Breakfast at Tiffany's Section 12

From LitWiki


Against both the narrator and Joe Bell's wishes, Holly decides to leave for Rio, Brazil.

Holly waits at the bar while Joe Bell delivers her request to the narrator to gather her things, including her cat, and bring them to her at Joe Bell's bar. Though refusing to partake in a drink to Holly's departure, Bell arranges for a limousine to take Holly to the airport.

On the way to the airport, Holly drops the cat off on a street block in Spanish Harlem, and leaves him there. At a stop light a block away, she realizes that she and the cat do belong to one another. She jumps out of the car and runs back to look for him. When she is unable to find him, the narrator promises her that he will find and take care of the cat. Just before Holly gets into the limousine, she tells the narrator that she is scared. "I'm very scared Buster. Yes, at last. Because it could go on forever. Not knowing whats yours until you've thrown it away." (Capote 109) Holly "sinks" back in the limousine seat and leaves for the airport to go to Brazil. That was the last time the narrator saw Holly.


  • Squall (104) - A brief sudden violent windstorm, often accompanied by rain or snow.
  • Inclement (105) - severe, unrelenting; cruel
  • Poignant (105) - Neat, skillful
  • Lark (105) - A carefree or spirited adventure.
  • Nancy's Landing (105)- Fictional town created by Capote. "Nancy's Landing," serves as Capote's code phrase for a gay resort, a make-believe, southern Fire Island or Provincetown. Thus, the narrator's coy rejoinder that the reader should "[n]ever mind why" he made the trip appears as a subtle move to direct attention away from his self-confession.
  • Bon voyage (106)- French, literally translated as "good journey".
  • Oompahpah (106)- A repeating rhythmic bass accompaniment.
  • Rhapsodic (106)- Emotional and extravagant music.
  • Spanish Harlem(107)- Also known as East Harlem or El Barrio, a neighborhood in northeastern part of the borough of Manhattan, one of the largest predominantly Hispanic communities in New York City. Since the 1950s, it has been populated by a large number of people of Puerto Rican descent, sometimes called Nuyoricans. In recent years the neighborhood has also become home to many Mexican American immigrants.
  • Hope Chest (106)- A chest used by a young woman for clothing and household goods, such as linens and silver, in anticipation of marriage.
  • Slap dash (107) - In a reckless haphazard manner; hasty and careless
  • The fat woman (109) - Death


Friday night, the day before departure, is described as ‘red,’ perhaps a parallel to the mean reds Holly must be feeling in anticipation of her journey to Brazil. Saturday itself, however, was under such a heavy rain it was questionable that a plane could take off. It is a fine forecast and foreshadowing of her grief to follow in this chapter.

Holly, against the wishes of the narrator and Joe Bell, continued to make her plans to leave. After being discharged from the hospital, she promptly went to a bank and then to Joe Bell’s bar. Bell himself delivered Holly’s message to the narrator, requesting that he gather the majority of her things (her jewelry, guitar, toothbrushes and stuff, bottle of hundred-year-old brandy, and the cat) from her apartment since it was under surveillance by police, reporters, and/or other interested parties, suggesting that perhaps they could be linked to Tomato.

On the way to Bell’s from the brownstone, the narrator reminisces about a time he walked nearly 500 miles from New Orleans to Nancy’s Landing, Mississippi, referencing it as a “light-hearted lark compared to the journey to Joe Bell’s bar” (p.105). We understand that the walk from the brownstone to the bar would be stressful; partly because the paper sacks he carried were falling apart and items were falling to the ground, but also because he feared being caught aiding an ‘outlaw.’ Comparing Nancy’s Landing to such a trying time suggests there is more to be known regarding the nature of his trip. Per The Explicator, “According to A Dictionary of the Underworld, "Nancy" refers either to the posterior or to "an effeminate man, especially a passive homosexual." "Nancy's Landing," then serves as Capote's code phrase for a gay resort...” The narrator’s lack of explanation for his journey is strongly suggestive of his homosexuality which plays into one of the underlying themes of BaT.

