Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories
In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany's; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm. This volume also includes three of Capote's best-known stories, “House of Flowers,” “A Diamond Guitar,” and “A Christmas Memory,” which the Saturday Review called “one of the most moving stories in our language.” It is a tale of two innocents—a small boy and the old woman who is his best friend—whose sweetness contains a hard, sharp kernel of truth.
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The narrative begins with an unnamed narrator. Readers are viewing things from his point of view.
The story takes place around 1943 during WWII. It was the most widespread war in history, and directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries.
As you continue to read, pay attention to the language the author uses to describe male and female characters. When the book was published in 1958, homosexuality was looked at as taboo. Some critics question if Joe Bell himself was a homosexual character. The language Capote uses is androgynous.
Pay particular attention to the image of ice-hockey stars and the arrangement of flowers.Which literary technique is presented in the highlighted text?
Throughout the text, Capote will juxtapose certain ideas, concepts or items to prove a point. Watch the video below to learn more about juxtaposition and how it differs from a similar term, antithesis. (This annotation contains a video)
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. Is there a word on this page you need to look up?
When "Breakfast at Tiffany's was published America encountered racial tension. In the wake of WWII and the dawn of the Korean War, Asian-American relations were particularly negative, and the increasing pressure for civil rights placed African-Americans under intense public scrutiny. It is notable that the opening section of Capote's novella features two important non-white characters: the photographer, Yunioshi, and the African carver, whose name we aren't told. Joe Bell, presumably white, refers to the carver as a "negro", an acceptable term for people of African descent in the 1950s, and to Yunioshi as a "Jap", a derogatory slur for Japanese people.
It is important to note that the novella is considered a frame narrative. This literary technique sometimes serves as a companion piece to a story within a story. For example, we have the narrative of the African carver, Yunioshi, Joel Bell and then the narrator.
The idea of horses and images of horses will reappear throughout this novella. This literary device is called a motif. Watch the video below to learn more about motifs in literature. (This annotation contains a video)
What effect does the frame story have on the reader?
One theme presented in the novella is the diversity of love. See how Capote develops this theme throughout his text. Is friendship stronger than intimate love? Or does sexual love hold more validity?
Capote is using the term coloratura to describe Madame Sapphia Spanella as an opera singer.
Holly's mailbox name is quite peculiar. What could her last name and the words "holiday" and "traveling" symbolize?
Here is a short video from the 1960 version of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" showcasing this particular scene. How does the video compare to the way the scene is described in the text? (This annotation contains a video)
What does a bird cage naturally make the reader think of? The bird cage will appear again in the novella. Pay particular attention to what it may symbolize.
What does the narrator's "observing" Holly's trash instead of talking to her indicate about his character?
What do the words "pineywoods or prairie" indicate about Holly's upbringing?
Holly's brother Fred is fighting in the war, and he is one of the only characters that brings her comfort and security. For the narrator to be called "Fred" indicates a sense of respect for the narrator, unlike the other guys Holly meets.
The juxtaposition of characters emphasizes which of the following themes?
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. (This annotation contains an image)
By referencing Hemingway, Capote is using an allusion. An allusion is a brief and indirect reference to a person, place, thing or idea of historical, cultural, literary or political significance. if you want to learn more about allusions in literature and the different types, watch the video below. It is longer than the usual videos posted, but a good reference. (This annotation contains a video)
Earlier in the novella, the horse motif was present. Here we see a possible reason for why Holly is infatuated with horses. Is it a connection to her brother that she deeply misses?
"Dyke" is the derogatory connotative meaning for lesbian. To learn more about connotation versus denotation, watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following would best replace the word ebbing in the highlighted text?
Both the narrator and Holly are on their own, but they are opposing forces. One takes pride in having an apartment whereas the other takes an elusive approach to living on one's own. Why does Capote structure these characters in this way, and what can/will they learn from each other?
Holly is 18 or 19 years old. This is why the older man is referring to her as a kid.
Pay attention to who is being called and who calls people a phony throughout the text. Who is the real phony in this story?
Here is another reference to horses.
Which of the following is an example of direct characterization?
This paragraph showcases direct characterization. View the clip below to learn more about direct and indirect characterization. (This annotation contains a video)
Here is the first reference to the title of this novella. Think about what this may mean as you continue to read and learn more about the characters.
Explain the symbolic meaning behind the nameless cat and how it relates to one of the story's emerging themes. Use evidence from the text to support your reasoning.
How does Holly's statement reflect her last name? In other words, why does Capote use Golightly as her last name?
Mag stutters often, and it is dramatized by her drunken state.
Holly reveals to her guests that Mag is sick with some type of disease. Some critics believe Holly is referring to a venereal disease.
Explain the meaning behind the highlighted statement: is Mag literally unable to see now?
Holly believes Mag is a fool for taking care of the lease and doing the laundry. What does this say about Holly's character?
