Truman Capote (1924-84) rose to international prominence in 1948
with the publication of his debut novel, Other Voices,
. His other works of fiction include
Breakfast at Tiffany''s, A Tree
of Night, The Grass
and Summer Crossing
author''s long-lost first novel, which was rediscovered in 2004 and
published by Random House in 2005. He is also the author of
Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman
. His nonfiction novel In Cold
is widely considered one of the greatest books of
the twentieth century.
A. Breakfast at Tiffany's
1. The story begins when the bartender Joe Bell and the narrator
talk about Mr. Yunioshi's report that Holly Golightly had been
living in Africa. What aura does the opening chapter lend to
the character of Holly? What feelings does Holly evoke in Joe
2. What does Holly mean by her advice about powder-room change to
Sid Arbuck, when she refuses to let him into her apartment (12,
21)? Holly tells the narrator, "I've simply trained
myself to like older men, and it was the smartest thing I ever did"
(16). Why has she trained herself? How does Holly
3. Holly decides to call the narrator "Fred" after her
brother. Why, after her brother's death, does she stop
calling him Fred (63)?
4. O. J. Berman tells the narrator that Holly is a phony.
What does he mean? Why has she decided not to become a
Hollywood actress (24-25, 31)?
5. What does Holly mean by "the mean reds"? Why does
Tiffany's, the luxury jewelry store on Fifth Avenue, make her feel
6. When the narrator and Holly tell each other stories about their
childhoods, Holly admits that hers is untrue (43-44). Is
Holly dishonest, or is she, like the narrator, a kind of
storytelling artist? How would you describe Holly's approach
7. Why is Rusty Trawler a good choice as a boyfriend for
Holly? Why does Holly allow the narrator to see her in the
bathtub and in other states of undress? What is assumed but
never stated about his sexuality?
8. The story takes a surprising turn with the arrival of Doc
Golightly. How is he described? How do his story, and
the photograph he shows the narrator, transform your understanding
of Holly and her past (52-56)?
9. Holly has transformed herself into a stylish New Yorker, but
how much is she still attached to her past? How does Holly
explain her feelings for Doc (58)? How does she react to the
death of her brother Fred (63-67)?
10. The narrator sees a birdcage in an antique shop, and later
Holly buys it for him as a surprise gift, but tells him never to
keep a living thing in it (47). Later, she tells Joe Bell,
"Never love a wild thing, Mr. Bell" (59). Does Holly imply
anything about herself and her relationships with these
11. Holly explains her ideas about ethics: "It's a bore, but the
answer is good things only happen to you if you're good.
Good? Honest is more what I mean. Not law-type
honest...but unto-thyself-type honest. Be anything but a
coward, a pretender, an emotional crook, a whore: I'd rather have
cancer than a dishonest heart" (66). Would you agree?
Does Holly have a high standard of behavior for herself?
12. While Holly seems genuinely to care about the narrator, she
seems to have no other real friends. At the party, she makes
the gathering of men understand that Mag Wildwood has a sexually
transmitted disease (36). Does her opportunism with
regard to the rich men in her life also extend to
Mag? Does she see Mag as a rival? Why then
does she decide to let Meg move in with her (42)?
13. The narrator describes a walk with Holly to Chinatown, a chow
mein supper and a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. "On the
bridge, as we watched the seaward-moving ships pass between the
cliffs of burning skyline," she tells him that many years hence,
she will bring her "nine Brazilian brats" back to see New York
(67). Why is the narrator sad at this moment? Is theirs
an ideal friendship?
14. We are reminded of the suffering in Holly's life when she
loses "the heir," when José leaves her, and when she tells the
narrator about her hallucinations of "the fat woman" after Fred's
death (77-82). Considering what Holly has been through in her
earlier life and the fact that she is now under criminal
indictment, what do you think of her attitude toward her
15. During the drive to the airport, Holly lets her cat out onto
the street and then regrets it. The narrator fulfills his
promise to find the cat-who has a new home-and he completes the
tale with the hope that Holly, too, has arrived where she
belongs. Capote told The Paris Review, "Finding the
right form for your story is simply to realize the most
natural way of telling the story. The test of whether or
not a writer has divined the natural shape of his story is just
this: after reading it, can you imagine it differently, or does it
silence your imagination and seem to you absolute and final?"
Is Breakfast at Tiffany's an example of Capote's
ideal? Do you find the story's structure, with its
interlocking beginning and ending, satisfying?
16. Norman Mailer wrote, "Truman Capote is the most perfect writer
of my generation. He writes the best sentences word for word,
rhythm upon rhythm." Ask each person in your group to choose
a favorite sentence, and discuss why Capote is such a great prose
B. "House of Flowers"
1. Why are Rosita and Baby surprised that Ottilie will not return
to the city with them?
Why is it significant to their bond that Royal and Ottilie are
both country people, and both believe in voodoo? Why does she
stay with him after he has punished her?
C. "A Diamond Guitar"
1. Given the description of Mr. Schaeffer (111-112), why do you
think he is drawn to Tico Feo? What details of description
and character intensify the emotion of this love story?
D. "A Christmas Memory"
1. How does the scarcity of money bring out the creativity and
generosity in these two friends?
2. The old woman realizes, after they fly their kites
together, that she doesn't have to wait for death to see divinity:
"I'll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already
shown Himself. That things as they are...just what they've
always seen, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the
world with today in my eyes" (141). Why is this insight
especially relevant on Christmas? Why, when the boy later
hears the news of her death, does he feel that it as "sever[s] from
me an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite on
a broken string" (142)?