Breakfast at Tiffany's and Three Stories

Breakfast at Tiffany's and Three Stories

by Truman Capote

Paperback(First Vintage International Edition)

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In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany's; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm.

This volume also includes three of Capote's best-known stories, “House of Flowers,” “A Diamond Guitar,” and “A Christmas Memory,” which the Saturday Review called “one of the most moving stories in our language.” It is a tale of two innocents—a small boy and the old woman who is his best friend—whose sweetness contains a hard, sharp kernel of truth.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679745655
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/28/1993
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: First Vintage International Edition
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 53,451
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.49(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Truman Capote (1924-84) rose to international prominence in 1948 with the publication of his debut novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms. His other works of fiction include Breakfast at Tiffany's, A Tree of Night, The Grass Harp, and Summer Crossing, the author's long-lost first novel, which was rediscovered in 2004 and published by Random House in 2005. He is also the author of Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote. His nonfiction novel In Cold Blood is widely considered one of the greatest books of the twentieth century.

Date of Birth:

September 30, 1924

Date of Death:

August 25, 1984

Place of Birth:

New Orleans, Louisiana

Place of Death:

Los Angeles, California


Trinity School and St. John's Academy in New York City and Greenwich High School in Connecticut

Reading Group Guide

The discussion questions and other material that are intended to enhance your group’s conversation about Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote’s brilliant novella about two friends living in a Manhattan apartment building during World War II, and the three classic short stories also included in the volume.

A. Breakfast at Tiffany’s

1. The story begins when the bartender Joe Bell and the narrator talk about Mr. Yunioshi’s report that Holly Golightly had been living in Africa.  What aura does the opening chapter lend to the character of Holly?  What feelings does Holly evoke in Joe Bell?
2. What does Holly mean by her advice about powder-room change to Sid Arbuck, when she refuses to let him into her apartment (12, 21)?  Holly tells the narrator, “I’ve simply trained myself to like older men, and it was the smartest thing I ever did” (16).  Why has she trained herself?  How does Holly support herself?
3. Holly decides to call the narrator “Fred” after her brother.  Why, after her brother’s death, does she stop calling him Fred (63)?
4. O. J. Berman tells the narrator that Holly is a phony.  What does he mean?  Why has she decided not to become a Hollywood actress (24-25, 31)?
5. What does Holly mean by “the mean reds”?  Why does Tiffany’s, the luxury jewelry store on Fifth Avenue, make her feel better (32)?
6. When the narrator and Holly tell each other stories about their childhoods, Holly admits that hers is untrue (43-44).  Is Holly dishonest, or is she, like the narrator, a kind of storytelling artist?  How would you describe Holly’s approach to life?
7. Why is Rusty Trawler a good choice as a boyfriend for Holly?  Why does Holly allow the narrator to see her in the bathtub and in other states of undress?  What is assumed but never stated about his sexuality?
8. The story takes a surprising turn with the arrival of Doc Golightly.  How is he described?  How do his story, and the photograph he shows the narrator, transform your understanding of Holly and her past (52-56)?
9. Holly has transformed herself into a stylish New Yorker, but how much is she still attached to her past?  How does Holly explain her feelings for Doc (58)?  How does she react to the death of her brother Fred (63-67)?
10. The narrator sees a birdcage in an antique shop, and later Holly buys it for him as a surprise gift, but tells him never to keep a living thing in it (47).  Later, she tells Joe Bell, “Never love a wild thing, Mr. Bell” (59).  Does Holly imply anything about herself and her relationships with these references?
11. Holly explains her ideas about ethics: “It’s a bore, but the answer is good things only happen to you if you’re good.  Good?  Honest is more what I mean.  Not law-type honest...but unto-thyself-type honest.  Be anything but a coward, a pretender, an emotional crook, a whore: I’d rather have cancer than a dishonest heart” (66).  Would you agree?  Does Holly have a high standard of behavior for herself?
12. While Holly seems genuinely to care about the narrator, she seems to have no other real friends. At the party, she makes the gathering of men understand that Mag Wildwood has a sexually transmitted disease (36).  Does her opportunism with regard to the rich men in her life also extend to Mag?  Does she see Mag as a rival?  Why then does she decide to let Meg move in with her (42)?
13. The narrator describes a walk with Holly to Chinatown, a chow mein supper and a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  “On the bridge, as we watched the seaward-moving ships pass between the cliffs of burning skyline,” she tells him that many years hence, she will bring her “nine Brazilian brats” back to see New York (67).  Why is the narrator sad at this moment?  Is theirs an ideal friendship?
14. We are reminded of the suffering in Holly’s life when she loses “the heir,” when José leaves her, and when she tells the narrator about her hallucinations of “the fat woman” after Fred’s death (77-82).  Considering what Holly has been through in her earlier life and the fact that she is now under criminal indictment, what do you think of her attitude toward her future?
15. During the drive to the airport, Holly lets her cat out onto the street and then regrets it.  The narrator fulfills his promise to find the cat—who has a new home—and he completes the tale with the hope that Holly, too, has arrived where she belongs.  Capote told The Paris Review, “Finding the right form for your story is simply to realize the most natural way of telling the story. The test of whether or not a writer has divined the natural shape of his story is just this: after reading it, can you imagine it differently, or does it silence your imagination and seem to you absolute and final?”  Is Breakfast at Tiffany’s an example of Capote’s ideal?  Do you find the story’s structure, with its interlocking beginning and ending, satisfying? 
16. Norman Mailer wrote, “Truman Capote is the most perfect writer of my generation.  He writes the best sentences word for word, rhythm upon rhythm.”  Ask each person in your group to choose a favorite sentence, and discuss why Capote is such a great prose stylist.

