How do the shifts in tone in "A Christmas Memory" reflect Buddy's coming of age at the end of the story?   

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As often happens in first person narratives about childhood, the perspective will shift from what the person experienced as a child to what the person experiences as an adult looking back with a broader awareness of the world.

Most of this story is told through the eyes of the child Buddy as it unfolds in the Depression era. It is the nuts and bolts tale of how he and Sook, his older cousin and friend, raise money and gather supplies to make Sook's Christmas fruit cakes, which she sends to people she admires, such as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Through his child's eyes, Buddy conveys an innocent, non-judgmental love of Sook and a whole-hearted interest in her activities, communicated with a child's innocence. He never thinks, as an adult might, that Sook's activities are pointless. He also interacts with her in a simple, open-hearted way. For instance, when the relatives scold Sook for giving whiskey to a child, Buddy tries to comfort her as a child would, without trying to analyze the situation:

"Don't cry," I say, sitting at the bottom of her bed and shivering despite my flannel nightgown that smells of last winter's cough syrup, "Don't cry," I beg, teasing her toes, tickling her feet, "you're too old for that."

However, after Buddy is sent away to the military academy, he begins to grow up and his perspective matures. When he hears of Sook's death at the end, he is able to evaluate it in more adult terms, as can be seen by the language he uses. Sook's death, for example, he understands as "severing from me an irreplaceable part of myself," showing that he now perceives the deep influence she has had on him.

And when that happens, I know it. A message saying so merely confirms a piece of news some secret vein had already received, severing from me an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite on a broken string. That is why, walking across a school campus on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying toward heaven.

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Truman Capote changes the tone of his nostalgic short story “A Christmas Memory” with two lines. “This is our last Christmas together.” “Life separates us.” These lines signal the end of Buddy’s childhood and his move into young adulthood. These lines delineate the portion of the story that describes Buddy’s childhood relationship with his friend and the next step in his life when the adults have decided that he needs to be in military school.

The story becomes melancholy as Buddy realizes that his friend is deteriorating. They stay in correspondence and it becomes evident that his friend is becoming increasingly confused as she keeps him apprised of what is happening in their childhood home. When his friend dies, Buddy realizes that his childhood is over.

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