J Jacques Prévert

Breakfast by Jacques Prévert

‘Breakfast’ by Jacques Prévert considers a man’s actions and the speaker’s reactions. The latter is moved by the man’s simplest actions. 

Breakfast by Jacques Prévert Visual Representation

The poem describes a man preparing and drinking coffee, smoking, and putting on his jacket and hat to leave. These simple actions are elevated in the eyes of the speaker who sees a great deal of meaning. In ‘Breakfast’ they also emphasize how this man does not acknowledge them at all. 

Breakfast by Jacques Prévert


Summary

Breakfast’ by Jacques Prévert is a thoughtful and direct poem that describes a speaker’s reactions to an unknown man’s coffee, cigarette, and departure.

The speaker uses the first part of the poem to describe, step by step, the way a man prepares and drinks his coffee. The lines are quite direct and without emotion. As the poem progresses, the speaker moves on to describe how the man smokes, gets his hat and jacket on, and goes out into the rain. All this occurs without the man speaking to or looking at the speaker. This is something that troubles the speaker and leaves them in tears at the end of the poem. 

You can read the full poem here.

Detailed Analysis 

Lines 1-14 

He poured the coffee

Into the cup

(…)

Without any word to me

He emptied the coffee with milk

And he put down the cup

Without any word to me

In the first lines of ‘Breakfast,’ the speaker begins by describing someone only referred to as “He.” This person never gets a name or any deeper description. They’re the sole focus of the speaker’s thirty-five lines. Throughout the first part of the poem, the speaker describes “his” actions. They are mostly concerned with putting coffee into a cup, then adding sugar, and milk. He uses a “small spoon” and drank the coffee. These are simple actions. But, the speaker is taking a great deal of care when talking about the man’s movements. This makes it easy to assume that the speaker cares deeply about this person.

Finally, the speaker refers to themselves towards the middle of the poem. They use the pronoun, “me,” revealing very little about themselves. The man they’ve been focusing on doesn’t talk to them. He empties his cup “Without any word to me.” This phrase is repeated multiple times, ensuring the reader understands its importance. 

Lines 15-35

He lighted

One cigarette

He made circles

(…)

Without any word to me

Without any look at me

And I buried

My face in my hands

And I cried

In the second part of the poem, the speaker focuses on the man smoking, getting his hat on, and his raincoat, and then walking out into the rain. These are, once again, quite simple things. To another observer, they wouldn’t be at all interesting. But, to this speaker, they are of the utmost importance. They are moved by what the man does and especially by the fact that he leaves without “any look at me.” The end of the poem may come as a surprise. The speaker cries, with their head in their hands, over the way this person acted towards them. 

It’s unclear as the poem comes to a close whether or not the speaker knows the person they’ve been talking about (and that person purposefully ignored them) or if they don’t know this person and are projecting unrelated emotions onto them. 

Structure and Form 

Breakfast’ by Jacques Prévert is a thirty-five-line poem that was originally written in French. This translated version loses some of the rhymes and examples of rhythm that the original had but it does a good job representing the poem as a whole. Throughout this version, readers can find examples of several literary devices that are used in both the English and French versions. 

Literary Devices 

Throughout this poem, Prévert makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to: 

  • Anaphora: occurs when the poet repeats the same word or phrases at the beginning of lines. For example, “He” and “Into” which start almost every line.
  • Imagery: can be seen when the poet uses a particularly effective description. This should trigger the reader’s senses and inspire them to imagine exactly what the poet’s describing. For example, “He emptied the coffee with milk / And he put down the cup” and “And I buried / My face in my hands / And I cried.”
  • Enjambment: can be seen when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two as well as lines five and six. It is used numerous times throughout this poem. 


FAQs 

What is the tone of ‘Breakfast?’

The tone is descriptive and distant. The speaker uses very basic language to describe the man’s actions, and it’s only towards the end of the poem that the emotion is evident. 

What is the meaning of ‘Breakfast?’

The meaning is that even the simplest actions and encounters can be imbued with a great deal of meaning. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether or not the speaker knows the man they’re describing. 

What is the purpose of ‘Breakfast?’

The purpose is to emphasize the importance that small moments can have to the right person. The man drinking coffee and smoking likely doesn’t see any meaning in his actions. But, for the speaker, they are incredibly moving.

What are the themes in ‘Breakfast?’

The themes at work in this poem are ones of everyday life and alienation. The speaker clearly feels distant from the man they’re describing, and it’s also quite clear that they want to be closer to this person. 


Similar Poetry 

Readers who enjoyed ‘Breakfast’ should also consider reading some related poems. For example: 

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Breakfast by Jacques Prévert Visual Representation
About
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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