Introduction to A Christmas Memory

“A Christmas Memory” is a short story by Truman Capote. It was originally published in Mademoiselle magazine in 1956 before later being included in The Selected Writings of Truman Capote in 1963. The holiday themes and overall sentimentality of the story have made it enduringly popular around Christmas in the years following its publication, and it has been frequently adapted for film, television, and radio. “A Christmas Memory” is also noted for its autobiographical elements, with Capote admitting that he based the characters off of himself and his own much-older cousin, whom he regarded as his childhood best friend.

Both Buddy, the story’s protagonist, and his elderly cousin have a love for life, and they celebrate Christmas with a simple joy that the adults around them do not understand. The generosity of baking cakes for people they do not know highlights the childlike innocence that the two friends share. However, the story is tinged with reflective melancholy, as a now-adult Buddy acknowledges that his cousin has since died. Memory, then, becomes a connection to an unobtainable past. It is also a link between the Buddy of the present day and the child that he once was. Though he can no longer go through life in the innocent manner he once did, his Christmas memories with his cousin are a spot of warmth in an often dismal world.

A Brief Biography of Truman Capote

Truman Capote (1924–1984) was an American writer whose greatest success and biggest downfall was his book In Cold Blood. When the book was published in 1966, the never-modest Capote hailed it as a new genre, “the nonfiction novel.” The book was well-received, commercially successful, and spawned a film adaptation the following year. Despite this, Capote was dogged by rumors that he exaggerated, twisted, or fabricated large portions of the work. Capote naturally denied these rumors, and though his own penchant for hyperbole and self-promotion have led some critics to continue to doubt the truthfulness of In Cold Blood, it remains a towering literary achievement and a staple of true-crime literary studies. Although his later years were marked by scandal and substance abuse, Capote’s body of work ensured his reputation as a literary and cultural icon.

Frequently Asked Questions about A Christmas Memory

A Christmas Memory

To select a Christmas tree for their household, Buddy’s cousin takes him to an "ocean" of holiday trees far in the woods where her own father had taken her as child. Buddy and his cousin choose a...

Latest answer posted June 30, 2021, 1:49 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

A Christmas Memory

Buddy and his friend are saving money in "A Christmas Memory" so that they can purchase the ingredients they need to make thirty fruitcakes, as well as afford the postage needed to send the...

Latest answer posted June 30, 2021, 12:10 pm (UTC)

3 educator answers

A Christmas Memory

A story's setting generally describes both when and where the story takes place. "A Christmas Memory" takes place in late November, in a "country town." The narrator provides some clues as to the...

Latest answer posted June 27, 2021, 1:26 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

A Christmas Memory

This friendship has a lasting effect on Buddy because he feels that his friend has become "an irreplaceable part" of himself. Despite her somewhat advanced years, she is, in many ways, like a...

Latest answer posted June 30, 2021, 3:32 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Christmas Memory

On a literal level, the buggy is significant to the narrator because it was purchased for him when he was born. The narrator, who is seven at the time this story takes place, lives with various...

Latest answer posted June 30, 2021, 2:50 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Christmas Memory

In Truman Capote's short story “A Christmas Memory,” the narrator looks back to the days of his childhood. When he is seven years old, he lives with several relatives, and his best friend is a...

Latest answer posted June 30, 2021, 1:48 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Christmas Memory

Seven-year-old Buddy and his much older cousin strike up a friendship between themselves, as they feel marginalized in the household in which they live. As Buddy puts it, Other people inhabit the...

Latest answer posted June 29, 2021, 11:39 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Christmas Memory

In “A Christmas Memory,” Buddy and his distant cousin, a sixty-something woman, bake thirty fruitcakes to send to friends. One morning each November, the cousin declares that it is “fruitcake...

Latest answer posted June 29, 2021, 4:07 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Christmas Memory

Buddy and his friend are making Christmas presents for various family members and each other. Buddy wishes he could buy his friend a pound of chocolate-covered cherries, a radio, and a...

Latest answer posted June 29, 2021, 11:26 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Christmas Memory

Buddy's friend makes him a kite, a really beautiful one for which he is truly grateful. He says that it is blue and scattered with stars of gold and green, and she has painted her name for...

Latest answer posted June 29, 2021, 11:29 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Christmas Memory

Buddy and his sixty-something-year-old cousin live together in a house which is inhabited by other relatives. They are each other's best friend; his cousin has intellectual challenges that render...

Latest answer posted June 28, 2021, 1:38 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Christmas Memory

Conflict in literature is between two opposing forces and can be internal or external. In "A Christmas Memory," the conflict is external: Buddy and his cousin struggle to overcome a lack of...

Latest answer posted June 27, 2021, 5:28 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Christmas Memory

The fruitcakes symbolize Buddy's older and distant cousin, as she initiates the project of making thirty pies and sending them out as gifts to everyone in the community, a project she shares with...

Latest answer posted June 28, 2021, 11:44 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Christmas Memory

"A Christmas Memory" is not a true story, but it is autobiographical, meaning that elements of it are closely based on Truman Capote's past. Many fiction writers write autobiographically, basing...

Latest answer posted June 27, 2021, 11:28 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Christmas Memory

Queenie is a little dog that belongs to Buddy's older cousin and best friend. Her traditional Christmas gift is a big beef bone that costs a nickel and which they purchase from the butcher. Buddy...

Latest answer posted June 28, 2021, 1:36 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Christmas Memory

In "A Christmas Memory," seven-year-old protagonist Buddy and a sixty-something-year-old relative share a special bond despite their difference in age. Buddy is a sensitive boy without parents, and...

Latest answer posted June 28, 2021, 12:49 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Christmas Memory

Every November there comes a day when Buddy's older cousin exclaims, "It's fruitcake weather!" She proclaims this when it is finally chill enough in the air outside for her breath to fog up the...

Latest answer posted June 28, 2021, 1:20 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Christmas Memory

Near the end of the story, Buddy relates the news that Queenie, his older cousin's little dog, has died. She was kicked by a neighbor's horse and, evidently, passed away pretty quickly after that....

Latest answer posted June 27, 2021, 1:40 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

A Christmas Memory

In Truman Capote's “A Christmas Memory,” Queenie is a “tough little orange and white rat terrier.” Queenie is the constant companion of narrator Buddy and his best friend, a “sixty-something”...

Latest answer posted June 27, 2021, 4:56 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer
Next

Summary