The unnamed narrator of Breakfast at Tiffany’s begins his story by telling how he heard of Holly Golightly several years after she skipped town. He meets a mutual friend who has heard from Holly’s old landlord Mr. Yunioshi [played in a stunningly unfunny bit by Mickey Rooney in the film.] Mr. Y. was on a photo-safari in Africa, and he happened upon a man who had a carving that looked just like Holly. The likeness is so strong, that the narrator agrees it must be she after he sees the photos. And the story behind it?
… a party of three white persons had appeared out of the brush riding horseback. A young woman and two men. The men, both red-eyed with fever, were forced for several weeks to stay shut and shivering in an isolated hut, while the young woman, having presently taken a fancy to the wood-carver, shared the wood-carver’s mat.
That alone is enough to indicate that that we are in a different universe from the Hollywood adaptation of Capote’s novella. At the end, when she abandons her no-name cat…
…she stamped her foot: “I said beat it!” He rubbed against her leg. “I said fuck off!” she shouted…
Well, it’s an adaptation, and movies aren’t books. We have to expect the censorship, and some fiddling with the story, but still, it indicates that we are getting two totally different stories and characterizations of Holly. So, forget about the sappy film. What of the book?
Holly is sad, depressing, and a lot more brash and sexy than Hepburn, lovely as she is. She loves her no-name cat and the no-name narrator, and she loves her brother Fred, though she knows he is really stupid, because only he would let her hug him when they slept in the same bed those long, impoverished years ago. She’ll never get him back, or the love for him. Everything lost, everything wasted. She tries to become something else, like a good American, but she cannot. She’s a whore…sort of, and makes no bones about it. She gets pregnant by her Brazilian boyfriend. She doesn’t charm you – she’s actually kind of repellant, except that she is so obviously a damaged person, really, truly damaged by poverty and abuse. She’s only twenty in the story. She must be pretty – men all go for her. Even the narrator, who very likely is gay, though that’s just a guess, falls for her. But he isn’t romantic about her.
They never go to Tiffany’s together.
The story is sad, depressing, and rather powerful. From the point of view of a anonymous appreciator, we watch Holly pursue a flightpath that miraculously avoids crashing and burning, but we doubt it can go on much longer or bring her any comfort.