The character Audrey Hepburn brought to life in Blake Edwards’ 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s captured the imagination of an America on the cusp of the sexual revolution. But Hepburn’s Holly is only a partial interpretation of the Holly that Truman Capote created in his 1958 novella of the same name.
One of the things that people forget about Holly in Truman’s novel is that she had a bisexual streak and in fact the character of the narrator — who George Peppard played in the film — was himself gay,” Wasson tells NPR’s Jacki Lyden. “We know for sure that Paramount had a great deal of difficulty translating that aspect of the novel into a mainstream heterosexual romantic comedy.”
Holly Golightly is a beautiful 19-year-old who lives in the same building as the narrator. A striking and self-sufficient young woman, Holly sustains herself by dating rich men, though the particulars of this arrangement (that is, what she does to elicit money from them) remain unspecified. One night, she climbs up the fire escape and through the narrator’s window because she’s brought home a drunk man whom she wants to avoid. For the rest of the night, Holly talks to the narrator, insisting that she can help him with his writing career. Holly leads an untethered life and associates with all kinds of people, including a mobster named Sally Tomato, whom she visits in prison once a week.
The most interesting thing about Holly is her background which is a bit of a mystery, she is a mysterious woman after all. She seems to have had a troubled background which automatically gives us more insight to her being this complex female character. Later, the narrator learns that a Texan man named Doc Golightly took Holly and her brother, Fred, in years ago after catching them stealing. They had just run away from cruel foster parents, so Doc gave them a home and then married Holly when she was 14, though she ran away several years later and changed her name (which used to be Lulamae). The only thing Holly regrets about this is that she had to leave behind Fred, the person she cares about the most.