Breakfast at Tiffany's: Character Profiles
Sid Arbuck is one of Holly’s admirers. He is short and overweight, with a fake tan, carefully coiffed hair, and a carnation in his lapel. He escorts Holly home one night but she disappoints him by refusing to let him into her apartment.
Joe Bell owns a bar on Lexington Avenue, New York, just around the corner from where Holly and the narrator live. He still operates the bar in1956, thirteen years after Holly lived in the area. The narrator thinks Joe is a difficult person to talk to; that is, unless a person happens to share Joe’s interests in ice hockey, a certain soap serial on the radio, a certain breed of dog, Gilbert and Sullivan operetta—and Holly Golightly. Joe was in love with Holly in the 1940s and retains fond memories of her still.
O. J. Berman
O. J. Berman is a Hollywood actor’s agent who attends a party at Holly’s apartment. According to the narrator, he smells of cigars and cologne. O. J. has known Holly for several years, since she was fifteen, and once almost got her launched on a movie career. He refers to her as “the kid.” O. J. is somewhat self-regarding; he expects others to know who he is, and he is very talkative and opinionated.
Doc Golightly is Holly’s husband. In his early fifties, Doc is a horse doctor from Tulip, Texas. His wife died in 1936, leaving him to care for their four children. After Holly shows up at his house two years later as a runaway child, Doc soon marries her. This is in 1938, when she is not yet fourteen. Doc treats her well but she runs away within a year or so. Doc searches for her and finally finds her in New York, where he surprises the narrator with his story. Doc wants Holly to return to Tulip with him, but she explains with as much kindness as she can that that will not be possible. Doc accepts her decision and returns home.
Fred Golightly is Holly’s brother. He appears in the novel only in Holly’s words about him. He and Holly ran away from their foster home together and both lived with Doc Golightly. Holly is deeply fond of Fred, who showed her affection when they were children. Fred joins the army and fights in World War II. He writes to Holly, and it is also Fred who gives Doc Golightly Holly’s address. When Holly receives a telegram informing her that Fred has been killed in combat, she is grief-stricken.
Holly Golightly is the heroine of the novel. When the narrator first meets her she is just under nineteen years old. Holly, who is slim, well-dressed and fun-loving, is a paradox: she is at once innocent and worldly-wise. She does not work for a living but lives off the money given to her by men. She has many male admirers, including the narrator and Joe Bell, who are drawn to her innocence and her charming irresponsibility as well as to her good looks. Despite the fact that she lives off the generosity of men, she does not believe herself to be a prostitute and claims that she has not had sex with all that many men, and she always feels some emotions for them: she tries to love them rather than just cashing their checks and not thinking any more about them. It transpires during the course of the novel that Holly is an orphan from the South who ran away from her foster family because they mistreated her. She married Doc Golightly, a man about thirty-five years older than she, when she was thirteen, but soon grew tired of the domesticated life and ran away. She lived for a while in California and then moved to New York. Holly is an independent but restless woman who longs to find love and a place she can call home. Until then she intends to keep on traveling.
The unnamed narrator is a young as yet unpublished writer who in 1943 lives in the same building as Holly Golightly. He is modeled on the author, Truman Capote. The narrator becomes friends with Holly and for a while they spent quite a lot of time together. He even falls in love with her in a quiet sort of way, but she never regards him as more than a friend. During the time when he is friends with Holly he is excited to have one story accepted for publication by a university review. To support himself he has to take a nine to five job, from which he is soon fired. He finds it difficult to find another job and is worried that he might be drafted into the armed forces. Some months after Holly flies to Brazil, the narrator sells two more stories, so he appears to be on the road to success. Much later, he is inspired to write about Holly. He also reveals during his narrative of the war years that he later traveled extensively, including to Europe, Morocco and the West Indies (just like the well-traveled Capote).
Oliver O’Shaughnessy is an associate of Sally Tomato who pretends to be a lawyer. He is the one who invites Holly to visit Sally in prison, offering her a hundred dollars per visit. He then receives from Holly the “weather report,” which Sally gives her, which is in fact a coded message connected to a drug syndicate run by Sally. O’Shaughnessy is arrested at the same time as Holly, and it transpires that he is not a lawyer but a defrocked priest with a criminal record.
Madame Sapphia Spanella
Madame Sapphia Spanella is one of the tenants in Holly’s apartment. She takes a dislike to Holly and at one point circulates a petition among the other tenants calling for Holly to be evicted because of her poor morals and her habit of throwing noisy, late-night parties.
Sally Tomato is a mafia boss who is serving five years in Sing Sing prison for political bribery. He pays Holly to visit him and uses her to pass on messages that enable him to retain control of an international narcotics syndicate. Holly thinks he is a delightful old man, very religious. Some months after Holly’s flight to Rio, Sally Tomato dies in prison of a heart attack. Rusty Trawler
Rusty Trawler is a rich playboy with a colorful background. He was orphaned at the age of five and inherited his parents’ wealth. As an adult, he has always been the talk of the gossip columnists. He has been married and divorced four times, and has a reputation as a Nazi sympathizer. The narrator describes him as “a middle-aged child that had never shed its baby fat.” Rusty is very attached to Holly, who treats him like a big baby, but he ends up marrying Mag Wildwood. The marriage ends in divorce.
José Ybarra-Jaegar is a Brazilian diplomat who takes up first with Mag Wildwood and later with Holly. José is good-looking and well groomed—a refined and seemingly quite cultured man. The narrator thinks José looks rather out of place, like “a violin in a jazz band,” when the Brazilian goes out for the evening with Mag, Rusty, and Holly. Holly manages to steal him away from Mag, and José invites her to go back with him to Rio. Holly has every expectation of marrying him, but after the scandal breaks and Holly is arrested, José leaves her, writing her a letter in which he says he cannot afford to have his name linked to scandal.
Mag Wildwood is a glamorous young woman originally from rural Arkansas. She has come to New York and made a career for herself as a model. Her physical appearance is striking, since she is over six feet tall. She is confident with men, who seem to fall over themselves to get to know her, although Mag thinks of herself as a very conventional person. She seems to spend much of her spare time knitting sweaters. Mag becomes Holly’s roommate and starts dating José Ybarra-Jaegar but after she loses him to Holly she marries Rusty Trawler.