Breakfast at Tiffany's

From LitWiki
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
First Edition cover, 1958
AuthorTruman Capote
PublisherRandom House
Publication date1958

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a 1958 novel/novella by American writer Truman Capote.


Below are the thirteen major sections of the novella. Since Capote did not use chapters, these are indicated by the double line break on the page. There might be more sections, or a more logical means of distinguishing them, but these arbitrary divisions will work for our purposes.

  1. Section one (3-14)
  2. Section two (14-47)
  3. Section three (47-53)
  4. Section four (53-55)
  5. Section five (55-63)
  6. Section six (63-72)
  7. Section seven (72-74)
  8. Section eight (74-85)
  9. Section nine (85-93)
  10. Section ten (93-97)
  11. Section eleven (97-104)
  12. Section twelve (104-109)
  13. Section thirteen (109-111)



An aspiring writer who lives above Holly in his New York apartment. He is affectionately referred to as "Fred" by Holly until her brother dies. After her brother's death, she only refers to him as "Buster". He enjoys drinking bourbon and reading Simenon. He becomes friends with Holly and Joe Bell. He seems to be a passive man, and is suspected of being homosexual due to the lack of sexual nature of his and Holly's relationship. His character closely resembles Capote in his own life. AKA the Capote Narrator.

Holiday "Holly" Golightly

True name is Lulamae Barnes. At age 14 she married Doc Golightly near Tulip, Texas. Her parents both passed away from TB, and she was sent to stay with some ‘mean people’ approximately 100 miles east of Tulip. She and her brother, Fred, ran away and would steal in order to eat. After being caught stealing by one of Doc’s daughters, he fell in love with her and asked her to marry him. Though she ran away from him at age 14, she feels she owes a lot to Doc because he gave her confidence in herself. Discovered in California by O.J. Berman, she was given French lessons to rid her of her country accent, and modeled after Margaret Sullavan. Later she posed as niece to Sally Tomato in exchange for money to deliver ‘weather reports’ from Sing Sing to his lawyer.

Just shy of being 19 at the beginning of the story, Holly is described physically as ageless, having short, boy styled hair with a hodgepodge of colors including white blonde and yellow streaks (self colored), and being thin but a clean and healthy look about her. Her cheeks are pink and she has very large mouth and warm, blue, green, and brown eyes, which she hides behind large, prescription sunglasses at all hours. Her nose is turned up at the end, like a pixie. She is always well groomed, with a tendency to dress in good taste, but plainly, in grays and blues which seems to make her shine even more.

Holly believes strongly in being free to roam where ever her whim should take her. Although she resides in apartment 2 of the brownstone, she seems to not have a home. Her inability to keep up with her apartment key, her nameless cat, and the sparse furnishings in her apartment illustrate well her lack of commitment to one place or thing. Even her mail box card is non-committing : Miss Holiday Golightly, Traveling. Although she seems so free spirited, later in the novella we find that she desperately does want to find a place to call her own; a place that makes her feel secure as Tiffany’s does.

Holly smokes Picayunes, a type of cigarette; which irony is found when one realizes in Spanish it means “something of very little value, a trifle.” On occasion she also confessed to smoking marijuana, and seems to be a drinker. She loyally reads tabloids, travel folders, and astrological charts, as well as letters from her brother overseas. She plays the guitar very well (taught to her by Doc) and sings a little. Although her profession is never named, she makes it part of her job to study horses and baseball, and trained herself to like men over 40 who give her considerable amounts of money to visit the powder room. Holly considers herself bisexual.

She has no qualms about lying when it amuses or benefits her. She seems to have loyalties to no one except for her brother, Fred, with whom she fantasizes about having a horse farm near the sea in Mexico. Being rich and famous is in the top of her priorities. The narrator describes her as a lopsided romantic, as well as a crude exhibitionist, a time waster, and an utter fake.

