographic magazine. The “cry of pain that could have got loud and worse but hadn’t,” seems to be referring to slavery as well; perhaps Elizabeth is a freed slave, “who was unlikely to be in that place. “ The war that is mentioned could be a metaphor for the war for equality, amongst other things. Elizabeth seems to almost be ashamed of being “one of them,” whoever they are.
    In my essay, I related this poem to “A Far Cry from Africa,” because in both the authors seem to be ashamed of a part of their identity, or unwilling to accept it. In “A Far Cry from Africa,” the author can’t decide whether to side with his white ancestry or the African American part of him. In “In the Waiting Room,” Elizabeth seems to be utterly and completely disturbed and disgusted with the “black, naked women’s breasts.”

  12. This is a major point in Elizabeth’s life where she is aware of her surroundings and learning her place in the world. She starts to wonder who she is where she came from and is she just like them. She’s questioning existence which everyone does at some time. I personally started questioning where I came from were people with different skin color came from were we all the same somehow. And that’s simply what Elizabeth did. She was at that age where shes was curious and wanted questions. I feel the poem was really simple written just easy to read and understand. I did compare the poem to the author that was called a nigger “The Incident” at a young age not so much the racist side but the fact that he was young and of all the things that happened in that time period of his young life that’s all he remembered that incident had major impact on him that followed him to adulthood it changed how he viewed people and his environment. And I felt that s what happened to Elizabeth her eyes were opened and she viewed things differently.

  13. It was interesting to read something as personal as the moment when you realize your existence. I myself can’t really remember when I first realized I existed, but I know it’s a very powerful moment. It was very interesting to see how the author experienced it, the fact that as she thought about everything she became surrounded by nothingness. Her use of imagery to describe her in a dark space, surrounded by only by her thoughts really makes the poem great, really shows what thinking about existence does, makes everything feel so small and insignificant. The poem this actually reminded me of was “Incident” when the boy was called a “nigger” and it’s the only thing that stuck with him. In a way, it was that boys moment too, the way he was singled out from other children, given a label that is used for a group but ironically gave him individuality in that situation. I think it’s also important to note that one might think realizing your own existence would be a good moment, one of those great “I think therefore I am” moments where you seem on top of the world, but for Bishop’s character it isn’t, she portrays it as a terrifying moment.

  14. This poem was quite interesting. I had to read it a couple of times to fully understand what the girl was going through and feeling. I think she feels as if she doesnt want to grow up and be like her aunt or live a bad life. She sees how everything is going on around her now in her life and does not want to grow up to live that kind of life. The portrait in the magazine scares her because that is what she is seeing now. She sees her aunt in the same situation. She is frightened when she hears her aunts voice in her mouth. Many people know relatives that we do not want to grow up and be like because they are living bad lives for whatever reason. Then again there are many people who we look up to in our family. This poem was puts a very deep image into my mind. I like how the author uses such deep words and thoughts to make a person feel like they are there looking at the portrait in the magazine.

  15. “In the Waiting Room” was very interesting, I was able to relate to the speaker in this poem when it comes to recognizing the similarities I share with certain people in my own family. This poem describes the child’s sudden awareness, frightening and even terrified that she is both a separate person and one who belongs to the strange world of grown-ups. The poet locates the experience in a specific time and place, I feel this is because when a person experiences this it is so significant in their life it becomes unforgettable. Every human being at some point in their lives awakens to multiple identities that evolve from habits, interaction, and family genes in the process of growing up and becoming a self-aware individual. I have been able to learn a lot about who I am based on who I may take after in my family. Although every trait that we obtain from a family member is not always a good one, if one is able to recognize it over time control will be gained in order to make changes.

