Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Here, as in a number of other stories, Capote has blended humor and nostalgia. Much that is humorous in his fiction comes through his variation of the “tall tale,” that is, the exaggeration of details in both plot and character. With only a few exceptions, the characters in the story have humorous qualities. One comic episode follows another: Miss Bobbit’s quaint mixture of French and English; her platonic massage of Billy Bob; the war that she and Rosalba conduct against the dogs of the town. The behavior of the boys is equally funny as they attempt to gain the love of the wondrous Miss Lily Jane Bobbit.

The comedy, though an integral part of the story, is finally less important than the sweet-sadness, the nostalgic element in the telling of the tale. Through the use of memory, the narrator captures, as if in a bottle or a glass, the perfect moment, the brief, lost world of childhood. However, at the same time that the past is caught forever, there is the counterpoint of the transient images, which add both joyfulness and melancholy to the story.

Typical of Capote’s imagistic style, light and color flicker everywhere. At nightfall, birds swoop, fireflies dart among the leaves, and the swift movements and brief moments of light in darkness becoming symbolic of Miss Bobbit herself. The irises bloom only briefly. The scent of roses, sweet shrub, and wisteria perfumes the air. For a time it is as though summer will never end. Furthermore, the story is a summer story; in spite of the fact that a year passes, other seasons seem unimportant.

Miss Bobbit arrives in summer and dies at the same time the following year. Winter, symbolic of time and age, never touches her. Dressed in white as she runs toward her death, she has a Communion look, an image that captures purity and innocence in endless time. A fine mist of rain is falling as she moves joyfully toward twin bouquets of yellow roses, the rain the final emblem of nostalgia and irredeemable time.

Children on Their Birthdays Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Bloom, Harold, ed. Truman Capote. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2003.

Brinnin, John Malcolm. Truman Capote: Dear Heart, Old Buddy. Rev. ed. New York: Delacorte Press, 1986.

Clarke, Gerald. Capote: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.

Dunphy, Jack.“Dear Genius”: A Memoir of My Life with Truman Capote. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1989.

Garson, Helen S. Truman Capote: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1992.

Plimpton, George. Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career. New York: Doubleday, 1997.

Rudisill, Marie. The Southern Haunting of Truman Capote. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland House, 2000.

Windham, Donald. Lost Friendships: A Memoir of Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and Others. New York: William Morrow, 1987.