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A Christmas Memory

by Truman Capote

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How would you describe Buddy's friend in Truman Capote's "A Christmas Memory"?

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Attributes of Buddy from "A Christmas Memory" include innocence, trust, caring, love, sensitivity, a strong capacity for friendship, and an ability to see to the heart of what a person is truly like inside.

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Buddy's best friend is a cousin who is middle-aged, as she is described as being "sixty-something" with "shorn white hair." Buddy also says she is "small and sprightly, like a bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched." Her face is described as "remarkable" and "delicate."

She is somewhat childlike in her behavior, and so the two bond closely when Buddy is living with relatives. The other adults in the household are described in vague and somewhat menacing terms, and so the emphasis in the story is on Buddy and his friend, whose adventures during a few weeks before Christmas are described in detail. The pair seem to form a kind of faction against the other adults who, Buddy says, "have power over us, and frequently make us cry," but they manage to live very happily in the world his cousin lovingly maintains for them, with many of their activities revolving around food.

Indeed, the main event of the story is the making of holiday fruitcakes, including the gathering of pecans and the buying of ingredients. Buddy's cousin proves herself to be very resourceful, for even though they are very poor, she finds a way to purchase and acquire the necessary ingredients to make many cakes and mail them to friends, relatives and even strangers.

Thirty-one cakes, dampened with whiskey, bask on windowsills and shelves.

Who are they for?

Friends. Not necessarily neighbor friends: indeed, the larger share is intended for persons we've met maybe once, perhaps not at all. People who've struck our fancy. Like President Roosevelt. Like the Reverend and Mrs. J. C. Lucey, Baptist missionaries to Borneo who lectured here last winter.

We see in this urge to share with so many people Buddy's cousin's curiosity about people, and her tremendous generosity, as well as her childlike naivete in assuming the President might receive her gift.

We also know Buddy's friend is an animal lover and treats her dog Queen almost like a person. At the end of the story, when Buddy has moved away, his cousin describes Queen's death in a letter to him:

("Buddy dear," she writes in her wild hard-to-read script, "yesterday Jim Macy's horse kicked Queenie bad. Be thankful she didn't feel much. I wrapped her in a Fine Linen sheet and rode her in the buggy down to Simpson's pasture where she can be with all her Bones....").

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The story, "A Christmas Memory" chronicles the life of a young boy named Buddy and his best friend, who is also his cousin. His cousin is nameless in the story. He is very outgoing, but immature. The two friends live with other relatives who are very strict and seem to dictate their lives. The family is extremely poor, but Buddy saves his money for Christmas every year. The cousin is a drinker and convinces Buddy to help him drink a bottle of whiskey, which leads to the two friends becoming intoxicated. Buddy's friend convinces Buddy to go to a faraway place to chop down a tree that the two can use for a Christmas tree. Buddy becomes extremely upset when he receives mediocre gifts, but his friend receives better gifts. However, the two friends exchange kites with one another and proceed to fly the kites and share the gifts that Buddy's friend had received. During the pair's last Christmas together, Buddy is sent away to military school, but his friend tries to remain in contact with Buddy despite her dementia. Unfortunately, she eventually forgets her friend and ends up passing away.

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What is a character analysis of Buddy in "A Christmas Memory"?

As you read Truman Capote’s retrospective short story “A Christmas Memory,” you will find an adult Buddy looking back at his life as a seven year old child. As a child, Buddy is a compassionate soul who befriends his child-like sixty year old cousin. Together they make a life of adventures and traditions. Buddy is a sensitive child who cries when some of the other relatives get involved. For the most part he complies with his cousin’s wishes and assists her as they endeavor to keep the tradition of making their annual Christmas fruitcakes. He does not speak of playing with other children but does say that he likes to attend movies. This seems to be the one thing that indicates his need for contact with the outside world.

