Breakfast at Tiffany's

by Truman Capote

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Breakfast at Tiffany's Characters

The main characters in Breakfast at Tiffany's are Holly Golightly, the narrator, Fred, Mag Wildwood, Rusty Trawler, Jose Ybarra-Jaegar, and Doc Golightly.

  • Holly Golightly is a freespirited woman who captivates every man she meets.
  • The narrator is a writer who befriends Holly. Holly initially calls him "Fred" because he reminds her of her brother.
  • Fred is Holly's brother, who dies in the war overseas.
  • Mag Wildwood is a fashion model and Holly's roommate.
  • Rusty Trawler is a carefree playboy who briefly dates Holly.
  • Jose Ybarra-Jaegar is a Brazilian diplomat Holly hopes to marry. However, Jose abandons her when she is arrested.
  • Doc Golightly is Holly's estranged husband.

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While the novel focuses upon Holly Golighdy, the defining point of view is that of the unnamed narrator, whom Holly initially calls Fred because he reminds her of her brother. After the original Fred is killed in action during World War II, Holly never uses that name again, referring to the narrator only as Buster. As the frame story establishes, this is a retrospective narrative in which "Fred" recalls not only his friendship with Holly but his own introduction to New York City. Now a successful writer, he recalls his initial attempts to publish his stories— and Holly's distinct lack of enthusiasm for the type of fiction he was writing. Clearly he still feels a kind of affection for her, but he cannot completely approve of her behavior. Even in his youth, he is at heart a conformist, unwilling to flout society's rules as she does, and his reaction to Joe Bell's news suggests that he believes nothing good could have come of her careless disregard for law and convention. Yet there is a kind of kinship between these two outsiders. He also cannot resist the appeal of this free spirit; so, against his better judgment, he helps her evade the law, and—although appalled when she seems to "discard" her cat, he keeps his promise to Holly, searching until he finds the cat and knows that it at least has found a home. By discarding her cat, Holly cuts all her New York ties.

The story truly belongs to Holly Golightly, however. The card on her door identifies her as Holiday Golightly, suggesting an association with both pleasure and freedom. The same card describes her occupation as "Traveling," and that has been the defining pattern of her life. The narrator quickly discovers her reluctance to reveal much of her past; so most of the information he gathers comes from men who have tried to "cage" her—men like the Hollywood agent O. J. Berman and Holly's husband, Doc Golightly. Both of these men represent stopovers in her travels. Berman tells "Fred" that Holly is a phony, but a genuine phony; in other words, her literal identity is not what she says, but on a deeper level her character and personality are precisely as they appear to be. Berman does not understand why Holly has refused to try for success in Hollywood, but since her life is already a role, she is unwilling to assume other roles as acting would require. Doc Golightly seems to understand Holly somewhat better; and, for that reason, she feels some affection for him, but he cannot separate the New York "escort" from Lulamae Barnes, the young girl who came to his ranch in search of food and shelter. He does not realize that the identity he can provide is still inadequate for her. After the death of her brother, Holly's link with Doc Golightly and Tulip, Texas, is forever broken, but her need for family associations leads to her romance with the Brazilian diplomat Jose Ybarra-Jaegar.

Almost all the men in this novel love Holly. For some, like the narrator and the bartender Joe Bell, this love is pure, adoration from afar, although Bell acknowledges he has had sexual fantasies about Holly and he accuses the narrator of harboring similar thoughts. These two men demonstrate their devotion when they help Holly evade the police. Somewhat more ambiguous is the love of O. J. Berman, who has helped to transform Holly from a Texas farm girl to a sophisticated New Yorker. Evidence of Berman's affection is that fact that he secretly pays for the lawyer to defend...

(This entire section contains 1037 words.)

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her when she is arrested. I. Y. Yunioshi, the Japanese photographer and Holly's upstairs neighbor, is also attracted to her, repeatedly imploring her to let him photograph her. It is he who first recognizes her image in the African statue. Perhaps the most genuine love in the novel, though, is that of Doc Golightly, the horse doctor from Tulip, Texas. Old enough to be Holly's father, he has taken both her and her brother into his family. Several years have passed since she disappeared, but he has never stopped searching for her; and when her brother sends him her New York address, he travels to the city to rescue her from its perils and bring her home to the people he considers her family. Although she feels sorry for him, Holly is unwilling to accept the life he offers, and she sends him back to Texas alone.

Among the other male characters are those who take advantage of Holly. The first of these is Salvatore "Sally" Tomato, an imprisoned gangster and drug dealer. To Holly, he may seem to be a harmless outlaw, an aging Robin Hood, accompanied by his own Friar Tuck figure, Oliver "Father" O'shaughnessy. Perhaps Holly associates Sally in some way with Doc Golightly; certainly he is an elderly man who always appears to be kind to her. Only much later does she learn that these two men are using her to deliver messages about drug transactions. Even then, Holly's loyalty and sense of honor will not allow her to testify against Sally, not even to gain her own freedom.

Jose Ybarra-Jaegar is the man with whom Holly believes she can settle down; she begins to buy furnishings for the home they plan to establish in Brazil— books, tapestries, records, chairs—and she tells Fred of her plans for the six or so children they will have. Jose is a Brazilian diplomat, however, and when Holly is arrested, he abandons her and their unborn child, leaving only a letter delivered by his cousin. Fred tells the cousin Jose should be horse-whipped, and Holly refers to him as a rat, but they agree that he is at least honest about his lack of courage.

Even more manipulative are Holly's supposed friends: Rutherfurd "Rusty" Trawler and Margaret Thatcher Fitzhue "Mag" Wildwood. Initially Rusty is dating Holly to avoid the issue of his latent homosexuality, but soon this wealthy "playboy" is ensnared by Holly's roommate, Mag, a fashion model. Although both are her longtime friends, after Holly's arrest, Mag threatens to sue Fred or anyone else who claims that they have ever associated with her.