Joe Bell

Owner of a quiet bar on Lexington Avenue, referred to as Joe Bell's. Physically described to be small, with fine coarse white hair, a sloping bony face better suited to a tall person, and a complexion which always appears sunburnt. He has a froggy voice. Suspected to be homosexual. Devoted to and loves Holly; took numerous phone messages for her when she was in New York, and through out the years during her absence has constantly looked for her in the streets. He doesn't have an easy nature, self described due to being a bachelor and having a sour stomach, which he regularly self medicates with Tums. He is very difficult to talk to unless you are interested in Holly, ice hockey, Weimaraner dogs, Our Gal Sunday (Soap serial on for 15 years), and Gilbert or Sullivan. He has a froggy voice. He's talented at flower arranging, and keeps fresh flowers in his bar.

I. Y. Yunioshi

Mistakenly said to be from Japan by Bell, but truly from California. He is a photographer featured in a magazine called Winchell, and lived in the studio apartment, top floor of brownstone, during Holly’s time living there.

Negro man from Africa

Tall, delicate man, who wore a calico skirt. He is a talented wood sculptor from the S Tribe, in Tococul, East Anglia. He was photographed by Yunioshi on Christmas Day in 1956, depicting him with a "shy, yet vain smile, displaying in his hands an odd wood sculpture," of the head of Holly Golightly (p6). Shared a mat with Holly Golightly in Spring of that same year.

Madame Sapphia Spanella

Tenant of brownstone. Described as a husky, coloratura (a singer, usually a soprano, who specializes in music characterized by trills and runs) who goes roller-skating every afternoon in Central Park. She began a petition in the brownstone to evict Holly for being “morally objectionable and the perpetrator of all night gatherings that endanger the safety and sanity of her neighbors (p. 64).” She did not like Holly and made no secret of it.

Sid Arbuck

Escorted Holly home the first evening Fred sees her. He picked up the check for five of her friends, whom he did not know, and expected to stay the evening with her. Apparently he did not succeed due to giving her only twenty cents to go to the powder-room.


Holly’s favorite of four brothers. When the family was separated to live with different foster homes after their parents' death, she and Fred stayed together shuffled around to live with different "mean people". He was discovered with Holly trying to steal food from Doc Golightly's farm by his oldest daughter. He was the only one who would let her hug him when it was cold as a child. Described to be 6’2” and ‘slow’ or ‘stupid’. After Holly ran away from Doc and his family, Fred stayed behing and eventually joined the military. He had a great love for peanut butter. Was in the 8th grade for three years, then was drafted into the army where he eventually died.

Sally Tomato

Looks like a monk with gold teeth to Holly. He speaks very little English. While in Sing Sing prison, he was visited every Thursday by Golightly, and gave her a “weather report”. Revealed to be the notorious Mafia-führer Salvatore "Sally" Tomato. At one time he would hang out at Joe Bell’s often, but didn’t socialize with anyone.

O.J. Berman

An agent who met Holly at Santa Anita, CA when she was 15. Smokes cigars, wears Knize cologne. Wears elevated heals, appears to be a midget, freckled, large head, bald, pointed elven ears, Pekingese eyes which are bulged and unpitying. Hair sprouts from his ears and nose, and he has hairy hands. He has a jerky metallic rhythm to his speech. Considers himself sensitive, and loves Holly.

Benny Polan

Asked Holly to marry him; he spent thousands of dollars sending her to psychiatrists.

Cecil B. DeMille & Gary Cooper

Actors starring in The Story of Dr Wassell.

Rusty (Rutherford) Trawler

Middle aged, baby faced, fat and appeared to be a spoiled child. Lost both parents in 1908 at age 5, his father a victim of anarchist and his mother died of shock. This made him instantly a millionaire and celebrity. His godfather arrested for sodomy due to him, and has divorced 3 times. He offered to marry Unity Mitford if Hitler didn’t, thus was referred to as a Nazi by many. Attended rallies in Yorkville. Acts as though he should be in diapers, Holly said he should be wearing a skirt. Talks in a whiney voice. He thinks girls are literally dolls and although believed to be homosexual, he marries Mag Wildwood.