When his cousin is reprimanded for giving him some of the leftover whiskey, Buddy is the one to comfort her, showing how compassionate he was even at the young age of seven. When he is sent off to military boarding school he stays in touch with her through letters. Although he never sees her again, upon her death he feels like a piece of himself is missing. In keeping with their tradition of flying kites, he speaks of expecting to see two kites flying heavenward as he trudges across the school grounds. He is heartbroken by her passing, which indicates the deep bond he formed with her.

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How would you describe the character of Buddy in the story "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote?

"A Christmas Memory," which has been called "fiction of nostalgia," presents the reader with a perspicacious and sensitive boy named Buddy.

Buddy has a sensitivity and understanding well beyond his young years. For instance, at the mere age of seven, Buddy understands that his distant cousin and friend is "still a child." Much like his eccentric relative, Buddy possesses a vivid imagination and an artistic delight in nature. After they have ventured into the forest to gather pecans for their Christmas fruitcakes, the imaginative and artistic Buddy and his cousin return to the kitchen in order to hull their pecans. Buddy describes their activity in scintillating and lyrical prose, which also reveals his delight in nature: 

Our backs hurt from gathering them: how hard they were to find. . . among the concealing leaves, the frosted, deceiving grass. Caarackle! A cheery crunch, scraps of miniature thunder sound as the shells collapse and the golden mound of sweet oily ivory meat mounts in the milk-glass bowl.

Clearly, Buddy and his cousin share a strong friendship. Both are treated as eccentric outcasts. When his cousin gives him half of the rest of the whisky purchased from HaHa Jones, Buddy describes his "screwed up face" and the sour taste. Soon, though, they are singing and dancing. The other relatives in the house hear them, and two of them enter the kitchen with "[E]yes they scold, tongues that scald. . . words tumbling together into a wrathful tune."

Not surprisingly, then, Buddy and his cousin choose to give the fruitcakes to strangers and their "merest acquaintances [who] seem to us our truest friends" because his cousin is shy with everyone except strangers and is somewhat mistreated by her relatives.

In another example of Buddy's sensitive character he and his cousin's love for each other and for nature, Buddy describes with poignancy his and his cousin's last times together, especially the occasion that they have flown kites together. His cousin speaks of seeing God in nature; not long afterwards, Buddy learns his old cousin has died. As he walks across the campus of the military school where he has been sent, Buddy searches the sky.

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

A sensitive, artistic, insightful, and loving boy, Buddy is a boy of great depth and intelligence.

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How would you describe the character of Buddy in the story "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote?

In his short story, “A Christmas Memory,” Truman Capote creates a memorable character through the use of Buddy the narrator. As the grownup Buddy relates this specific memory, we learn that he is kind and reflective character. The story is full of Buddy’s kindnesses to his cousin. He is always a willing accomplice in the fruitcake endeavor, and while he relates habits and behaviors of his cousin that were repeated so frequently he could predict them, he does not do this with a tone of deprecation. Rather y there is love and respect for a gentle soul who was not always treated gently by the other relatives who shared the house. He relates to us his efforts to console his cousin after they both got in trouble for being a little tipsy after polishing off the tiny bit of Haha Jones’s whiskey that remained after the fruitcakes. It is not unusual for a seven year old to have older people as friends, but long after Buddy was sent of to a military school, long after he started to grow up he kept in contact with his cousin. Many people would have simply allowed the relationship to lapse. So when Buddy got word of his cousin’s death, he was heartbroken and felt as if part of him was missing. This is what lead to his carefully and lovingly relayed reflection.

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What is an indirect characterization of Buddy's friend in the reminiscence "A Christmas Memory" ?

Direct characterization occurs when readers are specifically told something about a character. Indirect characterization is more subtle and requires the reader to deduce the character's characteristics based on how that character acts, speaks, dresses, and so on. Readers can also infer information about a character based on how other characters respond to them.

Buddy's friend is quite childlike in a lot of her behaviors. We are told this early on, but Buddy indirectly drives this point home throughout the story. She loves to play and approaches many activities with excited, wild abandon.

