Jacques Prévert Essay - Critical Essays


The poetry of Jacques Prévert is pervaded by an innocence that allows him to cultivate a world in which animals, plants, and objects speak or are metamorphosed at will. There is in his verse no development of a self-contained world of fable or faerie with symbolic weight; rather, the Surrealist influence manifests itself in vignettes or episodes within individual poems. Prévert brought an unaccustomedly cheerful mien to Surrealism, employing its devices not to frighten or to dwell on the victimization of men but to portray the imagination as an escape route from the dreariness of life’s minor burdens.

In his less childlike or innocent verses, Prévert expresses outraged indignation at social and political injustice and is capable of piercing the affectations of those whom he considers unworthy of respect. There is a remarkable consistency of tone and outlook throughout Prévert’s work, and whether one draws examples from early volumes or later ones, one finds an unchanging Weltanschauung. In part, this consistency can be attributed to Prévert’s comparatively late success at a time when stylistic experiment was behind him.