What images and mood does Capote use to place the reader in the kitchen setting of "A Christmas Memory"?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory," the author drives the reader along with a heaping "buggyload of windfall pecans" into the kitchen.  With sound, smell, and sight images he recreates the scene:

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.

Queenie, the little fiesty rat terrier also smells the treats and begs; Capote's friend sneaks him a tidbit.  But, they must not give him too many as they will not have enough for thirty cakes.  While they work, the kitchen darkens, turning the

window into a mirror:  our reflection mingle with the rising moon as we work by the fireside in the firelight.  At last, when the moon is quite high, we toss the final hull into the fire and, with joined sighs, watch it catch flame.  The buggy is empty, the bowl is brimful.

Not only does Capote's beautiful prose create sensory images, but it speaks to the heart as the reader pictures the two friends in communion with one another as they watch the flame, creating a heart-warming mood--perfect for Christmas!

mkcapen1's profile pic

mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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In the very beginning of the story Capote begins placing the reader in the kitchen of days long gone now. The reader has an image of a large farm house with a stove dominating the kitchen.  Since kitchens in this era do not have a fireplace it is interesting to think back on a time when people would sit rocking and warming themselves by the fire.

"Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar."

Buddy and his elderly cousin, Miss Sook, have been shelling pecans for fruitcake.  They stop when they are done.  They had worked well into the night.

"The kitchen is growing dark. Dusk turns the window into a mirror: our reflections mingle with the rising moon as we work by the fireside in the firelight. At last, when the moon is quite high, we toss the final hull into the fire and, with joined sighs, watch it catch flame."

During the baking process the kitchen is alive with actions, warmth, and smells of sweet goods.

"The black stove, stoked with coal and firewood, glows like a lighted pumpkin. Eggbeaters whirl, spoons spin round in bowls of butter and sugar, vanilla sweetens the air, ginger spices it; melting, nose-tingling odors saturate the kitchen, suffuse the house, drift out to the world on puffs of chimney smoke. In four days our work is done. Thirty-one cakes, dampened with whiskey, bask on windowsills and shelves."

Capote has taken the reader back in time to partake of the Christmas baking.

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