It's always the same: a morning arrives in November, and my friend, as though officially inaugurating the Christmas time of year that exhilarates her imagination and fuels the blaze of her heart, announces: "It's fruitcake weather! Fetch our buggy. Help me find my hat."

She's thrilled to bake thurty fruitcakes every single Christmas, and she's not doing it for herself. She simply loves to give and spread the Christmas joy. The fruitcakes are not for her and Buddy.

Who are they for?

Friends. Not necessarily neighbor friends: indeed, the larger share is intended for persons we've met maybe once, perhaps not at all. People who've struck our fancy.

She's also not reserved in her giving. The people that she is making cakes for are not her closest friends. They are simply people that she wants to give a nice treat to. We also know that she is somewhat aware of her mental deficiencies.

"It's because," she hiccups, "I am too old. Old and funny."

She weeps because of the reprimand she gets from some relatives, and she feels badly for her actions. She knows what is the right thing to do, but her emotional exuberance gets the better of her, and that is also something that is very childlike in her nature.

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What is an indirect characterization of Buddy's friend in the reminiscence "A Christmas Memory" ?

In literature, there are four methods of indirect characterization that an author can use to reveal character:

  1. through a physical description of the character
  2. through the character's actions
  3. through the character's thoughts, feelings, and speeches
  4. through the comments and reactions of other characters

While Buddy sometimes uses direct characterization, in which he simply tells something about his cousin--"She is still a child" or "...she has never eaten in a restaurant, traveled more than five miles from home..."--he provides the reader much indirect characterization. Here are examples:

[Buddy narrates that his friend remains at home while he is a military school.]:

  • (method no. 1) "A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is small and sprightly, like a bantam hen,...her face is remarkable--not unlike Lincoln'd craggy like that...."
  • (method no. 2)"And there she remains, puttering around the kitchen. Alone with Queenie. Then alone."  
  • (method no. 2) After Queenie is kicked by a horse, his friend writes Buddy that she wrapped the little dog in a linen sheet and took her in the horse buggy to Simpson's pasture "where she can be with all her Bones."
  • (method no. 3) Buddy's friend tell him how excited she is about procuring a Christmas tree: "Well, I can't sleep a hoot....My mind's jumping like a jack rabbit."
  • (method no. 4) Buddy comments on his friend, "Is it because my friend is shy with everyone except strangers that these strangers, and merest acquaintances, seem to us our truest friends?"
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How does Buddy describe his best friend in "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote?

Buddy describes his friend in somewhat minimal terms, but his descriptions are all the more poignant because they are spaced out throughout the story. To introduce her, the narrator (Buddy, who Truman Capote based on his childhood self) says she has "shorn white hair" and is "sixty-something." He also describes a long childhood illness that left her shoulders hunched, despite being "small and sprightly, like a Bantam hen," and we know she is energetic because she is able to get Buddy to do things even when he is tired or disinterested. Her face is "remarkable" and "craggy" like Lincoln's, but also "delicate" and "finely-boned," with eyes that are "sherry-colored and timid." By using these very specific and unusual terms to describe his cousin, with words that are visual and descriptive, as opposed to vague and trite, we get a very solid picture of Buddy's cousin.

Buddy also describes his cousin's personality throughout the story, but rather than stating this in general ways, he lets her behavior speak for itself; this is the mark of a good literary story, one that shows rather than tells. She gets him motivated to help her start make fruitcakes (their yearly ritual) by exclaiming several times, "it's fruitcake weather," and he sees a "purposeful excitement" in her eyes. We know she is emotionally sensitive, and see this in her response to being chastised by the other adults in the household when she gives Buddy some whiskey to drink: "My friend gazes at her shoes, her chin quivers, she lifts her skirt and blows her nose and runs to her room." Note that we detect her emotional state merely through physical actions, not by being told she was "sad" or "upset."

Perhaps the most telling description of Buddy's best friend is one of the story's most unembellished sentences, in which Buddy describes her as "still a child." With this sentence, we understand why the other family members treat her poorly, and why she and Buddy have such a close bond.

