Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a frame narrative. That is, it is a tale told as a recollection years after the narrative’s central events. Inevitably in such narratives, the ostensible subject of the memory—in this case the eccentric, charismatic socialite Holly Golightly—remains an impenetrable mystery, while the character of the narrator—in this case, a struggling writer mesmerized by the dazzling Holly—clearly emerges and becomes the central focus of the narrative.
Perhaps because the narrator is himself so taken by the mesmerizing character of Holly Golightly, many readers initially focus on Holly Golightly as the clear narrative center of the work. This reaction may be heightened by the tremendous impact the novel’s 1961 film adaptation had on popular culture—the film was squarely centered on the elegant flightiness of Audrey Hepburn as Holly. As her allegorical name suggests, Holly embodies the reckless free spirit. Although the free spirit had been celebrated in American literature since Huck Finn, Truman Capote’s creation shattered conventional assumptions. Holly is a woman who is frank about her sexual appetites, who freely uses men to maintain her lifestyle, and who resists the traditional fulfillment of marriage and child-rearing.
A paradox, at once narcissistic and compassionate, willful and vulnerable, Holly Golightly defies imprisonment within social convention and the dreary responsibilities of family and...
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