B. “House of Flowers”

1. Why are Rosita and Baby surprised that Ottilie will not return to the city with them? 
Why is it significant to their bond that Royal and Ottilie are both country people, and both believe in voodoo?  Why does she stay with him after he has punished her?

C. “A Diamond Guitar”

1. Given the description of Mr. Schaeffer (111-112), why do you think he is drawn to Tico Feo?  What details of description and character intensify the emotion of this love story? 

D. “A Christmas Memory”

1. How does the scarcity of money bring out the creativity and generosity in these two friends? 

2.  The old woman realizes, after they fly their kites together, that she doesn’t have to wait for death to see divinity: “I’ll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself.  That things as they are...just what they’ve always seen, was seeing Him.  As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes” (141).  Why is this insight especially relevant on Christmas?  Why, when the boy later hears the news of her death, does he feel that it as “sever[s] from me an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite on a broken string” (142)?

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Breakfast at Tiffany's and Three Stories 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bookworm1951 More than 1 year ago
A classic. The true character and personality of Holly really comes to life through Truman Captoe's words. While I'm not a big fan of this author, this story was compelling and kept me reading at a fast pace. I also enjoyed that other short stories - some more than others.
Smiler69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I discovered Breakfast at Tiffany's as a small child, when I saw the movie on television. Much later, I read somewhere that Truman Capote had been unhappy with the choice of Hepburn to play Holly Golightly and also that the movie was a tame version of the much grittier novel. While I thought the different tone of the novel was interesting, and I actually liked the grittier bits, it didn't especially appeal to me as a whole. I think this might be because I've seen the movie countless times and have always been enamoured with Audrey Hepburn, who became my icon when I discovered her first in that role when I was much too young to catch on to what it was exactly that Holly was doing with those ugly rich old men. And the movie is undeniably beautiful and fun in so many ways that I had a hard time stopping myself from making comparisons when reading the book. This is definitely a case where I would probably have enjoyed the book much more for it's own sake had I read it before I became such a big fan of the movie. But then, I'm not sure I would have been able to appreciate Truman Capote writing all that much before the age of 5 either...
mchrzanowski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had not read anything by Capote before I read this book for my book club. I have to say, I really enjoyed his style. It made me want to read just about everything that he has ever written. The stories were quite delightful. I have naturally seen the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's many times before. Personally, I like the story much more. I still like the classic movie; however, there was more to the story that wasn't socially "acceptable" at the time so it was cut out. I think Capote created a very interesting character with Holly Golightly. I think everyone should read this book at some point in their life.
sadiebooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
the book is soooo much better than the movie. and i love the movie
pdxwoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Capote's writing here is clean -- no extra verbage to weigh down the telling of the tale. At the same time, it is rich with meaning -- every line adds to our understanding of the characters. The quote from Norman Mailer on the back of the book is on target: "Truman Capote is the most perfect writer of my generation. He writes the best sentences word for word, rhythm upon rhythm."I was a bit disappointed that the novella is more like the movie than I was led to believe. I had heard the novella was racier. I guess, in a couple of ways, it was (for the 1940s anyway). Overall, the racier parts did little to increase my understanding of Holly Golightly. Maybe that's because Capote was involved in making the film. I'd heard that the Holly Golightly of the novella was a prostitute. I can see how she could be perceived that way, but it was never implied in any overt manner. Seems to me she was more a naive and promiscuous chaser of wealthy men, a woman who refused to allow the world to keep her locked in a cage of social morays.I was glad that the Hollywood ending, wherein Holly (Audrey Hepburn) finds she simply needs to give up her ways and bask in the love of Fred2 (George Peppard) was just that -- a Hollywood ending. Capote's ending (which is really the beginning of Breakfast at Tiffany's) is much more satisfying because, in real life, not everything is wrapped up in a blue box with a white bow.
