"Dejeuner du Matin" is a deceptively simple poem that creates the dreary scene of a detached man and his despairing wife who sit together, but alone at the same time, because they sit across from one another at the breakfast table as though they are strangers. This scene depicts the estrangement of the couple which may be because of marital problems, or because the husband suffers from combat stress reaction, a condition in which soldiers become disconnected from their surroundings. At any rate, this relationship causes the wife to feel lonely and very dispirited.
Written in 1946, shortly after the end of World War II, this poem reflects the nihilistic tone of many who felt disillusioned and displaced after the war. In the scene of this poem of clipped sentences all in the passé composé--a past tense that often denotes a clear beginning and end in time--the wife describes the mechanical motions of her husband, who sat across from her without appearing to even notice her.
Without so much as a glance at his wife, he reached for the coffee cup and mechanically filled it with cream, then sugar, then stirred. He drank, then replaced the cup. He lighted a cigarette, blew casual smoke rounds, tipped the ashes of the cigarette into the ashtray. When he finished, he put on his raincoat and hat and departed. All of his actions were performed without so much as a look at his wife, or a even a word to her. After he marched out the door into the dismal rain, the wife mechanically placed her head into her hand and wept in despair at the dreariness of her life.