Summary and Analysis of A Miracle for Breakfast by Elizabeth Bishop: 2022


Born on 18 February in the year 1911 in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Bishop did not get much appreciation in the literary world until after her death. Known as a perfectionist, this American poet, story writer, and painter is famous for her ability to create magnificent scenes and situations through her words.


“A Miracle for Breakfast” by Elizabeth Bishop portrays the differences between the rich and poor and expresses the poet’s belief that those who are underprivileged are always more appreciative of miracles of life.


The poem is set outside the house of a rich man with the narrator waiting among many underprivileged people for a charitable morning breakfast. Then the setting of the poem shifts to a huge mansion where the narrator imagines herself being rich.


“Coffee” and “sun” symbolize warmth and comfort; both notions stand in contrast to the cold day and the unhappy life of the poor. “Miracle” is the symbol of hope for a better future. “Crumbs” has a religious reference to church and mass. “The high balcony of the rich man” is symbolic of his high status that stands in contrast to the status of a poor man.
“At six o’clock, we were waiting for coffee.”
“waiting for coffee and the charitable crumb.”
“It was so cold we hoped that the coffee.”
“that was going to be served from a certain balcony
–like kings of old, or like a miracle. “
“One foot of the sun”


The narrator starts by saying that at 6 in the morning, she and some other people were waiting for coffee and some charitable crimps that were going to be served to them by a rich man from his balcony. The balcony has been described as being like that from the king’s palace or a miracle. The narrator says that it was still a little dark; the sun was just rising. She informs that the first ferry has just crossed the river, and since it was the winter season, the mornings were bitterly cold. The narrator and her companions were hoping for warm coffee since the sun would not be able to provide enough warmth. They hoped that by some miracle, the crumbs would be a loaf each, enough to satisfy their hunger, and buttered, and at seven, a man finally stepped out on the balcony. The man stood on the balcony, ideally watching over the river. He was then handed by the servant “the miracles,” one lone cup of coffee and a single roll of bread. The rich man then broke the bread into little crumbs and distributed those crumbs among the poor. Each man received just one crumb and one drop of coffee. Many of them threw the hard crumbs into the river while the other, along with the narrator stood under that balcony hoping for a miracle to happen. The narrator then starts imagining her beautiful villa standing under the sun with marble flooring and doors open; she imagines smelling hot coffee and seeing buttered crumbs ready to be eaten. This mansion of the narrator would be built in ages by birds, insects, and the river. She imagines sitting on the balcony every day under the sun, drinking gallons of coffee. The narrator is then brought into reality; she and her companions lick the crumbs and swallow the coffee. The narrator notices the sun shining on the balcony window, realizing that the miracle is happening on the wrong balcony.


This beautiful poem by Elizabeth Bishop portrays the reality of life, the one with everything is least appreciative, and the one with nothing is always hopeful of a miracle.


The tone of the poem is calm and quiet yet strong enough to express the poet’s message. The poem has been composed in the form of a story being told with a rhythmic musical pattern.


“A Miracle For Breakfast” is a beautiful composition that reminds the readers to be grateful for what they have in life, to be hopeful and optimistic no matter what the current circumstances are, and to be helpful selflessly.

You can also check out the analysis of A Miracle for Breakfast by Elizabeth Bishop here.

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