Breakfast at Tiffany's: Pages 18-30
Summary, pp. 18-30
Holly stops ringing Mr. Yunioshi’s bell and starts ringing the narrator’s instead, sometimes at two in the morning or even later. They have not yet met. The narrator sometimes sees her in nice restaurants surrounded by admiring men. As the summer wears on, he learns quite a lot about Holly, even though they still have not actually met. He notes from the trash basket that she reads tabloids and astrological charts, and he also observes what kind of cigarettes she smokes. He also notes that she receives V-letters, (letters sent by American servicemen abroad), that she has a cat and plays the guitar.
It is a September night when he first meets Holly. She climbs the fire escape and taps at his window. As she enters the room, wearing only a robe, she says there is a man in her room who is drinking a lot and has become disagreeable. So she chose this means of escape. They start to talk, and she decides to call him Fred, which is her brother’s name. When she learns that the narrator is a writer, she says she is going to help his career, because she knows a lot of people. She wants to help him because he looks like her brother. She says she has not seen Fred since she ran away from home when she was fourteen. Fred is now in the army.
The narrator reads one of his stories to her, since she expresses an interest. She fidgets as he reads, and when he is finished, it is clear that she is unimpressed, and she claims not to know what the story is about.
At four-thirty in the morning, when Holly learns it is Thursday, she tells the narrator that on Thursdays she visits an inmate of Sing Sing prison. The inmate’s name is Sally Tomato, and she calls him “a darling old man.” He is a mafia boss who has been sentenced to five years, and Holly has been visiting him every Thursday for seven months. She started doing this after Mr. O’Shaughnessy, a man claiming to be a lawyer, offered her a hundred dollars per visit if she would perform a good deed and visit Sally. She pretends that she is Sally’s niece, and Mr. O’Shaughnessy mails her a check after each visit. All she has to do is leave the lawyer a “weather report” with his answering service. This is a message given to her by Sally; she relays it to prove to the lawyer that she has made the visit.
Holly sleeps for a little while next to “Fred,” and then at six she leaves.
The narrator is a fine observer, and learns a lot about Holly from various media: in this instance, the contents of her trash can. This is important for the way he pieces together the details of Holly’s unconventional life and personality. She is often guarded about revealing too much about herself, although she is also a paradox, simultaneously self-concealing and self-revealing.
Her first meeting with the narrator suggests the extent to which that she lives outside conventional, middle-class norms of behavior. She flouts expectations and thinks nothing of it: she climbs the fire escape, appears at the narrator’s window, and enters his apartment wearing nothing but a robe. And this is a man she has never before met! For the time period in which the story is set, 1943, this is especially startling, since it was a more formal era than today. It is also clear from this section that although Holly knows well how to please men, she does not go out of her way to do so unless she wants to. She makes no attempt to flatter the narrator about his literary talents, not hiding the fact that she does not much like the story he reads to her. But it is typical of how people react to Holly that the narrator does not hold her insensitivity against her. Like everyone else, he is charmed by her. She is, once again paradoxically, worldly-wise yet innocent. When she falls asleep in “Fred’s” bed, her cheek resting against his shoulder, it is without any guile or sexuality. She seems just like a child.