How would you describe the character of Buddy in the story "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote?

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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In his short story, “A Christmas Memory,” Truman Capote creates a memorable character through the use of Buddy the narrator. As the grownup Buddy relates this specific memory, we learn that he is kind and reflective character. The story is full of Buddy’s kindnesses to his cousin. He is always a willing accomplice in the fruitcake endeavor, and while he relates habits and behaviors of his cousin that were repeated so frequently he could predict them, he does not do this with a tone of deprecation. Rather y there is love and respect for a gentle soul who was not always treated gently by the other relatives who shared the house. He relates to us his efforts to console his cousin after they both got in trouble for being a little tipsy after polishing off the tiny bit of Haha Jones’s whiskey that remained after the fruitcakes. It is not unusual for a seven year old to have older people as friends, but long after Buddy was sent of to a military school, long after he started to grow up he kept in contact with his cousin. Many people would have simply allowed the relationship to lapse. So when Buddy got word of his cousin’s death, he was heartbroken and felt as if part of him was missing. This is what lead to his carefully and lovingly relayed reflection.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"A Christmas Memory," which has been called "fiction of nostalgia," presents the reader with a perspicacious and sensitive boy named Buddy.

Buddy has a sensitivity and understanding well beyond his young years. For instance, at the mere age of seven, Buddy understands that his distant cousin and friend is "still a child." Much like his eccentric relative, Buddy possesses a vivid imagination and an artistic delight in nature. After they have ventured into the forest to gather pecans for their Christmas fruitcakes, the imaginative and artistic Buddy and his cousin return to the kitchen in order to hull their pecans. Buddy describes their activity in scintillating and lyrical prose, which also reveals his delight in nature: 

Our backs hurt from gathering them: how hard they were to find. . . among the concealing leaves, the frosted, deceiving grass. Caarackle! A cheery crunch, scraps of miniature thunder sound as the shells collapse and the golden mound of sweet oily ivory meat mounts in the milk-glass bowl.

Clearly, Buddy and his cousin share a strong friendship. Both are treated as eccentric outcasts. When his cousin gives him half of the rest of the whisky purchased from HaHa Jones, Buddy describes his "screwed up face" and the sour taste. Soon, though, they are singing and dancing. The other relatives in the house hear them, and two of them enter the kitchen with "[E]yes they scold, tongues that scald. . . words tumbling together into a wrathful tune."

Not surprisingly, then, Buddy and his cousin choose to give the fruitcakes to strangers and their "merest acquaintances [who] seem to us our truest friends" because his cousin is shy with everyone except strangers and is somewhat mistreated by her relatives.

In another example of Buddy's sensitive character he and his cousin's love for each other and for nature, Buddy describes with poignancy his and his cousin's last times together, especially the occasion that they have flown kites together. His cousin speaks of seeing God in nature; not long afterwards, Buddy learns his old cousin has died. As he walks across the campus of the military school where he has been sent, Buddy searches the sky.

As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying toward heaven.

A sensitive, artistic, insightful, and loving boy, Buddy is a boy of great depth and intelligence.


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