Mag Wildwood (Margaret Thatcher Fitzhue Wildwood)

Her home town is Wildwood, Arkansas. Models for Yunioshi for the Bazaar. Described to be extremely thin, flat chested, and over 6 feet tall, with a stutter that she over exaggerates. She lives at the Winslow. All men in her family were soldiers, and there is a statue of her father in Wildwood. She is very proud of her country, and considers herself a warmhearted person. She knits. Temporarily roomed with Holly and was engaged to Jose. She was often referred to as being a lesbian.

Jose Ybarra-Jaegar

A Brazilian with a German mother. He aims to be the president of Brazil. Has a strong latin accent, originally Wildwood’s lover and later became Holly’s. He is described to be intelligent, presentable, and very serious about his work, which is related to the government. He is in Washington 3 days a week. His priorities are maintaining his good name and work, and broke his engagement with Holly due to her arrest and publicity with Sally Tomato.

Mildred Grossman

A girl who went to school with the narrator. Described as a top heavy realist with moist hair and greasy glasses covering flat eyes. She dissected frogs and went to picket lines, and only examined stars to gauge their chemical tonnage. Compared to Holly by the narrator to be a Siamese twin; they would never change because they’d been given their character too soon. (p.58)

Doc Golightly

Farmer, horse doctor, and husband of Holly/Lulamae, from Tulip, Texas. He is described to be very provocative, early fifties w/ a hard weathered face, and gray forlorn eyes. He appeared in New York outside the brownstone wearing an old sweat-stained gray hat, a pale blue, cheap summer suit, loose on his lanky frame. He wore brand new brown shoes. He likes to whistle, and has a very countrified drawl. Smells of tobacco and sweat, and keeps a toothpick in his mouth to chew on. He is very forward when speaking with the narrator. He came via Greyhound to see Holly/Lulamae. His first wife passed away on July 4th 1936, and married Holly/Lulamae December 38 when she was just shy of age 14.


Doc’s oldest daughter, discovered Fred and Lulamae stealing milk and turkey eggs from their farm when Holly was just fourteen years old.

Major Themes

Delight in the Unorthodox

Plimpton writes that the theme in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is that there are special, strange gifted people in the world and they have to be treated with understanding (175). When something is unorthodox it breaks with convention or tradition. All of the characters in the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's took delight in unique unorthodox ways. Homosexuality was considered to be unorthodox in the fifties and some people even consider it to be unorthodox today.

Holly Golightly was unorthodox by leaving her husband and by embracing homosexuality like she did. Tison Pugh writes, "...we can see that Holly's friendships with gay men are one sign of her progressive sexual politics" (2). Holly believed in things that were unconventional and unorthodox. Paul Levine writes that,"...Holly too is a hard-headed romantic, a pragmatic idealist" (351). Holly definitely took delight in her unorthodox ways. Not only did Holly Golightly take delight in her unorthodox ways, but the narrator also took delight in his unorthodox ways.

The narrator was more content with just being himself than he was with fitting the mold. Holly Golightly says that all straight men either like baseball or horses, and in her apartment there are books about horses and baseball. The narrator goes over to the book shelf and pretends to be interested when he says, "Pretending an interest in horseflesh and How to Tell It gave me sufficiently private opportunity for sizing Holly's friends" (Capote 35). If the narrator had liked baseball he would have picked up a book on baseball instead of pretending he liked horses. In other words the narrator is gay, and he is not really concerned with other's thoughts.

Joe Bell is also a different type of character. He owns a bar, pops tums like candy, and takes care of flowers. Joe Bell's hobbies are hockey players, weimaraner dogs, and Gilbert and Sullivan (Capote 4). The narrator even goes on to say that Joe Bell is related to either Gilbert or Sullivan. "Since Sullivan is rumored to be have been a homosexual...the passage slyly hints that the bartender is part of Sullivan's family, a fellow gay man to his beloved composer" (Tison 2). Joe Bell also "arranges flowers with matronly care" (Capote 5). In today's society a masculine straight man does not arrange flowers with matronly care. All three of the main characters took delight in their unorthodox ways.

