Breakfast by John Steinbeck

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “Breakfast” by John Steinbeck. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it.

Presentation of the text

Title: “Breakfast” [1938]
Author: John Steinbeck
Genre: Short story

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) was a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer known for his novels such as The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, and East of Eden. Steinbeck served as a war correspondent during World War II. His works often deal with economic and social issues, such as the struggles of migrant workers. Steinbeck's short story “Breakfast” was published in 1938 in a collection of 12 short stories titled “The Long Valley”.


Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide:

The light is mentioned by the narrator repeatedly. At the beginning, the narrator is alone, and the surrounding atmosphere is dark. As he eats breakfast with the three strangers he meets, the sun rises, meaning that the light becomes brighter: “There was color in the light now (...) The two men faced the east and their faces were lighted by the dawn”. At the end, the narrator mentions that the air “was blazing with light”.

The light could symbolize the narrator feeling both a literal and figurative sense of warmth as the encounter with the three strangers proves to be a pleasant experience. It could also symbolize the narrator slowly gaining insight into the three strangers' lifestyle. The light becoming brighter (the sun rising) is also symbolic of a new day and of life carrying on, especially since the two men head to work and thus, can provide for themselves and their family a while longer.

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Breakfast by John Steinbeck

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