In an interview with Playboy, Capote calls Holly Golightly an “American geisha.”
Set in the mid 1940s, Breakfast at Tiffany’s takes a striking look at female sexuality.
Holly Golightly is one of America’s most famous and controversial heroines. The blonde beauty stumbles gracefully–perhaps a little tipsy–into the narrator’s life and assumes command of his heart and the story. The narrator is a sad sort of person. He reminds me of Nick from The Great Gatsby. They are both ineffectual men who are in love with a woman, all the while completely disapproving of her.
Holly hails from Texas, where at 14 she married and became a step-mother. Soon she abandoned her post as wife and mother for life in the big city. The ex-child-bride makes a living by spending time with wealthy men who shower her with gifts and cash. She is a New York cafe society girl. Holly is not a prostitute really. Nevertheless, Holly is a skill-less girl in an era when women didn’t have a lot of options. Independence comes at a price.
Near the end of the story, the prospect of marriage opens up an opportunity to leave her life as a geisha behind, and Holly jumps at the idea of domesticity and motherhood. Marriage seems to be her only way out of society girl life. But when she gets in trouble with the law, Holly’s marriage plans fall to pieces.
Every man in the story is completely taken with Holly. There is something about her beautiful nonchalance and engaging, endless chatter that has men falling over themselves just to be around her. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is really quite a pathetic portrayal of men.
Yet Holly is not exactly likeable either. Under her elegantly simple exterior, she is a maze of contradictions. She’s rather shallow, has no convictions, doesn’t seem too bright, and is kind of a floozy. Yet she adores her brother and is sympathetic toward her former husband; these glimpses of her humanity make her a believable–if not likable– character. Her unpredictability is infinitely intriguing!
By the way, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is actually a novella, meaning an incredibly short novel (or an incredibly long short story). The novella itself is about 90 pages long, but Breakfast at Tiffany’s is an umbrella title that shelters three additional stories (I skipped those).