Quest for Home/Belonging

Holly Golightly is a pure example of someone that is untameable. It's no wonder how she got that way. Doc Golightly, her husband, says, "Story was: their mother died of TB (Tuberculosis), and their papa done the same - and all the churren, a whole raft of 'em, they been sent off to live with different mean people" (Capote 68). From that line it is obvious that Holly Golightly never really had a home. She appears to spend the rest of her time trying to find one.

One home that Holly has is at Tiffany's. Holly says, "It calms me down right away, the quietness and proud look of it; nothing bad could happen to you there, not with those kind of men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets. If I could find a real life place that made me feel like Tiffany's, then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name" (Capote 40). Matthew Cash states that this scene shows Holly's innocence and search for a home (3).

Holly spends much of her time trying to belong to something or someone while at the same time trying not to. Perhaps she had abandonment issues. "On the first night that Holly came to visit the narrator in his appartment she ends up sleeping beside him, showing that Holly needs someone who is comforting instead of lusting toward her" (Cash 4). Perhaps Holly just needed to feel a love that didn't require anything back of her. Holly was human and she desired love, but at the same time she retreated when the narrator asked her why she was crying. Holly jumps up and heads for the window while hollering, "I hate snoops" (Capote 27). Holly had a desire for a home and a place to belong, but she appeared to be very leary of it all.

Never Love a Wild Thing

Holly Golightly considered herself to be wild. She gives Joe Bell this speach and she says, "Never love a wild thing, Mr. Bell...That was Doc's mistake. He was always lugging home wild things. A hawk with a hurt wing. One time it was a full-grown bobcat with a broken leg. But you can't give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get. Until they're strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. then a taller tree. Then the sky. That's how you'll end up, Mr. Bell. If you let yourself love a wild thing. You'll end up looking at the sky" (Capote 74).

Holly goes on to say, "Good luck: and believe me, dearest Doc - it's better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes and things disappear" (Capote 74). In one sentence she is telling Joe Bell not to love a wild thing and in the next she is admitting how unhappy she is. In the beginning of the story Joe Bell admits his love for Holly when he says, "Sure I loved her. But it wasn't that I wanted to touch her" (Capote 9). Maybe Holly knew about Joe Bell's love and was trying to warn him not to love her. While Holly admitted that she was wild she also admitted that she was unhappy.

Joy/Difficulty of Traveling

Holly Golightly is a traveler who is searching for somewhere to call home. She even goes so far as to say:"...home is where you feel at home. I'm still looking," she says (Capote 102). Everything she does throughout the book is based on that very way she looks at life (Cash). "I'll never get used to anything. Anybody that does, they might as well be dead" (Capote 19).

Holly only seems to find happiness for a short time and it is quickly followed by something that drives her away. She has bad memories of almost every step of the way. From her marriage to Doc in Texas to her many male callers in New York, there is always something that drives at her.

Holly's age, inexperience, and lack of direction may contribute to her inability to be happy. Her age is revealed by the narrarator:"I thought her anywhere between sixteen and thirty; as it turned out, she was shy two months of her nineteenth birthday."(Capote 12-13). Her inexperience and young age has her unsure what she really wants out of her life. Holly would finally come to realization after losing her no-name cat. And even at the end of the novel, she is still in search of home.

Major Symbols

Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany's is a jewelry store Holly feels is the best place for her to calm down and feel at home. She explains it as the cure for her "mean reds" to the narrarator (Cash):"What I've found does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany's," Holly says (Capote 40).

Tiffany's also symbolizes what Holly is searching for: a place she feels she belongs. A place she feels no harm can be done to her and she feels safe around men in particular."It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets" (Capote 40).

