Breakfast at Tiffany's: Theme Analysis
No Place to Call Home
Holly Golightly is one of those people who seem to float through life without ever finding a real home. Holly was orphaned early, ran away from her foster home and then ran away from the home she made with Doc Golightly. She appears to have spent some time living on the West Coast, then moved to New York. But even while she lives in New York, it is not really home for her. It is as if she is just passing through. The narrator notices that in her bedroom there were “crates and suitcases, everything packed and ready to go, like the belongings of a criminal who feels the law not far behind.” When she is close to departing to Rio she tells the narrator that she loves New York, “even though it isn’t mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it.” Holly is not a person who really belongs anywhere, but that is not entirely because she does not want to find a place to call home. Before she flies to Rio she entertains romantic notions of settling down there, marrying Jose and having many children. But of course that never happens. She moves on to Argentina, and then, at some unknown point, is spotted in Africa. It is as if she is in constant motion.
Holly has sufficient self-awareness to understand her own nature. She describes herself as an independent: “I don’t want to own anything until I know I’ve found the place where me and things belong together. I’m not quite sure where that is yet.” This shows that she does have a desire to be more settled. Before she makes plans with José, she clings to the memory of her brother Fred, whom she has not seen for years, entertaining a fanciful notion that she will one day live with him in Mexico and raise horses. She is understandably grief-stricken when she hears that Fred has been killed in action in the war, because he represents family and an idea of home to her.
Given Holly’s restless nature and almost nomadic life, it is understandable that the motif of traveling recurs throughout the novella. The card in Holly’s mailbox reads “Miss Holiday Golightly, Travelling”. When she plays the guitar and sings, one of the songs goes, “Don’t wanna sleep, Don’t wanna die, just wanna go a-travellin’ through the pastures of the sky.” The narrator, who grasps Holly’s nature very astutely, chooses well the Christmas gift he buys for her; it is a St. Christopher’s medal. St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers, especially those going on long journeys—and Holly certainly has a long journey to go before she finds a home.
The Romantic Desire for Everything
Holly’s restlessness, her constant traveling, represents not only the desire to find a stable place she can call home, but is essentially an expression of her romantic nature that cannot be satisfied with half-measures or settle for a conventional life. The narrator calls her a “lopsided romantic” and believes she will always be that way. She will never grow out of it; her nature is fixed. He contrasts her with Mildred, a girl he knew in school who was more of a realist. Projecting into the future he imagines them both at a restaurant. Mildred will rationally select from the menu what is most nutritious, but Holly will still be “gluttonous for everything on it.” He means this symbolically, not literally. Unlike many people, Holly does not close down her life into narrow boundaries. For her, all routes are open, everything is there for her exploration. She justifies her determination to go to Brazil, even though it means skipping bail, because she has never been there before, a remark that reveals a great deal about her nature and personality. Anything she has not done before is going to exert a pull on her. It is this that gives Holly much of her charm. There is an innocence about her that says if she wants something, she should be allowed to have it. This childlike quality ensures she is not boxed in by conventional values or morals, which belong to the adult world of responsibilities and restrictions. For her, life still exists as a world of all possibilities, with no dichotomy between what she wants and what she thinks she can have.