Breadfruit is a short poem written by English poet Philip Larkin. The poem is composed of only two stanzas, each composing of eight lines. The poem is about the failure of men to mature when they dream of unrealistic things, as referred in line14 of the second stanza—the demise of a fantasy of living a life that resembles that of a life in a tropical paradise amidst the reality of life. The title “Breadfruit” is misleading because the poem is not exactly about the fruit itself. In fact the speaker does not even know what Breadfruits are.
“…Whatever they are. ” (line 2 and 17). The fruit bears no significance except as an ornament for the native girls. The first line, “Boys dream of native girls who bring breadfruit. ” (line 1) shows readers images of a tropical island paradise where native girls are stereotypically innocent and offer foreigners, in the poem’s case, the boys, a tropical fruit which is breadfruit. As mentioned, the use of breadfruit is insignificant; it may have been just a random tropical fruit that Larkin chose.
He could have used coconuts, bananas, or any fruit that is typically found in tropical areas. The third line and fourth lines “As bribes to teach them how to execute/ Sixteen sexual positions on the sand;” (3-4). This sexual aspiration is of course from the point of view of the day dreaming boys. Although tropical island girls may have been stereotyped (thanks mostly to the movies) as innocent, willing to explore anything types, I don’t think island girls would give an offering as it were, just to satisfy their sexual desires. Specifics again do not matter in this poem.
Just as the Breadfruit, at least in my opinion does not bear significance, the number of sexual positions does not really have any symbolic meaning. It could have been just an aesthetic technique of Larkin to relate the number sixteen to the age of the island girls that were willing to offer breadfruit for sex. And again, it is just the product of the boys’ fantasies so the number may be relatively higher to emphasize the unrealistic fantasy. The rest of the lines in the first stanza, lines 5-8, are about the result of the island girls sleeping with the boys.
“This makes them join (the boys) the tennis club,/Jive at the Mecca, use deodorants, and/ On Saturdays squire ex-schoolgirls to the pub/ By private car. ” (5-8). The lines suggests that once the island girls have slept with the boys, they would be civilized and let go of their island ways. In a sense, it shows the corruption that sex can possibly do. If the first stanza is all about the dream, then the second stanza is about the realization that these dreams are exactly what they are—dreams. The daydreaming ends, the boys change into men and now they are in churches, probably with their wives, and in offices.
“Such uncorrected visions end in church/ Or registrar:” (9-10). The speaker mentions that these dreams are visions that are “uncorrected” meaning the speaker too realizes that it is wrong to dream of such things. The rest of the lines, except for the last two which is somewhat a repetition of the first two lines, are all about realities of life in contrast to the fantasies of the first stanza. The lines give examples of negative realities; “A mortgaged semi…, a widowed mum having to scheme with money; illness; age.
” These examples show that life has more serious things to attend to other than wandering off in a daydream in an island with innocent, promiscuous girls. The theme of the poem does not have to be thought of that much because the speaker mentions it perfectly at the last lines of the poem. “Maturity falls, when old men sit and dream/ Of naked native girls who bring breadfruit/ Whatever they are. ” (14-16). It is immature for grown men to daydream if they have responsibilities to attend to. Reference Larkin, P. (1961). Breadfruit. Retrieved May 15, 2009. from http://www. philiplarkin. com/pom/pomcurrent. html