Literature Study GuidesBreakfast At TiffanysSection 12 Holly Gets Bad News Summary

Breakfast at Tiffany's | Study Guide

Truman Capote

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Breakfast at Tiffany's | Section 12 (Holly Gets Bad News) | Summary



The narrator has had a terrible few weeks. He has been fired from his job, can't find another one, and may soon be drafted into the army. Things get worse when he sees a newspaper headline proclaiming Rusty Trawler has taken a fourth wife. Immediately assuming Holly Golightly is the new Mrs. Trawler, he admits to himself he's in love with her, just like he was, at various times, in love with his family's cook, a postman, "and a whole family named McKendrick." When he finally buys his own newspaper, he learns the bride in question is actually Mag Wildwood, not Holly. He's relieved.

His neighbor Madame Sapphia Spanella meets him in the hallway. She begs him to get the police because it sounds like someone is being killed in Holly's apartment. The narrator runs upstairs and pounds on the door, then tries to break it down. José Ybarra-Jaegar pushes him aside and uses his own key to open the door. He is accompanied by a doctor.

Holly's apartment is "tremendously wrecked." Broken lamps and records litter the floor, perfume bottles lie shattered, and raw eggs drip down the walls. While the doctor gives Holly a sedative in her bedroom, José and the narrator have a drink in the living room. José keeps mentioning something about grief and confesses he is worried Holly's behavior will "cause scandal," which would be bad for his reputation. The narrator then learns that the cause of Holly's grief isn't Rusty Trawler and Mag Wildwood's wedding, but a telegram relating the death of her brother, Fred.


The news of Fred's death devastates Holly Golightly, and rightfully so. Fred was the one constant in Holly's tumultuous early years, and her love for him remains unwavering. She has other brothers, but it was Fred's slowness and sweetness and outright need of her love that kept her by his side after their parents died. Just as Doc was Holly's father figure, Holly was Fred's stand-in mother. His death represents the loss of unconditional love between the two of them, as well as the loss of Holly's dreams of the future—all of which involved Fred. Without him, she feels as if she has nothing to live for.

José Ybarra-Jaegar's response to Holly's grief is out of character for a devoted lover. He is far more worried about how her breakdown will reflect upon him than how it will affect Holly. Like nearly all the men who came before him, José doesn't love Holly—he loves the idea of her. He has gone from the arms of one glamorous high-society girl to another in search of the perfect political wife. He's looking for a glamorous woman with society connections who doesn't have a lot of personal baggage. Underneath her polished veneer, Holly has nothing but baggage and drama. José cares far more about his reputation than he does about Holly.

It is clear to readers and to the narrator that Holly and José aren't a good match, yet the narrator doesn't try to dissuade José from the relationship. He actually consoles the Brazilian diplomat and assures him Holly's collapse is by no means scandalous. More than anything, the narrator wants Holly to be happy, and he thinks it's possible she could be happy with this quiet gentleman. His anger and jealously when he thought she married Rusty Trawler wasn't out of despair that he couldn't have Holly for himself, but that she was yoking herself to an "absurd foetus" just because he was rich. The love the narrator feels for Holly echoes his childhood admiration of people who were unlike himself. Holly's life is vastly different from the narrator's, which makes him all the more eager to be a part of it. The narrator doesn't want to kiss Holly or marry her—it is more probable he wants to be like her.

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