The Fabulous Miss Holly Golightly
When I think of the type of women characters in television, books, and movies whom I wanted to emulate as a child, they were never anyone along the lines of Cinderella or one of the myriad princesses you read or watch cartoons about who find their fictitious “Prince Charming.” I never cared for the women from fairy tales which, when originally written, did not have the cutesy, happy endings to which Disney assigned them. I never saw myself in that way. I wanted to be Wonder Woman or one of Charlie’s Angels. As I child I was the proud owner of the Charlie’s Angels action figures, complete with the Angels’ van. I would stick them in that van with the psychedelic stickers plastered on it and have them drive off to kick some ass. This usually involved them running over or smashing into one of the baby dolls that my mother used to buy for me and, for the life of her, couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t play house with; I preferred to destroy them instead. Growing up I never celebrated Halloween so the closest thing I had to a Wonder Woman costume was the pair of Underoos I was allowed to wear. I so wished I had the bullet proof bracelets and tiara to match!
So as you can see, I never was a girly-girl. I also had a very independent nature that I most definitely did not inherit from the women in my family. This made things tough for me throughout my life as I come from an extremely conservative family who were very well-known and looked up to in our church community. It wasn’t until years later, and many mistakes later, that I learned I had to live my life for myself. Not only should I not worry about what others think but, at the end of the day, it wasn’t any of my business what anyone else thought. Maybe my family and their “friends” were content living that way, but I wasn’t.
My Introduction to Holly
I never watched or read Breakfast at Tiffany’s until my early thirties. This was a time in my life where I was finally, 100% breaking free and living life on my own terms. I had always heard of Holly Golightly; seen the iconic pictures of Audrey Hepburn’s perfect portrayal of Truman Capote’s creation whom he, himself, described as being “beyond childhood, yet this side of belonging to a woman.” Almost as soon as I started reading Mr. Capote’s classic I fell in love with the gamine, Holly Golightly. And it was no wonder why; she possessed the ultimate aura of liberation which, for most of my life, I felt I was never allowed to embrace until recently.
In the novella, the year is 1943, and Holly is just two months shy of her 19th birthday. Lulamae Barnes, which is Holly's birth name, was born in the rural South; a purloiner of turkey eggs who migrates to New York where she soon changed her name and status. Holly Golightly becomes a free-spirited “society girl,” accompanying rich men around town; disappearing to exotic places on a whim, notifying those around her with a simple note on her mailbox stating “Miss Holiday Golightly Traveling." The only pet she owns is a cat with no name. Those around her are fascinated by and hold a special type of love for her including the local bartender, Joe Bell and the narrator whom Holly decides to name Fred, after her own brother. Contrary to the movie, Fred loved Holly but not in the way Hollywood wants you to believe. In the original story, Fred was actually gay which may have been one of the many reasons he became so attached to Holly as she was very unconventional and would not have judged him the way he most definitely would have been in 1943.
There are a couple of opinions as to what Holly Golightly did to support herself. Whether or not she was a call girl or a gold digger is up for debate. If either is the case, nothing within the pages of the story, or even in the movie, indicates that she was doing anything against her own will. She lived life on her own terms. She also showed that she loved on her own terms when, in the novella, she says that her ideal partner would be Nehru, Wendell Wilkie, or Greta Garbo, adding that a person ought to be able to marry men or women. On screen, this was changed to Nero, Albert Schweitzer, and Leonard Bernstein.
Also contrary to the movie, Holly does take off to live her own life in another country. The last Fred hears from her is when he receives an unaddressed postcard from Buenos Aires. The last words she writes to him are "mille tendresse," which translated from French means "a thousand tenderness." Holly did at times did show some vulnerability. For example, she became emotional at the thought of leaving her no-named cat behind when she ventured out to travel the world, asking Fred to promise her that he would check on her pet's well-being. However, she did not allow these vulnerabilities to take over. Whatever fear she may have had about leaving her rural home for an intimidating city such as New York, she squashed. The same can be said for her decision to explore the rest of the world.
Capote once said that the primary reason he wrote about Holly was that he saw her as a symbol of all the girls who come to New York and “spin in the sun for a moment like May flies and then disappear.” With his imagination, he wanted to rescue one girl from that anonymity and preserve her for posterity. This is exactly what he accomplished by gifting us with Breakfast at Tiffany's.
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© 2014 Brenda Thornlow