Breakfast at Tiffany's | Study Guide

Truman Capote

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Breakfast at Tiffany's | Character Analysis


Holly Golightly

Holly Golightly, born Lulamae Barnes, is 18 years old when the narrator first meets her. She is a creature unlike anyone he has ever known, simultaneously sophisticated, blunt, and unapologetic about her lifestyle. Orphaned at a young age, Holly (then Lulamae) and her brother Fred wandered into the care of Doc Golightly, a widower in his 50s with several children. Doc and Lulamae married when she was only 13. A self-proclaimed "wild thing," Lulamae couldn't stand to be caged in a relationship, even one as supportive as her marriage to Doc. She ran away to California, where she changed her first name to Holly. A chance meeting with talent agent, O.J. Berman, put her on the path to becoming a starlet, but she abandoned the plan at the last minute and headed to New York, where she now earns a living by asking her dates for cab fare and money for powder room tips. Her tough and independent exterior masks the fact that she is wary of opening her heart to anyone lest she get hurt. Romantic relationships are little more than business transactions, and her true friendships are few and far between. The narrator appears to be the only real friend she has, but she pushes even him away when he suggests her itinerant, money-chasing lifestyle will lead to more harm than good.


Not a lot is known about the first-person narrator of Breakfast at Tiffany's. His age, his background, and even his name are all a mystery. A struggling short-story writer, he makes ends meet by working an unspecified day job. Though it is evident he has lived a colorful life (among other things, it is mentioned that he once walked 500 miles between cities in the Deep South), he is more interested in telling the story of his neighbor, Holly Golightly, rather than his own. He is fascinated by her at first sight, and that fascination quickly grows into love. His feelings aren't romantic, but those of a devoted friend who is willing to support her at all personal and emotional costs. Unlike most of the other men in the novella, the narrator feels no sexual desire toward Holly, and he takes great pains to describe the platonic nature of their friendship.


Doc took Holly—then Lulamae—and her brother, Fred, in as runaway orphans. Thirty-five years her senior, he married Lulamae when she was 13 "going on 14." After she ran away, leaving Fred behind, Doc searched for over four years before finding her in New York. He wants her to return to him, but she says she's had the marriage annulled and won't have anything to do with him.

José Ybarra-Jaegar

José moves into Holly's apartment, and she is planning to marry him. He knows she is pregnant and buys tickets for them both to travel to Brazil. When Holly is arrested in connection with Sally Tomato's drug trade, José deserts her—fearing for his reputation and his important government job.

Joe Bell

Joe Bell shows the narrator photographs given to him by Mr. I.Y. Yunioshi—shots of an African wood carving of a young woman. The carving so closely resembles Holly that Joe declares, "It is her. Sure as I'm a man fit to wear britches." Struck by this reminder, the narrator begins writing about his long-ago friendship with Holly.

Mag Wildwood

Holly sees Mag as competition, because they prey on the same type of men for financial support. Tall and intimidating, Mag affects an exaggerated stutter; it is implied she does this to make her seem vulnerable. Holly attempts to stifle men's interest in her rival by implying Mag has a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Rusty Trawler

Wealthy, spoiled, and masochistic, Trawler was orphaned as a child, then looked after by a grandfather who abused him. He gravitates to Holly, who knows how to manipulate him so that he is happy to provide her with financial support. She implies he is gay and determined to remain in the closet. Lured away by Mag Wildwood, he eventually abandons his relationship with Holly.

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