taramatchi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book, but I think I felt more sorry for Holly Golightly than I did when I watched the movie. She seemed to be more of a darker character than I remembered from the movie. I guess this means I will be watching the movie again so that I can compare and contrast.
stipe168 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
i liked in cold blood better, but that had a better story to back it up. i haven't read the short stories in this collection, nor seen the tiffany's movie. man i need to catch up.
literarysarah on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At first, Breakfast at Tiffany's left me a bit unsatisfied. The characters seemed more like caricatures and there was no real plot. But then I thought about it as an extended New Yorker piece and suddenly it was wonderful. So my best advice is to mind your expectations and enjoy the nice short read.
RoboJonelle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of those cases where I had seen the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's before I read the story. Though I love the movie, it is a hard one to compare to this beautifully written piece. Capote's way of describing someone so complicated so simply is art. This grabbed me, and made me more in tune with the Holly Golightly character, though I did not care for her much (which I think is how it's supposed to be). The narrator's conflicting feeling with the situation and the main character made him and the story more real. Even the few other minor characters are so well developed, it really puts that picture in your head while you're reading it. An amazing piece of classic literature, I'm excited to read more from Capote because he truly know what he's doing.
mels_71 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After quite a few very long recent reads it was a relief to pick up Breakfast at Tiffany's and read it in a few short sessions at school pickups. I must be one of the few people who hasn't seen the film so I came to the book with no idea of what it was about. The writing style was easy to read and he captured the characters wonderfully. Holly is one of those characters that are both endearing and annoying, usually simultaneously, just like real life people. You couldn't help but like her but I was left wanting to know what happens next. An enjoyable read.
cinesnail88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So, after all of this time of wanting to read In Cold Blood, I finally tried out some Capote, albeit not the one I was planning on. Overall, I found his style rather strange, and I am still very unsure of whether or not I liked it. The copy of this that I had also had three other short stories in it, and though all of them were entertaining, I didn't feel too much connection. As far as the headlining story, I was very much interested in Ms. Holly Golightly and her adventures, but I found the writing at times hard to follow, or something. I'm not exactly sure, I don't honestly know how I felt about it.
tloeffler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved the movie, but couldn't quite reconcile Truman Capote with it, so I needed to read the book. I'm glad I did. The two have little in common. The movie was poignant, the book was sad, but much more realistic. Holly is not a character you can sympathize with, but she is worthy of pity, and I did pity her. The book was so well-written, as were the other three stories included in the 50th anniversary edition: House of Flowers, A Diamond Guitar, and A Christmas Memory, which I had read before.
emed0s on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This volume include three short stories, besides Breakfast at Tiffany's, and all three are good. But one of them almost brought me to tears, 'A Christmass memory' is the most compelling story regarding the relationship between a child and an old person that I've ever, and very likely never will, read.All the love of the early years and, the natural yet heartbreaking, coming apart as years go by and the child becomes and adult the old one becomes too old.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fourth hour, fourth book completed. (Mind you, all my books for the read-a-thon were jump started; I'm not really reading books...I'm finishing them.)And not just another book completed...another GREAT book completed. I would recommend highly all the books I've read today. Breakfast at Tiffany's. I'd seen the movie. I've read two other Capote books and was wowed by them. Breakfast at Tiffany's is equally wonderful. The juxtaposition of our narrator and Holly Golightly makes the book. Holly would probably be called manic-depressive today when she was hospitalized but to the narrator and her other admirers she has that rare zest for life that is to wonderous to behold. Others, more thoughtful observers, would also see in Holly the devastation she left in her wake.
cestovatela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A book I loved whose appeal I can't quite define. The narrator himself is a bit blase, but Holly Golightly is among the best characters of American fiction. I'd be happy to read it again.
