What are a three symbols that can be found in "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As an example of "fiction of nostalgia," Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory" is a fondly melancholic recollection of his friendship with an older child-like cousin with whom he baked fruitcakes each Christmas.  The preparation and the baking became a traditional act for Buddy and his friend.

In this story of memories, there are items that attain symbolic meaning.  Here are three:

1.  the baby carriage The dilapidated baby carriage symbolizes Buddy's friendship with his cousin, an older, worn, child-like cousin of his who is in her sixties.  She is neglected now by others in the family, but each year Buddy interacts with her as they bake fruitcakes to give to strangers.  As the buggy was purchased for Buddy, it remains "a faithful object" that holds whatever Buddy and his cousin need to tote, unifying the two friends in their actions.

2.  the fruitcakes The act of purchasing the whiskey for the cakes and then the actual baking of the fruitcakes is a ritual that Buddy and his cousin follow every year.  The baking of the cakes is symbolic of Buddy and his cousin's act of love for others as  they give them to strangers. By giving the cakes to strangers, Buddy's cousin then accumulates thank-you notes from the White House, California, Borneo, etc. About these acts, Buddy reflects,

Is it because my friend is shy with everyone except strangers that these strangers, and merest acquaintances, seem to us our truest friends?  I think yes.

Buddy and his cousin both are "fruitcakes" ( old American slang for odd people or social outcasts), and their sending the cakes to strangers indicates their timidity.

3. the kites The kites are gifts that Buddy and his friend give each other--she because she had to sell her cameo and has had no money with which to buy him a bicycle, Buddy because he cannot buy her a pearl-handled knife, or a radio.  Thus, the kites represent the free expression that lies within their hearts and their spirits.  As Buddy and his cousin "sprawl in the grass and...watch...kites cavort," the kites represent the innocent imagination of the two friends as well as their love that is freely given expression with each other.

Sadly, when Buddy is informed of the death of his cousin, he feels his loving friendship severed, "an irreplaceable part of myself, letting loose like a kite on a broken string." And it is with great melancholy that on a December monring he searches the sky,

As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying toward heaven.

For Buddy, the wind blows no more.  But his bittersweet memories evoke much emotion of a love he cherished in "A Christmas Memory."

Read the study guide:
A Christmas Memory

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