  16. To me this poem marks the meaning of identity and why we have such unique persons roaming the earth. The poem reminds me of how sometimes I get the feeling that I am looking at myself from an outside view, it almost seems I am floating. The first time it happened I was a bit scared but as I understood what was happening to me it was made sense to who I am today (the feeling usually took place when I was unsure of what to do). It also surprises me how such a young person can even begin to think of such things so much larger than most six year olds have to worry about. The speaker’s thoughts were so rattle that “she had to keep thinking three days and you’ll be seven years old. I was saying it to stop the sensation of falling off the round, turning world.” For the speaker it was obviously a notion that she was having trouble compartmentalizing the vastness of who she was in such a great space as the world. It is moments that may seem as small as to going to the dentist office that leaves a mark in our mind that we are unable to forget. The first time I attended a funeral, even though I did not know the person is still something that terrorizes me because of how the person died and the grief that it bestowed on the family members. Family is one of the channels that we get our identity and existence from. The speaker mentions this when she says, “Why should I be my aunt, or me, or anyone?” She is attempting to understand why she is herself and nobody else. It was this line that led me to the similarities of this poem and “Theme for English B”. The poem “Theme for English B” is all about identity and what makes his identity different from those of others. Whereas in this poem “In the Waiting Room” the speaker is trying to figure out why hers exists and what makes her different from others. And in the midst of her internal dilemma it was back to reality
    “The War was on. Outside, in Worcester, Massachusetts, were night and slush and cold, and it was still the fifth of February, 1918.” This last stanza marks the fast pace of life and that we are hardly ever able to sit and think about ourselves and life because there is so much noise going on in the world.

  17. This poem included an interesting mix of intrigue and character as the author describes how a child came into her own. The realization of the child had that she “matters” was described excellently in this piece. Reading this poem made me think back to the time in my life where I felt that I was important or mattered. I was not able to distinctly recognize when it happened or me, which makes this poem such an interesting read. I suppose that all of us at some time in our lives look at ourselves from a different angle. Even at my age, I find myself doing that occasionally. To me, that can be a healthy practice so that you can ensure that you are portraying the individual that you really are and not what others want you to be. Remember the poem we read earlier that touched on that? All and all, this poem was a pretty good on in my opinion and it really does make you think… even In the Waiting Room”.

  18. Set against the backdrop of one cold winter day in Worcester (MA), and waiting at the dentist’s office, the narrator (a child) ponders piercing questions as to the meaning of being a woman, while examining her own life. The poem becomes more inviting and provocative as it withheld information as to why Elizabeth accompanies her aunt to the dentist or why no family members are mentioned. Use of allegorical images “black, naked women with necks ….. Wound round and round with wire …. Like the necks of light bulbs…… Their breasts were horrifying…… “What took me completely by surprise was that it was me” shows her connectedness with the grown-up world while trying to define her own individualism as a woman.

  19. I feel that the poem “In the Waiting Room” not only describes the moment child realizes its existence but also the moment when a child realizes how alike we all are to each other. As she sat looking through the National Geographic, things seemed so foreign and so unlike her. In all reality whether it was a village in some third world country or if it was the Midwest she was reading about; she for the first time realizes we are all the same. We all are humans with a wide array of emotions. Our skin color might be different or our religions or our incomes. But at the end of the day we are all the same from a certain standpoint.

  20. “In the Waiting Room” by Elizabeth Bishop is truly a remarkable poem that really gives you an understanding for what she felt that day in the waiting room. The fact that it took her fifty years to collect her thoughts and finally put them down into words is significant itself. The theme of this poem is very deep; the whole idea of existence coming to a flash in your mind is very serious. I have had this epiphany myself, as have many other humans. I might not have had it as early as her but everyone has to go through this thought process at some point during our existence. The way that this poem is written is very simple like a child, but is still very detailed in the point being gotten across. As I wrote in my essay, we as organic beings need to have such awareness for our surroundings and reach that level of perception. I truly believe that we all have to reach that next level of consciousness to better not only ourselves, but the planet we live on.

  21. In The Waiting Room made me actually think about the whole finding of ones self thing. It was really strange to think of how just one article in a magazine could snowball so much for a little girl. The poem brings forth memories of myself at the same age and have similar thoughts as well as looking at my daughter at the age she is. There is some thing to say for the moment that you realize that you are not just you but pieces of everyone else too. There are similarities in all humans that small children don’t at first realize. And then you narrow that down to the ones that are similar in your own family. You may find something that you don’t like about your great aunt Susan’s appearance you have that same trait too.