evangelista on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had never read Breakfast at Tiffany¿s or anything else by Truman Capote. Lovely, sad, and in many ways, quite a bit different than the movie.The novella, in part, details a struggle between a desire for freedom and a desire for a place to belong. Holly Golightly is a self-defined traveler and wild thing, defending the right of both human and animal to live outside the cage. Yet she also desires to live as a family again with her brother, Fred, and hopes for a child and marriage with her South American boyfriend. The narrator exists adrift in the text, nameless and without job security yet he craves home and literary success.Derogatory slang of the time aside, the text offers a subtle and interesting view into how sexuality can be both freeing and limiting as well. Holly practices a measure of self-deception in not equating the money she receives from men she has ¿banged¿ with prostitution. She views it rather as given with at least the illusion of love, and as a means to an end ¿ her continued freedom to exist as she chooses outside the rules and expectations of others. Capote¿s depictions of the gay men within the work are also defining moments as they reflect both the social constrictions of the time and Capote's suggested possibility that asexual unions, freed from the burden and unpredictability of desire, can yield a purer form of love or devotion.Fragile and lovely. Sad and empowering. Thoughtful rhythmical read for those interested in a struggle to live outside the box where the unattainable - breakfast at Tiffany¿s - exists as the ideal.
DowntownLibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I decided to read this a few years ago and then suggested it recently for my book club. Capote is a marvelous stylist and Holly Golightly is a fascinating and puzzling character. I'd have to say that the book left me feeling vaguely sad for Holly. Well worth reading, though, and it was a good choice for our book club.
praymont on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Truman Capote's novella differs significantly from the great movie that was based on it. I first saw the movie in my late adolescence, and it's the characteristics and insecurities of that stage in life that the book and the movie reflect.The two main characters are outsiders. They are Holly Golightly ('Traveling' her card says) and the nameless narrator. Unlike the movie, there's no romantic tie between the two. Their connection is an asexual friendship, which facilitates viewing the narrator, an aspiring author, as being gay writer (like Capote himself). His homosexuality, in that day, establishes his outsider status, while Holly's is secured by the fact that she's from a dirt-poor background and works as a call-girl. Both characters lack stable relationships, inhabit only temporary lodgings, and appear in the narrative without real names.These features enable Capote to capture that moment in life when one has left home but has yet to take on a new, adult identity. The main characters are young people who haven't yet found a place in the world but give the impression of being on their way to some vaguely dreamt of future.I don't want to give away the ending, but it did sneak up on me -- I'd forgotten about the short stories that follow the novella in this edition and thought I had several pages to go before the end. All I can say is: if only Holly and her writer friend had had Facebook!
nycbookgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've always loved the movie with Audrey Hepburn and I've read Capote's In Cold Blood and really like it. So I thought I'd give it a whirl.I loved it!Holly Golightly. What a character.The narrator is a young writer who is recalling the memory of when he lived in the same apartment building as Holly Golightly in the Upper East side of New York City. They meet one early early morning because Holly is locked out (a common occurance). Holly dubs the narrator Fred, the name of her older brother, and they become friends.Holly is eccentric to say the least. She's young...nineteen or twenty...and lives pretty much as call girl. She goes out partying all night and men usually give fifty bucks to go to the ladies, fifty for a cab ride, etc. And the image of Audrey Hepburn fits it perfectly (except Audrey was a bit older than the novel's portrayal...but still). So the novel just outlines this eccentric character who sits on her fire escape and plays the guitar and sings, has a cat with no name, has sketchy dealings with a mob boss who she visits in prison, and a number of other things.The "breakfast at Tiffany's" part comes from her habit of dressing up, going to Tiffany's and having breakfast whenever she gets the "mean reds"...not the blues mind you.Here's what Holly said:"What I've found does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany's. It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets."I absolutely loved it.
lunasilentio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Truman's talent he started honing in Summer Crossing really shines through in this novella. It's a quick read and perfect for a Saturday afternoon. My advice--don't try to imagine the Hollywood actors in as the characters, although it might be hard to seperate them from your thoughts! As other say, the book is different. Darker and open ended. I think it is better without a definite ending; Golightly's story isn't over but we don't know how she ends out. Very fitting for her character when you think about it.
