Jacques Prévert

Start Free Trial

How does the writer convey a sense of separation in the poem "Breakfast" by Jacques Prévert?

The writer conveys a sense of separation in "Breakfast" by depicting a scene in which a man drinks coffee, smokes a cigarette, and prepares to leave without acknowledging or speaking to the other person in the room.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Jacques Prévert conveys a sense of separation and intense loneliness in the poem "Breakfast," or “Déjeuner du Matin,” by repetition, the placement of the words and lines, and the tone.

The poem begins by describing the action of a man who is preparing to drink his coffee. The tone is...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Jacques Prévert conveys a sense of separation and intense loneliness in the poem "Breakfast," or “Déjeuner du Matin,” by repetition, the placement of the words and lines, and the tone.

The poem begins by describing the action of a man who is preparing to drink his coffee. The tone is extremely impersonal. The relationship of the man to the speaker is not described and the speaker merely catalogs the man’s movements, beginning with his pouring himself a cup of coffee. It is extremely clinical, with no adjectives or descriptive words to convey anything about the people or any sense of intimacy between them.

The poem begins with “Il a mis le café dans la tasse (he put the coffee in the cup).” This merely conveys the man’s brief action. We don’t know if the coffee was aromatic or flavorful. It is unimportant. The man also apparently does not care. He is mechanically going through the motions of his daily morning ritual before leaving the house without a word to his companion.

Visually, the placement of the words underscores the short, staccato nature of the interaction—or lack thereof—between the two people, as does the constant repetition of “he placed” and of other words. Prévert repeats the words he placed (Il a mis) seven times. The poem also is set in lines of no more than five or six words, emphasizing the brevity of their impersonal encounter.

The silence between the two is so evident as the man prepares his coffee, drinks it, and lights a cigarette without saying anything to his companion (sans me parler). These are all very solitary actions, and at no point does he offer her coffee or a cigarette or even say good morning, further reinforcing the isolation and loneliness the poem evokes.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In this poem, Jacques Prévert conveys a sense of separation through his use of structure and form, as well as through the adept use of repetition. There is no sense of continuance in this poem from one line to the next. On the contrary, each line is short, clipped, giving a sense of abruptness, disjointedness, and, indeed, separation. Clauses in sentences are separated from each other in unexpected places; elements which should be two halves of a whole do not sit alongside each other.

In the same way, the speaker in the poem observes the unnamed man, intensely and with a sense of despair, but the man does not seem to acknowledge the speaker. This is emphasized through the repetition of the line "without any word to me." This is the overriding impression the speaker has gleaned from this depressing breakfast tableau: he or she is paying attention to the minutiae of what the man is doing, up to and including putting on his raincoat because it is raining, but the man does not acknowledge the speaker at all.

The fact that the has put on his raincoat indicates that the man is paying attention to the rest of the world around him, such as the poor weather, so he is not simply distracted in a general sense. On the contrary, the lack of a "word" or "look" towards the speaker, while the man otherwise goes about his regular routine, underlines the fact that the speaker has been shut out of what should have been a communal experience.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Every line in this poignant poem creates a sense of separation and an image of the chasm that exists between the speaker in this poem and a man, who we presume to be her husband.

It is not clear whether this cold distance between the two is the status quo in their marriage or if it has been brought on by a sudden argument, but the atmosphere is as cold, distant, and separate as it could possibly be.

The poem starts with a detailed explanation of how the man prepares and drinks his coffee. The speaker in this poem is clearly watching him closely as he does this, as she is able to recount his actions in specific, concrete details.

He makes and drinks his coffee without saying a word to her and then lights a cigarette, which he unsurprisingly smokes without breaking his stony silence. Once again, the poem’s narrator watches this action, which is undertaken in silence and without looking at her.

After finishing his cigarette, the man gets up, puts on a hat and raincoat and leaves, still without any acknowledgement of the woman in the room.

The sense of separation is completed with the narrator’s tears in the last line of the poem, which gives us a clear indication of how upsetting the man’s behavior is to her.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The speaker, who appears to be a woman, describes how the man she is living with, who may or may not be her husband, gets up in the morning, pours his coffee, puts milk in it, and drinks it without saying a word to her. He also smokes a cigarette in the same silent way and puts on his raincoat to leave without saying a word. This description of a silent man going about his business while ignoring the presence of the speaker creates a picture of profound isolation and separation. The two might as well be in different countries for all that the man notices the woman.

The speaker reinforces her sense of separation by repeating the line:

Without any word to me

She states this four times, and then states two times:

Without any look at me

This description and the repeated refrain create a mood of separation and lonely chill. How devastating it must to be in a room with another person who won't acknowledge your presence. The emotional pain of this isolation is brought home in the last three lines of the poem, in which the speaker writes

And I buried
My face in my hands
And I cried

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team