  22. The realization of one’s existence is inevitable. Every child will come to realize who they are. Every child will come to realize that they are a boy or a girl, its natural. This poem reminded me a lot of how we come about this. Starting as an infant we begin to identify who we are and parents depending on your sex will treat you differently. Boys are playfully roughhoused and girls are usually talked to more often as babies. Naturally boys follow their father around and girls their mother. Without knowing we are sexually identifying ourselves. Then it hits every child around the same age it got to the speaker of the poem. Like the speaker’s experience, its usually not one we like to talk about as children. A lot of children feel scared, ashamed, embarrassed, etc. for whatever reason we don’t like to discuss it when it happens. But as adults we always share our stories, and we learn with age, that everyone comes to this realization. Some sooner than other some later others but we all come to realize who we are. And like the blog states the only way out is death and even death has no way out of it. Something else we realize in our lives and just learn to ignore for the moment and live life because there is too much happening to worry about one thing. As she states in the poem, “Then I was back in it. The War was on.” goes to show just that.

  23. This poem was very interesting because it talks about a little girl who is living in a hard time. It is evident that at that time there were racial issues and also gender descrimination. While the little girl is in the waiting room in a dentist office, she starts to read a magazine and all of a sudden many things start to go through her head and she soon realizes how bad the world really is. This scares her but upsets her at the same time, and while waiting she declares that everything that is going on will not affect her and she choses to take a new path, not the same path that other women are taking. She does not want to experience the suffering that other women including her aunt have been through so she then decides that her experiences will be different. The poem shows that we as individuals have the choice to write our own destiniy and it shows the transition from innocence to the eye opening phase that Elizabeth went through all while waiting in the waiting room.

  24. I thought it was so interesting on how everyone interprets something completely different about this poem. The little girl in this poem is waiting on her aunt in the dentist’s office waiting area. While thumbing through a magazine, she sees lots of interesting things. I think this poem talks about how this little girl jumps out of reality into make believe. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to daydream for a little bit. Even though nothing will probably ever come of it. Children often do make believe though. I think this poem gives a few examples about how kids think.

  25. The philosophy of existentialism was a 20th century philosophical movement chiefly in Europe. This movement assumes that people are entirely free and thus responsible for one’s own life, and living that life passionately and to its full extent. This poem reminds me of the times when one steps back from reality for a moment and relishes the fact that one has life to be lived. The idea that the girl in the poem is afraid and scared of her identity is debatable. This moment in the girl’s life may have been simply a realization of her identity. The idea that through the shock of her realization she feels an increase in maturity may be more appropriate. She comes to realize her identity as a human, as a girl, and as a part of her family. In this poem she draws closer to her aunt and realizes she has a commonality with her. I feel that this moment in her life is significant because it has stayed with her for such a long time. She was horrified by the images she saw, but those images caused her to glean some significant information that she wouldn’t have if she had not read the National Geographic magazine. She comes to question where, how, when and why. These questions empower her to look beyond her color, sex, race, social status and many other differences that the world is made up of. These differences may be the cause of the great war that is going on at the time. The idea that she feels a connection to all people as well as individuals may be seen through this poem’s ending. “Then I was back in it. The War was on. Outside, in Worcester, Massachusetts, were night and cold, and it was still the fifth of February, 1918.” This closing passage denotes the realization that therein still lies the problem. The world that is at war is still too immature to accept these differences that she has come to realize. Perhaps that is why she waited so long to express these feelings.

  26. During the time that I was reading the poem, I kept getting a feeling as if it was about aging. I didn’t seem to interpret it like others. The parts of the poem where the speaker mentions gray knees, sagging breasts and things like that was when I started thinking that the speaker was wondering why it is that people get old. I’m guessing I wasn’t too far away from the actual idea of the poem. Getting old is a part of life and existence. I found this to be one of the more challenging poems we have read and did not seem to like it until I read the blog post. Now that I understand a little bit better what it is about I actually like it and can associate with it. Could it really be that it took the poet fifty years to find the right way to express her emotions? I believe that it takes a lifetime to figure out the purpose of our existence and even then, it is not clear to us. It amazes me how she takes such a simple situation, (sitting in the waiting room) and turns it into this complex idea about our existence. The language in which the poem is written is simple, but holds some confusing and contradicting thoughts.