The "Mean Reds"

The "mean reds" was a reoccuring problem Holly has. The narrarator first associated the "mean reds" with the blues (Cash). Holly is quick to denounce that theory. "No, the blues are because you're getting fat or maybe it's been raining too long. You're sad, that's all. But the mean reds are horrible. You're afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don't know what you're afraid of. Except something bad is going to happen, only you don't know what it is"(Capote 40). The narrarator makes another attempt to give an explanation by calling it angst, claiming everyone feels that same way (Cash). Holly takes the suggestion of Rusty Trawler and smokes marijuana and took an aspirin.

The Fat Lady

The fat lady was the female detective that wore the civilian clothes. The fat lady hair was " thick yellow braids roped around her head." The fat lady detective talk in a baby voice. She told Holly "come along, sister." You're going places." At this time, Holly did not want the fat lady hands touching her. Holly said: "Get them cotton-pickin hands off of me, you dreary,driveling old bull-dyke." This made the fat lady angry, so she slapped Holly so damned hard across her face,her head spinned to her over shoulder. As the detectives started to escort Holly down the stairs, she yells "please feed the cat." Holly refers to death as the fat lady, like the old saying "it ain't over till the fat lady sings".

The Cat

Although Holly tries to act like the cat doesn't really matter to her as a possession, she really does feel that it belongs to her. Holly never really admits this fact until she leaves the cat, then can't find it. "Oh Jesus God. we did belong to each other. He was mine." (Capote 109) The cat is one of the few things that holly truly feels is hers. Every time the cat appears in the story he seems to be the exact opposite of Holly, or acting in a complete opposite manner as Holly. "Her at losing her nameless, battered "slob" of a cat, far from being a sentimental excess on her part (and the narrator's), is an intensely serious expression of profound fear of relinquishment." (Nance) Holly shares a feeling of not belonging and acting on a moments notice with the cat. "Like the ugly tom cat she picks up by the river one day, her existence is improvised" (Hassan) Holly finally shows her fear of "perpetual homelessness" (Hassan) when she drops the cat off in Spanish Harlem, and after not being able to find it says: “I’m very scared, Buster. Yes, at last. Because it could go on forever. Not knowing what's yours until you've thrown it away." (Capote 109)

The Bird Cage

The birdcage first appears in the story wile the narrator is walking down Third Avenue and sees it in the window of an antique store. The cage is described as "a mosque of minarets and bamboo rooms yearning to be filled with talkative parrots." (Capote 15) The narrator likes the cage but doesn’t purchase it because it costs three hundred and fifty dollars. Wile out on Third Avenue with Holly one afternoon the narrator remembers the birdcage and decides to show it to her where upon seeing it Holly "enjoyed the point, its fantasy", and said "But its still a cage." (Capote 55) The narrator is at Holly's apartment for Christmas when she presents him with the cage. "But holly! It's dreadful!" "I couldn't agree more; but I thought you wanted it." The narrator views the cage is dreadful because Holly spent the great amount of money on it as she did, but Holly views it in that manner due to what a cage symbolizes. Holly is a "free spirit" and tries to stay away from the caging of anything either in idea or physically caging something. An example of this would be when Holly is speaking to the narrator and says "A person ought to be able to marry men or women or-listen, if you came to me and said you wanted to hitch up with Man o' War, I'd respect your feeling" (Capote 83) Upon giving the narrator the cage Holly makes him promise to "never put a living thing in it". (Capote 59) In return the narrator gives Holly a Saint Christopher's Metal from Tiffany's.


The somewhat "curious" title Breakfast at Tiffany's was inspired by a man from out-of-town that Capote heard about, who was "ignorant of New York" (Plimpton 161). As Plimpton asserts, when the man was asked to pick from the best restaurants in New York where to eat breakfast, he replied: "Well, let's have breakfast at Tiffany's," which was the only place he knew of (161).

