Study Guide

Breakfast at Tiffany's

By Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany's Introduction

Breakfast at Tiffany's is the story of a young woman in World War II-era New York who hobnobs with famous people, gets into a lot of trouble, and breaks many hearts along the way, all while struggling to find her place in the world. And it's one of Truman Capote's most famous works, due in large part to the film adaptation of it.

The novel was written in 1958, and in 1961 the film version starring Audrey Hepburn was released. It was her portrayal of Holly Golightly that made the film a hit, and Hepburn's dark glasses and little black dress soon became fashion icons. The film also featured a soundtrack by musician Henry Mancini, and "Moon River," the song he created for the movie's theme, won an Oscar and is considered a classic as well.

Though the novel itself sometimes gets lost in discussions of the film, it was and is considered pretty remarkable in its own right. Upon its publication, Norman Mailer, a well-respected American writer, is quoted as saying that he "would not have changed two words in Breakfast at Tiffany's, which will become a small classic." And, according to Capote's biographer Gerald Clarke, Holly Golightly became Capote's favorite character of all the ones he created (some say this is because Holly resembles Capote). His success with capturing the subject of this book could be because Capote inhabited the same type of world that Holly does and because, as Clarke explained in the biography, Capote based his favorite character on a number of real-life women he knew (including Chaplin's wife Oona and Gloria Vanderbilt). Either way, the short novel created a lot of buzz among critics and in Capote's own social circle, so this makes the book a pretty interesting blend of literary achievement and pop culture text.

What is Breakfast at Tiffany's About and Why Should I Care?

When it comes down to it, Holly Golightly is trying to find herself (we know this is a terrible cliché, but we think it's pretty true in this case). Holly is nineteen years old and she's trying to figure out who she is, what she wants in her life, what her place in the world is, and what will make her happy. And aren't these some things we can all relate to, especially as we try to navigate the messy business of being in high school and college?

Although the specific experiences of Holly's life might not mirror our own, the struggles she goes through and the heavy questions she deals with probably do reflect many of the things any of us face every day. We might not visit mobsters in prison or run off to South America at the drop of a hat (while evading police, no less), but we probably do know what it's like to wrestle with our self-identity and to try to find a place where we feel comfortable and settled. And this can seem as difficult for us at times as it does for Holly. Because, if we look a little deeper, it sure can speak to our own experiences. Because there might be a little bit of Holly Golightly in all of us.

  

Breakfast at Tiffany's Resources

Websites

Paris Review Interview with Capote
This is a great interview in which Capote discusses his childhood, his literary influences, his writing habits, and his hobbies.

American Masters Biography of Capote
A brief PBS biography that covers Capote's life and career.

Lyrics to "Moon River"
Visit this link to read the lyrics of Henry Mancini's award-winning theme song for the 1961 movie. The site also has a link to an audio recording of the song.

Capote Times Topics Page
The New York Times's page on Capote, which links to tons of great articles about the author and his works.

Movie or TV Productions

Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1961
The famous film starring Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly.

Images

Photograph of Truman Capote
Check out this photo of a young Capote in 1947.

Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly
This is an iconic image of Hepburn, which was taken during the filming of the movie.