Children on Their Birthdays

by Truman Capote

Start Free Trial


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 666

Late one summer afternoon, an unusual-looking young girl, Miss Lily Jane Bobbit, arrives with her mother in a small, unidentified town in Alabama. The bus on which they arrive, the narrator of the story states in the opening lines, is the same one that will run over Miss Bobbit a year later as she prepares to move on, in pursuit of her dream of Hollywood stardom. Why she has chosen to settle briefly in this southern town is never revealed, and very little information about her earlier experiences is given. As for her family, her father is in a penitentiary in Tennessee; her mother is a strangely silent woman. Miss Bobbit herself, from first to last, remains an enigma, a funny, delightful, not real child-woman.

Writing an essay?
Get a custom outline

Our Essay Lab can help you tackle any essay assignment within seconds, whether you’re studying Macbeth or the American Revolution. Try it today!

Start an Essay

The particular day of her arrival in front of the house of a boy named Billy Bob is important: Billy Bob, his friends, his mother, and his cousin, Mr. C., the narrator of the story, are celebrating Billy Bob’s birthday. Offered some of the party fare, Miss Bobbit refuses it in an adult fashion. Simultaneously little girl and adult, she is obviously different from any ordinary child. In many ways her conversation and behavior seem grown-up. Her face is made up as if she were a mature woman, although she is wearing a child’s party dress. Both her dress and the occasion of Billy Bob’s party symbolize Miss Bobbit’s dream of what life should be: a world of beauty and happiness that is like a birthday party, particularly like children on their birthdays. Driven by her longings, she cannot take the time to be a child. She focuses all of her energy on the preparation for a dazzling existence in a place that she believes will turn her vision into reality.

During the year that she lives in a boardinghouse next door to Billy Bob and his family, Miss Bobbit becomes something of a celebrity because of her appearance, her mannerisms, and her behavior. Girls constantly walk past her house to catch glimpses of the elegant rival who keeps the boys fighting over her. Billy Bob and Preacher Star, competitors for her unavailable affection, wear themselves out trying to serve her. Rosalba Cat, the black girl whom she makes her “sister,” brings further attention to her.

No matter what people think, Miss Bobbit always does as she chooses. She chooses not to go to church or school, in spite of community pressure. Neither is for her, she maintains, because her primary interest is the advancement of her career. In pursuit of her dreams of fame, she single-mindedly devotes herself to training for films. She practices her dancing, reads a dictionary, and dresses in one elegant outfit after another, made for her by her unobtrusive mother. To raise money for her travels, Miss Bobbit goes into business as an agent for magazines, putting Billy Bob and Preacher to work for her.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Miss Bobbit seems to be on her way to Hollywood, if not to the stardom that she assures her friends she will have, after she wins an amateur contest sponsored by a con man. Undaunted by the disappearance of the man who awarded her first prize—a screen test—and who also enticed a considerable number of young men to pay large sums of money in return for the promise of romantic-sounding jobs, Miss Bobbit shows her strength and ingenuity: She succeeds in tracking him down and getting the money restored. Her powers of persuasion prove to be as strong as her will when she convinces those same young men to invest their money in her future by sending her off to Hollywood.

However, Miss Bobbit is not destined to fulfill her heart’s desire. As she rushes across the street to claim the roses that her two ardent admirers have picked for her, she is killed by the bus that delivered her to the town the summer before, when those same rose bushes were in bloom.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access