Breakfast at Tiffany's Section 5

From LitWiki


The protagonist begins working a nine to five job and, as a result, sees less of Holly Golightly. Capote first gave his character the name of Connie Gustafson, obviously inappropriate, he changed it to be more symbolic of her personality (Golightly was played by Audrey Hepburn in Hollywood's version of Breakfast at Tiffany's)(Cash 1).

One day, he sees Holly walking into a library and lets his curiosity get the best of him. He observes her without her knowledge, and when she leaves he examines the books on her table. He discovers that she is reading up on Brazil. Watching her read, the narrator compares her to a girl he knew in school, Mildred Grossman. Although they were totally opposite fromm each other, the protagonist compares them to Siamese twins. The very thing that makes them so alike is that they are so different from anyone the narrator has ever met, and that "they would never change because they'd been given their character too soon" (58). One is intraverted and practical; the other is extraverted and impractical.

The narration shifts to a party on Christmas Eve in Holly's apartment. The narrator is asked to come over and help trim the Christmas tree. Holly gives the narrator an expensive, antique bird cage for Christmas; he gives Holly a St. Christopher's medal from Tiffany's. The cost of the bird cage is three hundred and fifty dollars. Holly does not seem bothered by the cost, she makes just a few extra trips to the powder room so she could afford the bird cage.

In February, Holly, Rusty, Mag, and José take a trip to the tropics. In Key West, Mag becomes severely sunburned, and Rusty is injured in a fight with some sailors. Both are hospitalized, so José and Holly travel to Havana. Mag becomes suspicious that José and Holly are sleeping together, so Holly tells Mag that she is a lesbian. Holly recounts these events as the protagonist gives her a back massage. Mag goes out and buys an army cot to sleep on so she will not have to share the bed with a lesbian. Holly informs the narrator that she has given O.J. Berman a copy of the narrator's story without his consent. Bernam publishes the story in the University Review. They become engaged in an argument, the protagonist is tempted to hit Holly, and Holly throws the narrator out of her apartment: "It should take you about four seconds to walk from here to the door. I'll give you two" (63).


  • hither (55) - to this place (seldom used except in poetry and legal papers).
  • yonning (55) - distant but in sight. From yon.
  • overhaul (58) - a major repair or revision.
  • Rockefeller Plaza (59) - A place where people gathered to celebrate the biggest, brightest Christmas tree of all. Celebrated since 1933.
  • tinsel (59) - a thread, strip, or sheet of metal, paper, or plastic used to produce a glittering and sparkling appearance in fabrics, yarns, or decorations.
  • baubles (59) - Christmas ornaments that are decorations (usually made of glass, metal, wood or ceramics) that are used to festoon a Christmas tree.
  • St. Christopher's Medal
    St. Christopher's medal (59) - a small medallion depicting the patron saint against lightning; against pestilence; archers; automobile drivers; automobilists; bachelors, etc.
  • Woolworth (59) - one of the first five and dime stores. Woolworth's is now known as Footlocker.
  • "Wuthering Heights" - a novel published in 1847 by Emily Bronte. Heights was not accepted by most at first, even by Bronte's sister, but is now regarded as a masterpeice.


Self-deception is not one of Holly's failings, although she is an extraordinary liar. It doesn't trouble her to beguile others when it suits her purpose. She constructs a world around her to make things as pleasant as she can, inventing stories when the truth is too painful to discuss. Berman, who calls Holly a "phony", modifies it to "a real phony," because, he claims, "she believes all this crap she believes." The narrator doesn't think of Holly that way (Garson 82).

Since her moral code differs from that of society, Holly has no qualms about lying. To protect herself or to keep people from getting too close, or from knowing too much about her, she fabricates. She fictionalizes when reality is grim and threatens to bring on the "blues" (sadness), or the "mean reds" (fear/angst). Unwilling to share her memories of her early life. Holly invents a beautiful fantasy childhood for herself when the narrator tells her of his own unhappy boyhood. Holly also lies when a situation is not to her liking. At the first party, when an acquaintance, Mag Wildwood, barges in and draws the attention of all the men, Holly retaliates by insinuating that Mag has a terrible disease. Another time, to keep Mag from learning that she has slept with Mag's lover, Jose, Holly breezily pretends she is a lesbian, partly to deceive Mag and partly for the humor of the deception (Garson 82, 83).

Holly's moral code and the fact that she is a real phony are exemplified in this section when she goes to the library and reads through books about Brazil and South America. Holly is trying to morph herself into a person from South America and this is our first clue that Holly is planning on going back to Brazil with Jose (whether Jose knows this or not is not presented to us). I believe this is what O.J. means by a "real phony". She is definitely not from Brazil, or even South America, but by the time she makes it there, she will be able to act like she has lived there all her life, as shown to us by the way she could change from a farm-raised girl to a Hollywood actress to a New York freeloader. But we must sympathize with Holly, for like Hassan points out, "even Holly's incorrigible tomcat finds at last a home with potted palms and lace curtains, a home and a name; but for Holly the narrator can only pray that she may be granted, sometime, somewhere, the same" (5-21).

Capote himself was a storyteller. Nance claims Holly's "brief presence in Capote's life was his own breakfast at Tiffany's, his taste of the idyll which always vanishes, leaving pain" (122-23).

Study Questions

  1. Why does Holly pretend to be a lesbian?
  2. What makes Holly an extraordinary liar?
  3. Why is Holly unwilling to share memories from her childhood?
  4. Is Mag Wildwood really a lesbian?
  5. Do the sailors beat up Rusty Trawler because he is a homosexual?
  6. Does the narrator believe Holly is a prostitute?
  7. Why does Holly surround herself with gay men?
  8. Why is Holly only able to show emotion when her sunglasses are off?
  9. Because the narrator makes numerous comments on Jose attributes, is he attracted to him?
  10. What is the significance of the birdcage or the St. Christopher's medal?
  11. Is Holly to be judged by her sexual exploits?

Works Cited

Section four | Breakfast at Tiffany's | Section six