Breakfast at Tiffanys
Truman Capote
Contributed by Pearl Vahle
Chapter 14-16

Holly is in custody, and the narrator and Joe Bell speculate as to the truth of her involvement in Sally Tomato’s crime ring. The narrator tells Joe that while she did carry messages from Sally to O’Shaughnessy, she did so unknowingly, and is therefore innocent. Joe implores the narrator to contact her wealthy friends to find Holly a decent lawyer.

In the telephone booth in Joe’s bar, the narrator phones O.J. Berman, who is unavailable, and then Rusty Trawler. Mag Wildwood picks up the phone, and informs the narrator that neither she nor her husband will have anything to do with that "degenerate girl." She tells him that she always knew Holly was an immoral drug addict, and that she belongs in prison. The narrator considers phoning Doc Golightly, but then remembers Holly’s warning that he never reveal the secret of her marriage.

Finally, the narrator speaks to Berman, who assures him that he has already hired the best lawyer in New York, Iggy Fitelstein, for Holly’s defense. Berman claims that Iggy will be getting Holly released on bail that evening, and that she may even be home already. Yet, when the narrator enters her apartment that night to feed her cat, Holly is not there, and the following morning she still isn’t home. Instead, the narrator finds a strange man in the apartment packing up Jose’s wardrobe. The man resembles Jose, and admits to the narrator that he is his cousin. He asks the narrator to pass a letter from Jose along to Holly, and he agrees.

Two mornings later, the narrator visits Holly in her room at the hospital where she was admitted on the night of her arrest. The vigorous horseback riding had induced a miscarriage, which, she confides, she plans on blaming on the female officer who slapped her. She also tells the narrator about "the fat woman" - an ominous figure she sees in her deepest grief. She had first appeared to Holly after she heard of her brother’s death, and, with the miscarriage, she had appeared again. She asks the narrator about Jose, and he shows her the letter. She asks him to read it aloud. Before he starts, she insists on applying makeup and puts on her signature dark glasses and pearl earrings.

The narrator reads Holly Jose’s letter, which explains that though he loves her, he can’t afford to marry a woman involved in a public scandal as it would compromise his high professional and religious stature in Brazil. He asks her forgiveness and blesses her and her child. Holly asks the narrator’s opinion of the letter, and he admits that he found it honest and touching. The narrator sees that while Holly is trying to act nonchalant, she is devastated. Holly admits that she loved "the rat."

Holly changes topic, and begins discussing her plans to sue the state for inducing her miscarriage. When the narrator pleads with her to be reasonable and "make plans", Holly confides that she is planning on skipping bail that Saturday morning. She asks him to escort her from her apartment to the airport, where she still has reservations on a flight to Brazil. When he refuses, insisting that she "stick it out," she explains that the state has no interest in prosecuting her, and that they are only interested in her testimony against Sally Tomato, which she is unwilling to give.

Moreover, she wishes to escape public scrutiny. "Certain shades of limelight wreck a girl’s complexion," she says. Even if a jury found her innocent, she explains, she would have no future in New York and no prospects with the local wealthy men. Her livelihood depends on her evading the trial. Before the narrator leaves, Holly asks him to find her a list of the fifty richest men in Brazil and to search her apartment for the St. Christopher medal he gave her. She believes she will need its luck for the trip.


At the beginning of section 14, the narrator confides that he feels Holly was turned in by Sapphia Spanella, as she had already called the authorities several times complaining about Holly. Spanella objects to Holly’s behavior on moral grounds; her main concern is Holly’s promiscuous behavior. In the world of the novella, filled with outcasts, eccentrics, and other unorthodox personalities, Spanella represents the moral and social status quo of mid-century America. Her vicious persecution of Holly reminds the reader that mainstream society was far from hospitable to women like Holly, whose liberal and independent lifestyles did not conform to the dominant definition of femininity.

As the narrator and Joe Bell attempt to secure help for Holly, they find that their resources are limited. In particular, her former companions, the newly married Mag and Rusty, are suddenly unwilling to help her. Mag is particularly upset at the narrator’s call, insisting that she and her husband will "positively sue anyone who attempts to connect our names with that ro-ro-rovolting and de-de-degenerate girl." She calls her a "hop-head" (drug addict) with "no more morals than a hound-bitch in heat." While O.J. Berman hires an important lawyer for Holly’s case, it is on the condition that he not be personally implicated as her benefactor. The reluctance of Holly’s friends to be connected to her in her crisis reveals the dark underside of Holly’s seeming popularity. While Holly had been explicit about "using" her friends for money and favors, it appears that these people had also been using her, perhaps to bolster their own status on the New York social scene.

In contrast to her fickle society friends, Joe and the narrator remain dedicated to helping Holly, suggesting that their affection for her is sincere; an interesting dynamic when we consider the ways in which these characters differ from the people Holly typically chooses for friends. Both characters are gay, thus lacking a sexual connection to Holly, and poor, thus lacking a financial connection to her. The loyalty of Joe and the narrator in this section validates the relationships between gay men and women, demonstrating the strength of love that is not founded on sexual or financial need. Aware of the insincerity of need-based affection, the narrator is not surprised when, in section 15, he finds that Jose plans to abandon Holly via a letter, unwilling to even see her again.

Section 16, set in the hospital where Holly is recovering from her miscarriage, explores Holly’s pathology in depth. Unable to discuss her sadness and fear directly, she invents another metaphor, the "fat woman", to explain her depression to the narrator. She confides that it was the "fat woman" who had overtaken her after Fred’s death, and asks, "[now] do you see why I went crazy and broke everything?" Holly also defends herself against sadness with physical artifice, readying herself for Jose’s letter by applying meticulous makeup, jewelry, and her signature dark glasses. As she transforms herself, the narrator notices that her child-like appearance hardens and she appears "armored." The makeup symbolizes Holly’s constant attempts to "armor", or protect herself against emotion by assuming different, artificial identities. The presence of three Italian women in the hospital room, none of whom can understand English and who seem to misinterpret the narrator as Holly’s lover, are figures for the external world in which Holly feels perpetually misunderstood.

While the narrator’s ambiguous sexual orientation is hinted at in previous sections, section 16 offers the reader a more explicit acknowledgement that he is a homosexual. Holly addresses the narrator as "Maude," which, in the gay slang of the time, refers either to a male prostitute or a homosexual. Instead of defining the narrator outright as a homosexual, Capote identifies him with slang that would have been obscure to everyone those with intimate knowledge of the gay underworld. This subtlety, apart from protecting Breakfast at Tiffany’s from censorship, adds an element of social critique to the novella, dramatizing the indirect and delicate way even sympathizers were forced to treat homosexuality in the hostile, homophobic milieu of war-time America.

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