Breakfast by John Steinbeck (A Discussion)

Breakfast by John Steinbeck Summary Analysis Translation Solution

The story “Breakfast” deals with the simplicity, contentment, and satisfaction of workers depending on seasonal work of cotton-picking. It is chiefly with a generous and sympathetic attitude, especially making the wilderness a beautiful and attractive place. The story makes the reader recall vividly the bleak days of the early thirties when people were experiencing heart-rending poverty in the USA. Once the author was wandering about in the countryside at dawning hours when he saw a solitary tent at a short distance. A stove was burning and the young woman was busy cooking. The sun was about to rise and there was reddish light behind the mountains. He felt very happy at the sight of fire, as he saw orange flames of the stove throwing dancing reflections on the tent.

There was enough cold in the surrounding atmosphere as the author had to rub his hands and thrust them into his pockets. After getting close to the stove, he stretched his hands to get warmth from the fire. The woman working at the stove remained absorbed in her cooking. He noticed a small child hidden under the clothes of the woman, sucking milk. She supported the child with her crooked arm, easily performing her chores, and nursing the child did not interfere with her work.

Two men came from the other side of the tent that appeared to be father and son. THeir hands and faces were still wet after washing. They greeted the author and warmed themselves from the fire. The young woman showed great agility and efficiency in arranging the plates and breakfast items on a packing box. She placed a big dish full of meat, some bread, biscuits, and hot coffee, to serve them. She also sat around the box to share the breakfast. The pleasant odor of the cooked food sharpened their hunger and all of them greatly relished the food. The enjoyment of breakfast with this small contented and happy family became an unforgettable experience for the author. They filled their plates frantically and ate to their full satisfaction. The old man cheered the food with a little effort and thanked God Almighty while taking breakfast.

The young man and his father both were generous, simple, sincere, and straightforward in their behavior. And, the young man asked him if he was willing to work and pick cotton with them. The young man frankly told that they had been picking cotton for the last twelve days and as a result, they enjoyed good food. The girl added, they had also purchased new overalls out of the savings.

After having breakfast, they took hot coffee, which scalded their throats and made them warm. Now the dawn had changed into the morning light, and the image of mountains reflected in the valley. The son and father got up to go on their work. The young man once again offered his cooperation and asked him if he liked to pick cotton with them. The author refused and thanked them for the breakfast. They departed him and set out for picking cotton in the fields. The old man waved his hands and said that they were glad to have him as a guest. Thus after the exchange of pleasant greetings, the author also walked away down the country road.

The beauty and simplicity of the poor God-fearing people living on cotton-picking, seasonal labor, has made this story a pleasant account of favorable conditions for them. The reader gets passionately involved. The author himself remarks, “There was some element of great beauty there that makes the rush of warmth when I think of it.”

Author and Pleasing Hosts

The author finds the self-sufficiency and self-dependence of the individual in this story. The beauty and simplicity of the poor God-fearing people have made this story a pleasant encounter for the writer. It is a pleasant experience for him because it reveals new realities on the intellectual horizon of the author. it reveals how a truly devoted housewife can turn a tent in the wilderness into real earthly heaven for its inhabitants. Such real happiness does not depend on the wealth and comforts of life. It, rather, depends on a balanced and well-adjusted family whose members adapt themselves to the gravity of circumstances. They live on being really well-wishers of one another.

Money and prosperity are not the only entity or contented life. Rather it is a generous and broadminded attitude towards life and other human beings. It is a readiness to sacrifice something for others that brings real happiness to a person. It was such qualities in the members of a small family that his experience becomes unforgettable for him. He shares his readers in the curious worm pleasure, which he gets by remembering that experience. He concludes that contentment is a great blessing of God.

Were the hosts poor?

The story “breakfast” gives a faithful picture of a poor yet contented rural family. All the members of the mentioned family are resigned to their fate. They count on the seasonal labor of cotton-picking. Though their source is uncertain they are broad-minded. They invite the narrator to share breakfast with them. The reason behind their invitation is just a feeling of humanity.

It is certainly based on their instinct narrator. They are philanthropists (lovers of mankind) because they love each other, live together, dine together, yawn together, smile together, and work together. They are even wearing the dress of the same quality, of the same color, and of the same stuff. There is a special and well-conspired understanding between the two men. The narrator tells us that they looked much alike. Their feelings are alike. They invite the writer together to have breakfast. Thus their sense of hospitality proves the hallmark of the story.

Materialistic life in the story

The story, “Breakfast” is indirect, a criticism of our materialistic life in the cities of fashionable parts of society. A life of pomp and show and outward time of authority can never bring peace of mind and satisfaction to heart. Most of the rich, powerful, and well-placed people only want worldly achievements even if they have to sell their souls to the devil. In this murky atmosphere of corruption, sin, and crime, many peace-loving urban people would like to go to the simple and pure rural life.

The story thus sets in clear details the attractions of village life. The honest unambitious labor of farmworkers set side by side with the ugliness of commercial city life. They are heard of complaining against the government and its various agencies on different grounds. Uncertainty and adverse economic conditions, particularly in developing countries, are found commonly. Almost every individual has fallen prey to disappointment and disillusionment. They have mammon-worshipper. Majority of the modern people want to become rich overnight. There is a rat race of accumulating more and more wealth. They have no solace of heart and peace of mind. Sense of restlessness prevails in the whole urban life. Fretting fever falls forcefully in allsegments of urban people.

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