Breakfast at Tiffany’s Summary

Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s Summary

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The two most famous books by American author Truman Capote could not be more different from one another. His 1958 novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s tells the tale of a New York writer and his connection to his unconventional neighbor, the young Holly Golightly. In 1966, he released In Cold Blood, perhaps the best-known work of creative nonfiction which chronicles a quadruple murder of a family in Kansas and the two killers who perpetrated the crime. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is set on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in the closing years of World War II. A young writer becomes attracted to, and somewhat mesmerized by, Holly Golightly. Holly has a disarming charm about her as well as a troubled past. The narrator is a writer who has relocated to New York with the hope of finding success authoring short stories. He is never identified by name. He is attracted to Holly who seems very different from him. His fascination with and eventual love for Holly lead to the character, even as a first person voice, to focus more on Holly than on himself.

The novella is structured with the narrator telling of the year, twelve years prior, when Holly was in his life. His recollection of the time is prompted when an old friend Joe Bell visits him and has a photograph of an African sculpture that looks like Holly. The narrator first encountered Holly on a summer evening not long after she moved into the brownstone in which he lived. She loses her key and ends up calling the narrator to let her in. Holly is a thin, eighteen year old whom the narrator ends up observing whenever he can, be it at restaurants, clubs, feeding her cat, or playing her guitar. He even takes notice of her garbage, which contains love letters from soldiers at war.

Holly comes to the narrator’s apartment late one night in the fall. One of her lovers has become violent, and she shares with the narrator that every week she visits Sally Tomato, a mobster locked up in Sing Sing prison. She adds that Tomato’s attorney, O’Shaughnessey, pays her one hundred dollars per week to exchange secret messages between the two of them. Holly is not interested when the narrator shares with her one of the stories he has written, and the pair falls asleep on his bed. Holly is crying in her sleep; the narrator asks her what is wrong. At this, she quickly leaves his apartment. This becomes something of a rift, but after a time, they are friendly again, and she invites him to a party she is having at her apartment.

While at the party, the narrator meets an agent from Hollywood who tells him he had tried to make a movie star out of Holly when he met her as a teenage runaway. Also at the party is Rusty Trawler, a millionaire with a dubious family background, who seems to be having an affair with Holly. Mag Wildwood is a model who, in a drunken state, insults Holly before passing out on the floor. Holly chastises the narrator later for not escorting Mag to be sure she got home safely. The narrator continues observing Holly from afar. Later, Mag moves in with Holly, and on subsequent evenings, the narrator frequently sees Mag and Holly leaving with Rusty Trawler and Mag’s fiancé, Jose Yberra-Jaegar.

Although the narrator and Holly have been somewhat distant, he shares with her that he has had a short story accepted for publication. She takes him out to celebrate, but also feels that he should be more ambitious in his career. They spend time together in Central Park and in the course of conversation, share childhood memories with each other. The narrator is aware that Holly is making up what she is telling him. After some time passes, he sees her going into the public library. He follows her and finds that she is reading books about Brazil. Over time, they grow closer in spite of the secrecy and falsehoods that seem to surround Holly. When Christmas arrives, Holly gives the narrator an antique birdcage that he had admired, and he gives her a Saint Christopher’s medal from Tiffany’s.

Things take a bad turn for Holly when a couple of months later, Mag thinks Holly is having an affair with Jose while they are all vacationing together. Once back in New York, she insults the narrator by invalidating his writing, which causes him to have nothing to do with her until the spring. At this point, Doc Golightly arrives in town. He tells the narrator that he is Holly’s husband from Texas and that they married when she was fourteen. She and her brother Fred had escaped from a foster home where they were mistreated since being placed there after the death of their parents. Holly’s true name is Lulamae Barnes. She left Doc even though he was willing to try to meet all of her expensive desires. Doc’s attempt to reconcile with Holly is unsuccessful, and he leaves for Texas the following day.

Soon, the narrator learns that Rusty Trawler and Mag have married, and he goes to tell Holly. He finds her angry and grief-stricken, having learned that her brother, Fred, has died in the war. Months pass and Holly, romantically involved with Jose, becomes somewhat of a stereotypical homemaker. She tells the narrator that she is pregnant and will marry Jose and move to Brazil in a week. This is followed by Holly being charged with conspiracy due to her involvement with Tomato and O’Shaughnessy. She is jilted by Jose and tells the narrator she plans to skip bail and move to Brazil anyway. He agrees to help her, and they arrange for him to bring some of her possessions and her cat to her at a bar where she is waiting. After they depart in a taxi, she has the driver stop in Harlem where she puts her cat out on the street. She immediately regrets it but cannot locate the cat. The narrator promises he will look for it, and Holly takes her leave. After one postcard, the narrator never hears from her again, but he does find the cat.