Capote's life had a great deal of influence on the novella. Capote was a teenager when he began writing books, and the narrator also was a writer in his teens. Capote once said, "I always knew that I wanted to be a writer and that I wanted to be rich and famous" (Krebs). The narrator wanted to be a success early in life, and Capote expressed himself in the same sense. He knew "[he] had to be successful, and [he] had to be successful early" (Krebs). Capote turned into an alcholic because of his drinking at a young age. The narrator was also a heavy drinker. Holly and the narrator would go to the bar and drink many times. Capote was also a homosexual; his partner was Jack Dunphy [1]. In the novella, when the narrator is looking through Holly's book collection, he realizes that she only owns books about horses and baseball. The narrator has no interest in either subjuct. Holly mentions her love for horses and explains to the narrator how she does not like baseball at all, but she reads books about it for research purposes. Holly informs the narrator that if a man does not like either subject then she is in trouble any way because he does not like girls. The narrator's life in the novella is almost a mirror image of Capote.

In real life, Truman Capote's mother's name was Lillie Mae [2] which is very similar to the real name he chose to give Holly of Lulamae. It is also interesting that the narrator in the novella is an aspiring writer just as Capote had been when he moved to New York and he also is given the same birthday as Capote which is September 30th.

Some have said that Capote's works were possibly influenced by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, but looking closely to Capote's own life experiences, this novella seems to be solely influenced by his own life with a bit of a flare. He was inspired by the women in his life to create Holly Golightly's character. As Clarke asserts, Capote modeled “his scatty central character...on half a dozen of the charming young beauties he had squired around Manhattan during and after World War II” (64). One woman who likes to take credit for inspiring Holly's character is Doris Lilly, who was like a sister to Capote in his youth. She actually lived in a “brownstone walk-up on East Seventy-eighth Street, exactly [like] the one in the book,” and says “there’s an awful lot of [her] in Holly Golightly” (Lilly 164). Also, Clarke states that "the one Holly most resembles, in spirit if not in body, is her creator. She not only shares his philosophy, but his fears and anxieties as well." (Clarke 313)

One more connection that can be made to see how Capote's own life was a big influence in the writing of the novel is the homosexual references in the book. Capote was a homosexual, one of the first well known people to actually come out and let people know he was a homosexual. This is very substantial, because in 50's and 60's it was not something that people talked about, it was taboo.

Additional Resources

  • Capote, Truman. The Complete Stories of Truman Capote. New York: The Random House Publishing Group, 2004.
  • Garsen, Helen S. Truman Capote. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Company, 1980.
  • Goyen, William. "That Old Valentine Maker." New York Times Book Review. November 1958:5,38.
  • Cash, Mathew. The Breakfast at Tiffany's Homepage - A Critical Analysis. 1996. University of Michigan. 14 March 2006.

Works Cited

  • Capote, Truman. Breakfast at Tiffany's. New York: Vintage Books - A division of Random House, 1993.
  • Cash, Matthew. The Breakfast at Tiffany's Homepage. 1996. University of Michigan. 14 March 2006. <>
  • Clarke, Gerald. Capote: A Biography. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.
  • Clarke, Gerald. Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote. New York: Random House, 2004.
  • Grzesiak, Rich. "My Significant Other, Truman Capote". [3]. 1987.
  • Hassan, Ihab H. "Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature". Vol.1, No.2. Spring, 1960. pp.5-21
  • Krebs, Albin. "Truman Capote Is Dead at 59; Novelist of Style and Clarity". The New York Times on the web. 28 Aug.1984 <>
  • Levine, Paul. Book Review of Breakfeast at Tiffany's/Levine. The Georgia Review.3/(1959): 350-352
  • Lilly, Doris. Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career. Ed. George Plimpton. New York: Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 1997.
  • Nance, Willaim L."The Worlds of Truman Capote, Stein and Day" 1970.Contemporary Literary Criticism.
  • Plimpton, George. Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances,and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career. New York: Doubleday Dell Publishing Group. 1997.
  • Pugh, Tison. Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's. The Explicator. 6/(2002): 51-53