What impression of Elizabeth Bishop do you get from reading "Filling Station"?

Quick answer:

The poet's love and respect for her father and his family is evident in the poem. The reader gets a sense of how she feels about the routine, hard work that they do every day. A young girl looks out at an oil-soaked, oil-permeated to a disturbing, over-all black translucency dull landscape. She loves all that she sees, even the dog with "the same light in its eyes as a saint" has its place in her heart. She also loves the comic books found on the filling station's back shelf.

Expert Answers

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The impression I get of the poet, Elizabeth Bishop, from reading her poem "Filling Station", is that she is a very perceptive and empathetic poet. This poem is filled with a host of images that highlight the physical aspects of the grimy filling station. This is exemplified in the line from the first stanza that reads:

     oil-soaked, oil-permeated
     to a disturbing, over-all
     black translucency.

In the poem, she talks of her father wearing his oiled garage suit each day. She talks of his sons helping him in the dirty, little garage that is the family's livelihood. She even describes the dog as being dirty, amidst the oil, dirt, and grime.

She does notice the color of the comic books that sit in the filling station. Therefore, she's very perceptive to things that are diametrically opposite to the dirtiness and plainness of the station.

However, in all her descriptions in the poem, there is a sense of loving all of what she sees. She feels for the family, and their hard work providing a service to others, amidst all of the dirt and grime.

She says that things do get done in the filling station and that "Somebody loves us all." The reader senses that she revels in the simple beauty of hard working people doing their jobs day by day. She understands that their is often beauty in the monotony and repetitiveness of life as we daily carry out our tasks and responsibilities.

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