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In the story "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote, what are the character traits of Buddy's friend, the older woman?

Buddy's friend and cousin Sook is an older woman who has lived a life of unmarried dependency in her family's home. She is looked down upon by the adult members of the family as childlike, but Buddy is able to appreciate her true worth.

Sook is a kind and generous-hearted person. Her desire to bake fruitcakes and send them to people she admires all over the country, including President Roosevelt, shows her giving spirit. She is poor, and yet she is willing to pour herself out generously to show her appreciation to more privileged people. She makes Christmas presents for her relatives, even though they are not always kind to her, and she even makes sure Queenie the dog has a Christmas bone.

Her sharing the last of the fruitcake whiskey with Buddy and Queenie also shows her generous spirit, although the relatives harshly condemn her for it.

Sook reveals determination in raising the money to bake and mail the fruitcakes. She doesn't let being poor defeat her, and she doesn't ask her relatives for the money she needs. Instead, she and Buddy, who follows her lead, work and use their ingenuity to raise the money they need. They kill flies at a rate of 25 for a penny, they sell homemade jam, they set up a "fun and freak" museum that lasts until the mutant chicken that is their star attraction dies, and they enter contests to try to win prize money. Sook is also tireless in gathering supplies for her fruitcakes and in finding a Christmas tree in the woods that takes "thirty hatchet strokes" before she gets it.

Sook's life has been sheltered and often sad. She is a sensitive person who is hurt when her relatives scold her. But despite all her adversity and all the limitations that have been placed upon her, her prevailing characteristic is her joyful ability to make the best of her circumstances and to love life. As she says to Buddy, she doesn't have to wait to see the joy brought by God after death because she is experiencing it that Christmas day with Buddy in this life:

I've always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that when he came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don't know it's getting dark. And it's been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling. But I'll wager it never happens. I'll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are"—her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass and Queenie pawing earth over her bone—"just what they've always seen, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes."

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In the story "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote, what are the character traits of Buddy's friend, the older woman?

Buddy’s friend, who is actually never named, is an interesting combination of innocence and wisdom. Although in her sixties, she is still like a child both in her actions and experience. Her life has been so sheltered that she has never been to a movie or eaten in a restaurant. She does, however, appreciate the beauty of nature and she passes this appreciation to her seven-year-old cousin. In addition to this “simple wisdom,” she possesses the magical quality of taming hummingbirds, but she doesn’t know that it’s a bad idea to give whiskey to a child. She has the courage to venture into the “sinful” territory of Mr. Haha Jones, but she is brought to tears by “Those Who Know Best,” the two relatives who seem to be in charge. These contradictory characteristics make Buddy’s friend realistic in spite of the nostalgic tone of the piece – a tone that could have made her too good to be true.

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What are the attributes of Buddy from "A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote?

Buddy has a child's innocence and trust. He also has a child's need for love and acceptance from an adult. Because of this and because of being away from his parents and living among cold relatives in a house in the country, he ends up bonding with the one adult who shows him kindness.

This is an older woman, a distant cousin of Buddy's, who lives in the house as a poor relation, taking care of the kitchen. She has never married and, from an adult perspective, is a little "off" and simple-minded.

Buddy, however, has a child's capacity to see the goodness and warmth in this cousin. Being only seven at the time of the story, he follows her lead happily as they gather supplies for the Christmas fruitcakes she makes as gifts each year.

Buddy is a sensitive, loyal child who does a good deal of observing what goes on around him. He is able to comfort his cousin when the other relatives scold her harshly for sharing the leftover whiskey from the fruitcakes with him. He knows intuitively, even at seven, what to say to her to get her to perk up, which is to remind her of the task of getting a Christmas tree.

Buddy has the gift of being able to be a friend and doesn't forget his cousin when the other relatives send him off to boarding school. When she dies, he is able to focus on the positives and see her as heading like a kite towards heaven.

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