  27. When I first read this poem, one thing that really stuck out to me was all the references to darkness. It comes up the first time when she is in the office and says how the sun was going down because it was winter. This is her explanation for now, but after she reads the article, all of a sudden she believes this darkness is due to her own realization of the true horrors of the world. In the magazine, she first finds darkness to exist in the volcano, which was “black, and full of ashes.” Then the darkness shifts to the next few pages of death and hangings, and finally ends with her having the sensation of falling into “blue-black space.” I think most have probably experienced this at least within a dream and it is caused by some sort of immense fear or pain. To the girl it is very real. She had that “ah-ha!” moment where all of a sudden things in the world make themselves apparent to your everyday life and once you experience this, there is no going back.

  28. I had to read the poem a couple of times before I could even start writing, and then I had to read it out loud to my self once I was home. This poem to me was about hurt and getting through the pain or the angr. It seemed that the poem skipped around a few times and just did not have a good flow. It seemed to be about depression and the spiral that she was going in and could not get her self out of. It was depressing reading it to your self. It just seemed she went down a path and she could not find her way back on.

  29. to be completely honest while reading the poem in class i couldnt for the life of me figure out what the author was trying to convey. now that ive read the post, things fall into place a little better. i initially interperated the poem as follows: the girl and her aunt were the same person (it says that at some point.) and as she is at the doctors office it triggers a memory that she once had as a child in the waiting room of a similar doctors office. but the memory is remembered through the eyes of the child. and for a moment the two women share the same memory, eventhough they’re the same person. confusing i know. but i guess thats the power of poetry, so much of it is left up to the interpretation of the reader.

  30. This poem brings back the terrifying memories I repressed about going to the dentist. I remember almost all of my childhood visits vividly. I think the trips there are mildly traumatic for almost all children because the noises and the pain you endure are almost like torture. I think that’s why the child in this poem remembers so well the visit. I mentioned in my paper that I think it is her getting worked on and not her aunt. The reason why I think this is because of her hearing herself say “oh!” during her “wait”. I believe she was in a heavily sedated state rendering her confused and analytical. She thinks about herself as her aunt and ponders if she is just like her. She seems to know her Aunt better than herself. I find this interesting because most people do indeed not know themselves as well as the people surrounding them. It is scary to think we do not know ourselves as well as we think, because it opens up questions about what other people might think about us. If indeed they know us better than ourselves they might be able to offer insight to who we are. The hope is that they do not see our flaws as much as our virtues.

  31. What intrigued me about this poem was the fact that an image in a photograph changed her entire outlook on life. Also, Bishop was selfless which enabled her to step outside of herself and internalize the things that someone else of a totally different origin was going through. Keeping in mind that she was a young child at the time, it is amazing how insightful her young mind is.

  32. I felt this poem was great because it turned a seemingly mundane day and task into this glorious journey of a young girl who explored herself and her future and what she wanted in her own life as well as what she didn’t want to become. She is very interested in her surroundings and is interested in the way those around her act in order to decide how she should act. She was obviously impacted by the incident much like the Poem the incident.

  33. “In the Waiting Room” describes the moment of realization of the speaker’s very own existence. It’s sort of like an epiphany, or a moment when you actually get the big picture. It wasn’t that she hadn’t lived a day before six years old, but that she had awakened to question how she came about. She realizes at six years old, that she is in the waiting room to be a woman just like her aunt or any other woman. Waiting room could mean realizing that we will all die. When you’re young, you don’t really think about how quickly you can get old until one day you’re out of high school and entering in the real world. So dying is like being on a waiting list. Who really knows when their time will come to meet judgment? In the second to last stanza, Elizabeth Bishop writes, “The waiting room was bright and too hot.” I think if we look further in the text, we see that life isn’t always going to go the way we want it to go. It can be hot and stuffy sometimes. It can be cold and rugged in this adventure. Then it can go smoother than a baby’s bottom. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we end up being who we are but that we all have our own trials to get us to where we need to be. We also have our own talents and personalities to make us different. Some of us are young and on the waiting list to become all the things in our destiny we can only imagine. As an older person, I wonder how a young person actually thinks and do they ever question their own thinking process. We were on the waiting list to become older thinkers as young people growing up. I am on the waiting list and the quest to become an old thinker at the age of 24. Some are older in age and on the waiting list to find out where you think after you can’t think anymore. So we all have waited for brief happenings that only lead us to more things to go through and enjoy. It’s a part of life to wait, and being on a waiting list involves the expectancy of life as a parent, and the expectancy of death as a person.

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