How does the narrator feel about Holly's stories in regards to her childhood?
Why can't Holly "bear to see anything in a cage"? What do cages represent, and how would this make Holly weary about zoos?
How does this passage highlight an important theme of the novella?
Chapters 1-6 Quiz
Even though Mildred and Holly differ, the narrator is comparing them to each other by calling them Siamese twins. Pay close attention to why he is doing this. And, for the fun of it, here is the short song clip from "Lady and the Tramp" song by the Siamese cats. Enjoy! (This annotation contains a video)
We know Holly does not like the idea of "caging" animals, but how does the gift of the birdcage symbolize the narrator?
When Christopher put the child on his shoulders he found the child was unbelievably heavy. The child, according to the legend, was Christ carrying the weight of the whole world. This was what made Christopher patron saint of travelers and is invoked against storms, plagues. (This annotation contains an image)
Is Holly the real phony like Berman suggests? She lied about her name; what else may she be lying about?
Pay particular attention to Holly's biological name. Lula and Mae represent southern springtime, whereas her "new" name represents a winter plant.
What is the central meaning behind Holly changing her name?
Capote's mother changed her name from Lille Mae to Nina when she moved to New York. Is Capote using the character of Holly as a reflection of his own mother perhaps?
Capote is using a to compare Holly to .
What effect does the use of imagery in the highlighted text have on the reader?
Holly is now
Fred was her only family left and now Holly feels trapped. Instead of properly grieving, Holly chooses to become a recluse and remove all connections to Fred from her thoughts.
Holly is pregnant! How will this change the events in the novel and her relationship with the narrator?
The narrator compares himself to a moored dock, emphasizing his exclusion from living life.
When an inanimate object is given human-like characteristics, this is called personification. How does the author's use of personification here add meaning to the passage?
Chapters 7-12 Quiz
It is important to note that chapter thirteen does not follow the standard linear narrative. The narrator is telling readers about the arrest before the narrative takes place. Why do you think this is done?
What the newspaper says versus the reality of the situation illustrates which of the following themes?
What does makeup symbolize for Holly?
During this time period, "Maude" was homosexual slang. It refers to either a male prostitute or a homosexual. Some critics believe the narrator is homosexual; therefore, he represents how friendship is stronger than a sexual desire.
Which of the following sentences uses the word cajoled as it appears in the text?
Holly realizes that her cat did mean something to her. The cat has been the only constant thing in Holly's life.
Holly uses these phrases to help her avoid the realities and emotions of life (pain, suffering, happiness, etc.).
Chapters 13-18 Quiz
It is interesting to note that this short story was turned into a musical. The story of the musical concerns two neighboring bordellos that battle for business. One of the prostitutes, Ottilie, turns down a rich lord to marry a poor mountain boy, Royal. Her madam plots to keep her by having Royal sealed in a barrel and tossed into the ocean, but he escapes by taking refuge on the back of a turtle, leading to a happy ending. As you read, think about the similarities and differences between the story and this plot summary of the musical. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on details within the introductory paragraphs, readers can infer Ottilie works as which of the following?
When consonants are repeated it is called alliteration. View the short clip to learn more about alliteration. (This annotation contains a video)
All of the male attention makes Ottilie overly confident. Even though Holly in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was masking her true self, she also appeared to be poised and overly assured. As you continue reading, think of other ways you could compare these two female characters.
In the above annotation, which phrase is an example of alliteration?
The narrative reads almost as a folk lore with superstitions and legends. Why do you think Capote uses this style of writing for his short story?
A cockfight is a blood sport between two roosters (cocks), or more accurately gamecocks, held in a ring called a cockpit.
The highlighted statements crease a sense of
"House of Flowers" Quiz
Turpentine is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from live trees, mainly pine.
Based of the highlighted passage, what can readers indirectly infer about Mr. Schaeffer?
When a story starts in the middle of the narrative it is called in media res. Learn more about this technique in the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
What sparks a change in Mr. Schaeffer's mood?
Many critics believe this story has a homosexual undertone very similar to "Breakfast at Tiffany"s." What statement do you think Capote is possibly trying to make with his literary works?
Which literary term is illustrated in the highlighted text?
After Mr. Schaeffer falls, he thinks his friend would come to his aide, but Tico continues to escape.
"A Diamond Guitar" Quiz
By using "I" statements, readers can infer the story is being told in first person. The positive aspect of first person narration is that the reader gets to know one character intimately. What would the disadvantages be? As you continue reading, think about how point of view impacts meaning in this story.
The "other people" are other family members who live with the narrator. Capote also lived with his four unmarried cousins until he was ten. Why might an author use details from his own background when creating a story?
What can the reader infer about the narrator's friend?
Capote's stories are notorious for having friendships forged among outcasts. What themes about friendship have emerged throughout all of Capote's stories in this book?
Based on the story so far, what theme is beginning to emerge?
"A Christmas Memory" Quiz