Breakfast at Tiffany's Summary

Breakfast at Tiffany's is a novella by Truman Capote in which the narrator recalls how he met the enigmatic Holly Golightly.

  • After hearing that his friend Holly Golightly was seen in Africa, the narrator reminisces about how they met.
  • The narrator met the eccentric Holly while they were living in the same building in New York City, and the two became close friends.
  • Holly is a free spirit whose primary goal is to marry rich.
  • Holly is arrested for ferrying messages between a convicted gangster and his lawyer. She flees to Brazil, and aside from one postcard, the narrator never hears from her again.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 951

The narrator, an established writer, is summoned unexpectedly to a bar, an old haunt, where the bartender, Joe Bell, who shared the narrator’s long-ago fascination with Holly Golightly, has received word about her: She passed through an African village just months earlier. Joe has a photo of an elegant wood carving made by one of the village artisans, and its profile is unmistakably that of Holly Golightly. The photo triggers the narrator’s recollection of the tempestuous year he spent as Holly’s neighbor in a Manhattan brownstone when he first arrived in New York as a struggling writer.

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Everything about the young woman intrigued the narrator when he met her. Holly participated in the flamboyant nightlife of New York’s ritziest restaurants and nightclubs, escorted by a variety of rich and influential men. She exhibited an elegant goofiness and a casual sexiness. She was fond of a stray cat that she adopted but never named. Her background was mysterious, involving time spent in Hollywood as a promising starlet, and she would lapse into inexplicable bouts of melancholy. She was devoted to to brother, a soldier stationed overseas.

The narrator was particularly puzzled about Holly’s source of income. She clearly had no problem securing money from the men she dated, but he could not tell whether or not she was a prostitute. She visited Sally Tomato, a notorious gangster, each Thursday in Sing Sing Prison and brought back cryptic messages about the weather to his lawyer in return for one hundred dollars. When Holly read some of the narrator’s fiction, she tried to encourage her Hollywood friends to give his writing their attention, even though she disdained his writing because it lacked story and character and was too atmospheric and experimental.

Although she was a free spirit, marrying a rich man was Holly’s preeminent ambition—she told the narrator that when she felt what she called “red meanies,” a soul-deep anxiety about her life and its evident drift, she loved to roam among the swanky displays at Tiffany’s jewelry store, where she felt safe and at home. She tested the possibility of marrying Rusty Trawler, a gay millionaire looking to secure a wife for appearance’s sake, but when that fell through, she set her sights on José Ybarra-Jaegar, a rich Brazilian with ambitions to become Brazil’s president. As he tells her story, however, it becomes clear that the narrator himself was falling under Holly’s spell. When he received news that he had sold his first story, he shared the news first with Holly and they spent a romantic day celebrating.

In early spring, the writer had a chance encounter with a fiftyish stranger outside the brownstone. The man identified himself as Holly’s husband, Doc Golightly, a veterinarian from Texas, and he told the stunned narrator about Holly’s past: She and her brother had run away from an impoverished life with an abusive foster father in rural Texas. She had married Doc Golightly when she was only fourteen and had helped raise his children from a previous marriage for nearly three years, until one day she simply walked away. Doc had tracked down Holly, whom he knew as Lulamae Barnes, to...

(The entire section contains 951 words.)

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