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Breakfast at Tiffany's
First edition cover
Author Truman Capote
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Random House
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback and paperback), e-book, audio-CD
Pages 179 pp
OCLC 964700
813/.54 20
LC Class PS3505.A59 A6 1993

Breakfast at Tiffany's is a novella by Truman Capote published in 1958. The main character, Holly Golightly, is one of Capote's best-known creations.


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".[1]

Holly likes to shock people with carefully selected tidbits from her personal life or her outspoken viewpoints on various topics. Over the course of a year, she slowly reveals herself to the narrator, who finds himself fascinated by her curious lifestyle.


  • "Fred": the narrator.
  • 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 presumably wealthy man, thrice divorced, well known in society circles.
  • José Ybarra-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.


In early drafts of the story Holly was named Connie Gustafson; Capote later changed her name to Holiday Golightly. He apparently based the character of Holly on several different women, all friends or close acquaintances of his. Claims have been made as to the source of the character, the "real Holly Golightly", in what Capote called the "Holly Golightly Sweepstakes";[2] including socialite Gloria Vanderbilt, Oona O'Neill,[3] writer/actress Carol Grace,[4] writer Maeve Brennan,[5] writer Doris Lilly,[6] model Dorian Leigh (whom Capote dubbed "Happy Go Lucky"),[7][8] and her sister, model Suzy Parker.

According to Joan McCracken's biographer, Capote used McCracken's violent outburst in the Bloomer Girl dressing room in 1944, after learning of the World War II death of her brother, as a model for a scene in the novella in which Holly reacts violently after her brother dies overseas. McCracken and her husband Jack Dunphy were close friends of Capote's, and Dunphy became Capote's companion after his divorce from the actress. In the novella, Holly Golightly is shown singing songs from Oklahoma! (in which McCracken appeared) accompanying herself on a guitar, and owning The Baseball Guide, which was edited by McCracken's uncle. [9]

Capote’s biographer Gerald Clarke wrote "half the women he knew ...claimed to be the model for his wacky heroine"[10] Clarke also wrote of the similarities between the author himself and the character.[11] There are also similarities between the lives of Holly and Capote's mother, Nina Capote; among other shared attributes both women were born in the rural south with similar "hick" birth names that they changed (Holly Golightly was born Lulamae Barnes in Texas, Nina Capote was born Lillie Mae Faulk in Alabama), both left the husbands they married as teenagers and abandoned relatives they loved and were responsible for going to New York, and both achieved "café society" status through relationships with wealthier men, though Capote's mother was born two decades earlier than the fictional Holly Golightly.[12][13] Capote was also unsuccessfully sued for libel and invasion of privacy by a Manhattan resident named Bonnie Golightly who claimed that he had based Holly on her.[14]

Publication history[edit]

Breakfast at Tiffany's was originally sold to Harper's Bazaar for $2,000 and intended for publication in its July, 1958 issue. It was to be illustrated with a series of photo montages by David Attie, who had been hired for the job by famed Harper's art director Alexey Brodovitch. However, after the publication was scheduled, longtime Harper's editor Carmel Snow was ousted by the magazine's publisher, the Hearst Corporation, and Hearst executives began asking for changes to the novella's tart language. By this time, Attie's montages had been completed, and Alice Morris, the fiction editor of Harper's, recounted that while Capote initially refused to make any changes, he relented "partly because I showed him the layouts... six pages with beautiful, atmospheric photographs."[15] Yet Hearst ordered Harper's not to run the novella anyway. Its language and subject matter were still deemed "not suitable," and there was concern that Tiffany's, a major advertiser, would react negatively. [16][17] An outraged Capote soon resold the work to Esquire for $3,000, and it appeared in the November, 1958 issue, without Attie's or Brodovitch's contributions. Shortly afterward, a collection of the novella and three short stories by Capote was published by Random House -- and the glowing reviews caused sales of the Esquire issue to skyrocket. Both Attie and Brodovitch went on to work with Capote on other projects -- Attie on Brooklyn Heights: A Personal Memoir, and Brodovitch on Observations, both published in 1959.

The collection has been reprinted several times; the novella has been included in other Capote collections.

Capote's original typed manuscript was offered for sale by a New Hampshire auction house in April 2013.[18]

Literary significance and reception[edit]

In "Breakfast at Sally Bowles'", Ingrid Norton of Open Letters Monthly pointed out Capote's debt to Christopher Isherwood, one of his mentors, in creating the character of Holly Golightly: "Breakfast at Tiffany’s is in many ways Capote’s personal crystallization of Isherwood's Sally Bowles."[19]

Truman Capote's aunt, Marie Rudisill notes that Holly is a kindred spirit of Miss Lily Jane Bobbit, the central character of his short story "Children on Their Birthdays." She observes that both characters are "unattached, unconventional wanderers, dreamers in pursuit of some ideal of happiness."[20]

Capote himself acknowledged that Golightly was the favorite of his characters.[21]

The novella's prose style prompted Norman Mailer to call Capote "the most perfect writer of my generation," adding that he "would not have changed two words in Breakfast at Tiffany's".[22]



The novella was loosely adapted into the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany's starring Audrey Hepburn and directed by Blake Edwards. The movie was transposed to circa 1960 rather than the 1940s, the period of the novella. In addition to this, at the end of the film the protagonist and Holly fall in love and stay together, whereas in the novella there is no love affair whatsoever — Holly just leaves the United States and the narrator has no idea what happened to her since then, except for a photograph of her with a tribe in Africa. Capote originally envisioned Marilyn Monroe as Holly, and lobbied the studio for her, but the film was done at Paramount, and though Monroe did independent films, including for her own production company, she was still under contract with Twentieth Century Fox, and had just completed Let's Make Love with Yves Montand.


