Summary

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

"Miriam" is a 1945 short story written by famed American author Truman Capote. The story is about a lonely older woman named Miriam who encounters a strange young girl sharing her name, leading to speculation about the girl's existence as either a tangible entity or a projection of Miriam's mental state.

The story opens with the introduction of Mrs. H.T. Miller, a sixty-one-year-old widow who leads a quiet and uneventful life. Her late husband has left her a "reasonable amount of insurance," enabling her to reside comfortably in a "pleasant" two-bedroom apartment near the East River.

Mrs. Miller presents herself as an unassuming woman with short, wavy "iron-gray" hair and "plain and inconspicuous features" that hardly attract attention. Her life lacks substantial hobbies or interests, revolving primarily around routine tasks like grocery shopping, preparing meals, tending to household chores, occasionally indulging in a cigarette, and caring for her canary named Tommy. Without friends, social connections, or companionship, she is confined to a constant state of solitude.

On a snowy winter afternoon, Mrs. Miller departs from her usual routine and decides to see a movie. While waiting in line to buy her ticket, she notices a young girl with a striking and peculiar appearance that instantly captivates her attention.

The girl, thin and delicate in stature, has long "silver-white" hair that adds to her enigmatic presence. Despite her young age, she exudes an unexpected air of elegance, donning a "tailored plum velvet coat," a dark blue dress, and a golden chain necklace. Approaching Mrs. Miller, she acknowledges her inability to purchase a ticket independently. She requests assistance, and Mrs. Miller agrees to help her.

Once they're in the theater, the little girl discloses her name as Miriam, leaving Mrs. Miller astounded as she reveals that it is her own name as well. Mrs. Miller takes note of Miriam's unusually extensive vocabulary for her age. She observes that her most striking feature resides in her large hazel eyes, which lack "any childlike quality." Subsequently, Mrs. Miller departs to locate her seat, leaving the young girl to herself.

A week after their chance meeting, Miriam knocks on Mrs. Miller's door on another snowy day, seeking shelter from the cold. Mrs. Miller lets her into the apartment, where Miriam appears braided and dressed in a thin silk dress. She compliments Mrs. Miller's home, particularly the blue rug, and reveals that blue is her favorite color.

Mrs. Miller questions how the girl knows her address and expresses concern over her mother allowing her out so late and underdressed. Miriam changes the subject and requests to wake Mrs. Miller's canary and hear it sing, but Mrs. Miller declines. Undeterred, Miriam asks for food, promising to leave if she receives it.

As she prepares the sandwiches and reflects on the situation's bizarre strangeness, Mrs. Miller hears Tommy singing from his cage. Annoyed, she checks on Miriam and discovers her in the bedroom. She goes through her jewelry, specifically admiring a cherished "cameo brooch" gifted to Mrs. Miller by her late husband.

Miriam demands the cameo brooch, leaving Mrs. Miller feeling helpless to resist her request. The strange girl then asks for dessert and a goodbye kiss, but Mrs. Miller denies her any further favors. Ultimately, Miriam leaves, but not before smashing a vase containing paper roses in a final act of mysterious defiance.

The following day, Miriam feels unwell and has an oddly vivid dream. In it, she observes a young girl dressed in a broad gown "leading a gray procession down a mountain path." Curiously, the dream's participants need to be made aware of their final...

(This entire section contains 879 words.)

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After a few days, the weather unexpectedly transforms into a spring-like atmosphere, prompting Miriam to go on a walk and shop. During her outing, she comes across an old man wearing "a shabby brown coat and a checkered hat" carrying a bundle of packages. Strangely, they exchange smiles as if they're acquaintances, although Miriam is sure they have never crossed paths. The man tips his hat to her before continuing on his way while Mrs. Miller purchases six white roses, a bag of glazed cherries, and six almond cakes.

As the day progresses, the weather reverts to its wintery state, and Miriam pays another unexpected visit to Mrs. Miller. This time, however, she declares her intention to permanently move in with Mrs. Miller, bringing her two dolls and clothes. She thanks Mrs. Miller for the thoughtful gifts of roses, cherries, and almond cakes.

Alarmed and disturbed by the situation, Mrs. Miller rushes to seek help from her neighbors, who agree to inspect her home and ask Miriam to leave. To Mrs. Miller's surprise, her neighbor returns with the news that there's no sign of anyone in her apartment.

As Mrs. Miller returns to her now seemingly undisturbed apartment, she can't shake off an eerie and unnerving feeling of emptiness. Exhausted and overwhelmed, she collapses onto a chair as the room slowly succumbs to darkness.

In her disoriented state, Mrs. Miller questions the reality of Miriam's existence, only to be met with an unsettling combination of sounds—a drawer opening and closing, walls vibrating, and whispers enveloping the space. Opening her eyes, she sees Miriam standing before her, donning her silk dress and greeting her with a simple "hello."

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