In the story "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote, what are the character traits of Buddy's friend, the older woman?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Buddy's friend and cousin Sook is an older woman who has lived a life of unmarried dependency in her family's home. She is looked down upon by the adult members of the family as childlike, but Buddy is able to appreciate her true worth.

Sook is a kind and generous-hearted person. Her desire to bake fruitcakes and send them to people she admires all over the country, including President Roosevelt, shows her giving spirit. She is poor, and yet she is willing to pour herself out generously to show her appreciation to more privileged people. She makes Christmas presents for her relatives, even though they are not always kind to her, and she even makes sure Queenie the dog has a Christmas bone.

Her sharing the last of the fruitcake whiskey with Buddy and Queenie also shows her generous spirit, although the relatives harshly condemn her for it.

Sook reveals determination in raising the money to bake and mail the fruitcakes. She doesn't let being poor defeat her, and she doesn't ask her relatives for the money she needs. Instead, she and Buddy, who follows her lead, work and use their ingenuity to raise the money they need. They kill flies at a rate of 25 for a penny, they sell homemade jam, they set up a "fun and freak" museum that lasts until the mutant chicken that is their star attraction dies, and they enter contests to try to win prize money. Sook is also tireless in gathering supplies for her fruitcakes and in finding a Christmas tree in the woods that takes "thirty hatchet strokes" before she gets it.

Sook's life has been sheltered and often sad. She is a sensitive person who is hurt when her relatives scold her. But despite all her adversity and all the limitations that have been placed upon her, her prevailing characteristic is her joyful ability to make the best of her circumstances and to love life. As she says to Buddy, she doesn't have to wait to see the joy brought by God after death because she is experiencing it that Christmas day with Buddy in this life:

I've always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that when he came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don't know it's getting dark. And it's been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling. But I'll wager it never happens. I'll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are"—her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass and Queenie pawing earth over her bone—"just what they've always seen, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes."

kathynichols eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Buddy’s friend, who is actually never named, is an interesting combination of innocence and wisdom. Although in her sixties, she is still like a child both in her actions and experience. Her life has been so sheltered that she has never been to a movie or eaten in a restaurant. She does, however, appreciate the beauty of nature and she passes this appreciation to her seven-year-old cousin. In addition to this “simple wisdom,” she possesses the magical quality of taming hummingbirds, but she doesn’t know that it’s a bad idea to give whiskey to a child. She has the courage to venture into the “sinful” territory of Mr. Haha Jones, but she is brought to tears by “Those Who Know Best,” the two relatives who seem to be in charge. These contradictory characteristics make Buddy’s friend realistic in spite of the nostalgic tone of the piece – a tone that could have made her too good to be true.

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A Christmas Memory

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