A musical version of Breakfast at Tiffany's (also known as Holly Golightly) premiered in 1966 in Boston.[citation needed] The initial performances were panned by the critics and despite a rewrite by Edward Albee, it closed after only four performances.[23]


Three years after the musical adaptation, Stefanie Powers and Jack Kruschen starred in another adaptation, Holly Golightly (1969), an unsold ABC sitcom pilot. Kruschen's role was based on Joe Bell, a major character in Capote's novella who was omitted from the film version.


There have been two adaptations of the novella into stage plays, both directed by Sean Mathias. The first production was written by Samuel Adamson and was presented in 2009 at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London, starring Anna Friel as Holly Golightly and Joseph Cross as William 'Fred' Parsons.[24][25] The second version was written by Richard Greenberg for a 2013 production at the Cort Theatre in New York City, starring Emilia Clarke as Holly Golightly, Cory Michael Smith as Fred, and George Wendt as Joe Bell.[26]


  1. ^ A March 1968 interview with Playboy contains the following exchange:

    Playboy: Would you elaborate on your comment that Holly was the prototype of today's liberated female and representative of a "whole breed of girls who live off men but are not prostitutes. They're our version of the geisha girl..."?
    Capote: Holly Golightly was not precisely a call girl. She had no job, but accompanied expense-account men to the best restaurants and night clubs, with the understanding that her escort was obligated to give her some sort of gift, perhaps jewelry or a check …if she felt like it, she might take her escort home for the night. So these girls are the authentic American geishas, and they're much more prevalent now than in 1943 or 1944, which was Holly's era.

    Norden, Eric (March 1968). "Playboy Interview: Truman Capote". Playboy 15 (3). p. 51–53, 56, 58–62, 160–162, 164–170.  Reprinted in:

  2. ^ "Hello Im Holly". The Times (London). 7 February 2004. 
  3. ^ Clarke, Capote, pp. 94–5, 313–4
  4. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (24 July 2003). "Carol Matthau, a Frank and Tart Memoirist, Dies at 78". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ "Maeve Golightly?". Publishersweekly.com. 25 October 2004. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  6. ^ "Doris Lilly; Author, Columnist". Los Angeles Times. 11 October 1991. 
  7. ^ "Dorian Leigh: 'Supermodel' of the 1940s". The Independent (London). 14 July 2008. 
  8. ^ "The story behind the song: Moon River". The Telegraph. 7 October 2008. Retrieved 2014-05-22. 
  9. ^ Sagolla, Lisa Jo (2003). The Girl Who Fell Down: A Biography of Joan McCracken. Boston, Mass.: Northeastern University Press. p. 110. ISBN 1-55553-573-9. 
  10. ^ Gerald Clarke, Capote: A Biography (Ballantine, 1989), p. 314.
  11. ^ Gerald Clarke, Capote: A Biography (Ballantine, 1989), Chs. 11–13.
  12. ^ Rudisill, Marie; Simmons, James C. Truman Capote: The Story of His Bizarre and Exotic Boyhood by an Aunt Who Helped to Raise Him (William Morrow, 1983), p. 92.
  13. ^ Clarke, Gerald. Capote: A Biography (Ballantine, 1989), p. 313.
  14. ^ Clarke, Gerald (2005). Capote: A Biography. Carroll & Graf Publishers. pp. 313–314. ISBN 0-7867-1661-4. 
  15. ^ Clarke, Gerald, Capote: A Biography, 1988, Simon & Schuster: p308.
  16. ^ Plimpton, George, editor, Truman Capote, 1997, Doubleday: p162-163.
  17. ^ Wise, Kelly, editor, Portrait: Theory, 1981, Lustrum Press: p7.
  18. ^ "Manuscript of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" up for auction". CBS News. Retrieved 1 April 2013. 
  19. ^ "Review of Sally Bowles and Breakfest at Tiffany's – Open Letters Monthly – an Arts and Literature Review". Openlettersmonthly.com. Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  20. ^ Rudisill, Marie; Simmons, James C. The Southern Haunting of Truman Capote (Nashville, Tennessee: Cumberland House, 2000), page 100.
  21. ^ http://www.moviediva.com/MD_root/reviewpages/MDBreakfastatTiffanys.htm
  22. ^ Mailer, Norman (1959). Advertisements for Myself. Harvard University Press. p. 465. ISBN 0-674-00590-2. ...he is the most perfect writer of my generation, he writes the best sentences word for word, rhythm upon rhythm. I would not have changed two words in Breakfast at Tiffany's which will become a small classic. 
  23. ^ Davis, Deborah (2007). Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and his Black and White Ball. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 141–142. ISBN 978-0-470-09821-9. 
  24. ^ Sookdeo, Niqui (17 July 2009). "Dreyfus to join cast of Breakfast at Tiffany’s". The Stage. Retrieved 20 September 2009. 
  25. ^ "West End Breakfast for Anna Friel", BBC News, May 15, 2009
  26. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Broadway's Breakfast at Tiffany's Sets Closing Date" Playbill.com, April 15, 2013

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