nohablo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wonderful tart, fastidious prose to tell a neat story, at once sharp, sour, and sweet. Too bad for all the jarring racism and homophobia that unexpectedly pop out to STAB YOU IN THE HEART. But, Christ, Capote can turn a mean phrase.
DuffDaddy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Overall, much better than I anticipated. Capote's style made the story hard to put down. Having only seen the film, I expected the story to be much like that. However, the novella is much deeper, has more layers and reveals the true character (and the flaws) of Holly. In the film she seems just a shallow party girl...however, the books shows more of a troubled youth who will evetually regret some of the descisions she's made. (maybe?)In autumn 1943, the unnamed narrator becomes friends with Holly Golightly, who calls him "Fred", after her older brother. The two are both tenants in a brownstone apartment in Manhattan's Upper East Side. Holly (age 18-19) is a country girl turned New York café society girl. As such, she has no job and lives by socializing with wealthy men, who take her to clubs and restaurants, and give her money and expensive presents; she hopes to marry one of them. According to Capote, Golightly is not a prostitute but an "American geisha.""Fred": The narrator, whom Capote acknowledged is gay, unlike the character in the film.Holly Golightly: The protagonist.Joe Bell: A bartender acquainted with both "Fred" and Holly.Mag Wildwood: Holly's friend and sometime roommate, a fellow socialite and model.Rusty Trawler: A presumed wealthy man, thrice divorced, well-known in society circles.Jose Yberra-Jaegar: A Brazilian diplomat, who is the companion of Mag Wildwood and, later, of Holly.Doc Golightly: A veterinarian from Texas, whom Holly married as a teenager.O. J. Berman: A Hollywood agent, who has discovered Holly and groomed her to become a professional actress.Salvatore "Sally" Tomato: A convicted racketeer, whom Holly visits weekly in Sing Sing prison.Madame Sapphia Spanella: Another tenant in the brownstone.Mr. I. Y. Yunioshi: A photographer, who lives in the top floor studio in the brownstone.Holly likes to stun people with carefully selected tidbits from her personal life or her outspoken viewpoints on various topics. Over the next year, she slowly reveals herself to the narrator, who finds himself fascinated by her curious lifestyle. In the end, Holly fears that she will never know what is really hers until after she has thrown it away. Their relationship ends in autumn 1944.
pinkcrayon99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was introduced to the writings of Truman Capote my freshman year of college. In Cold Blood was the title and the book was captivating. A few months ago I came across the fact that Capote also wrote Breakfast at Tiffany¿s. I don¿t know how I missed this considering the fact that I have watched the movie several times. Having read In Cold Blood, I just couldn¿t imagine Capote writing Breakfast at Tiffany¿s. Needless to say my interest was sparked and I made a trip to the library to pick it up. My excitement was down to a fizzle after the first few pages. The main character is Holly Golightly. She goes down anything but lightly. She was hard to swallow. Holly is aloof, insensitive, and lived in a fantasy land. It was a few times I just wanted to shake her and say, ¿What planet are you on?¿ As you can tell I get wrapped up in these books. The narrator who is a young writer Holly affectionately refers to as Fred lives in the same apartment complex with Holly and is soon caught in her web. Most of the men that surround Holly are completely absorbed with her presence. Even though they know she is living a total lie they still find themselves in awe of her. I would even go as far as to say that Holly borders on some type of mental illness. She simply cannot deal with reality. This book is full of eccentric characters that are quite flawed. The storyline was so jumbled that a couple of times I just gave the pages a blank stare. This book was quite a letdown for me. Capote¿s writing style was simple but a few times throughout the novel it was just senseless babble. We all know that Capote was an open homosexual with a very outgoing and flamboyant personality which leads me to believe that Holly Golightly was his alter ego.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is worthwhile if you are only familiar with Holly Golightly from the Audrey Hepburn movie to read the original novella that introduced this famous character. Holly is a creature that never quite fits into her world, all at once naive and worldly, self-involved and compassionate, emotionless and passionate. Her paradoxes are what make her fascinating, both to us and to the men who come in contact with her. Holly¿s fate in the novella is not a happy one as in the movie, but is rather much more nebulous ¿ it is left to the reader to judge, and that is somehow more satisfying. This volume also contains three of Capote¿s most famous short stories, including ¿A Christmas Memory,¿ which seems a lot sadder to me now than when I first read it in high school.