Though vehemently refusing to drink the hundred-year-old brandy with the narrator and Holly, Bell did call for a limousine to take Holly to the airport. Holly had the chauffer stop on a curb in Spanish Harlem where she stepped out of the limousine with the cat. She commences to have a one way conversation with the cat, seemingly trying to convince herself more than anyone, that this was the right place for him. She dropped him to the ground, and even after yelling and stomping her foot, he merely looked at her and rubbed against her leg. She jumped into the limousine only to go a block, and at a traffic light opened the door and ran back to attempt to find him. She realizes that they did belong to one another. Although Holly holds contempt for cages, the relationship with her cat is "symbolic of Holly's divided beliefs... (p.86, Garson)" She realizes that they did belong to one another, and illustrates how she longs to settle down and have a home. There is also a touch of irony in this situation; according to Garson her reason for ridding herself and the treatment of the cat "parallel Jose's treatment of Holly" (p86).

Unable to find the lost cat, the narrator promises Holly that he will find the cat and take care of him. She is not comforted by this, she instead “confesses her most private, deep-seated fear of what her life will always be: “Not knowing what’s yours until you’ve thrown it away. (p 86, Garson)” This demonstrates the author's wishful thinking. Wouldn't it be grand if everyone who left us felt remorse, especially our parents? The author capote was frequently abandoned as a child.(Clark 14) Here he gives Holly appropiate remorse for leaving a cat to fend for itself.

One of the underlying themes presented in this section is a heightened awareness of homosexuality of the narrator and Joe Bell. The first example is the narrator's reference to Nancy's Landing in comparison to his trip to Joe Bell's bar:

"Never mind why, but once I walked from New Orleans to Nancy's Landing, Mississippi, just under five hundred miles. It was a light-hearted lark compared to the journey to Joe Bell's bar" (105).

Nancy's Landing is a fictional place, a gay resort invented by Capote. The fact that he doesn't give a reason for the journey suggest that he intends to put the idea out there, without revealing too much about himself.

Joe Bell's homosexuality is apparant in the list of his passions, which include hockey, soap operas, and flower arranging. He also appreciates horses and baseball. His interest are a bit confusing, but shows that people cannot be stereotyped. All the characteristics suggest that he is gay, but the idea of horses and baseball as a key to heterosexuality presents cofusion to the reader.

"Our Gal Sunday (a soap serial he had listened to for fifteen years), and Gilbert and Sullivan," both of which indicate less stereotypically masculine aspects to his character. Capote develops the reference to Gilbert and Sullivan further, noting that "[Bell] claims to be related to one or the other, I can't remember which" (4). Since Sullivan is rumored to have been a homosexual because of the many coded references to sexual partners in his diaries, the passage slyly hints that the bartender is part of Sullivan's "family," a fellow gay man to his beloved composer." (Pugh)

Study Questions

  1. What are the five items that Holly requests from her apartment?
  2. What does the narrator use to transport the cat?
  3. How is Holly transported to the airport?
  4. Who arranges the transportation to the airport for Holly?
  5. Where is the cat abandoned?
  6. What is Joe Bell's reaction to the news that Holly is leaving?
  7. Where is Holly planning to go?
  8. What does Holly ask the narrator to do after she goes back and cannot find her cat?
  9. Why does Holly feel remorse about leaving the cat?
  10. Does she feel remorseful for leaving anyone else?
  11. What does the narrator think when he finds the cat?
  12. What does Holly ask Joe Bell to do for her?
  13. Where does the narrator find Holly's cat?

External Resources

Works Cited

  • Capote, Truman. Breakfast at Tiffany's. New York: Vintage Books. 1993.
  • Clarke, Gerald. Capote: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1988.
  • Garson, Helen S. Truman Capote. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., Inc., 1980.

Section eleven | Breakfast at Tiffany's | Section thirteen