Literature Study GuidesBreakfast At TiffanysSection 20 Hollys Last Letter Summary

Breakfast at Tiffany's | Study Guide

Truman Capote

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Breakfast at Tiffany's | Section 20 (Holly's Last Letter) | Summary



The newspapers finally figure out Holly Golightly is in Rio, but the American authorities don't seem too keen to track her down. The owner of the apartment building sells the rest of Holly's possessions, and a new tenant moves in. He "entertain[s] as many gentlemen callers of a noisy nature as Holly ever had," but Madame Sapphia Spanella treats him like a favorite child.

The narrator receives a postcard from Holly the following spring. She is in Brazil, dating a married man who has seven children. She promises to send the narrator her permanent address once she has one. He has a lot of things he wants to tell her: the Trawlers are divorcing, he moved out of the brownstone because it's "haunted," he's sold two stories, and he found her cat, who has a new home. But he never hears from Holly again.


Madame Sapphia Spanella's treatment of the building's new tenant, Quaintance Smith, is vastly different from the way she treated Holly Golightly. In her eyes, Holly was nothing more than a cheap prostitute. Yet Madame Spanella adores Quaintance Smith, who has just as many male visitors. This can be attributed to two things. First, Madame Spanella probably doesn't realize Smith is gay. In naming this character Quaintance Smith, Truman Capote alludes to George Quaintance, a gay artist of the 1940s–50s whose paintings are homoerotic in nature. As an older woman with rigid morals in the 1940s, it wouldn't cross her mind that Smith would prefer the company of men. Madame Spanella's ignorance about Smith's sexual proclivities is meant to poke fun at an older generation whose values are out of date. Second, Breakfast at Tiffany's takes place during a time when female sexuality was rarely acknowledged, and women who engaged in sexual relationships before marriage were thought to be "fast" or low class. Madame Spanella thinks Holly, who does nothing to hide her lifestyle, is bringing shame upon the entire apartment building.

The ending of Breakfast at Tiffany's doesn't provide a concrete conclusion about Holly's whereabouts or her level of happiness. The opening section of the book tells readers she's still traveling—which indicates that even now she's seeking a place she belongs. Yet an alternate, happier ending can also be imagined, thanks to Holly's cat. When the narrator eventually locates the cat in the window of someone else's house, he can tell the cat has "arrived somewhere he [belongs]." The cat—who represents Holly's desire for love and security throughout the novella—has finally found a home. It's not too great a leap to assume Holly has, too. Home for Holly might not be a place but a person. As she says in Section 18, "Home is where you feel at home." The reader is left with the hope Holly has found what she was always looking for.
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