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Abigail Fricke

Mrs Stanford

ENG237

31 December 2019

Sexuality Within the Sentences

In the United States, traditional beliefs about sexual orientation, marriage, and family

norms have been severely challenged throughout the past several decades. Interracial dating,

open homosexuality, contraceptives, and other topics of modern times were not a concern of the

public until the late 1960s when a profound shift in behavior and attitudes began among the

Western youth (Escoffier, 2004). This wave of reform, later known as the “Sexual Revolution”,

went on to transform not only the ethical climate in much of America, but also the worlds of art,

cinema, and literature (Uplifting Education, 2015). In literature, especially, authors began subtly

incorporating homosexuality and other controversial subjects in regards to the “Sexual

Revolution” into their novels. Truman Capote was an author who was known for doing this, as

he was openly gay and built his reputation upon work that directly featured the ideas of

homosexuality (Solomon, 2005). These ideas can be noticed when looking into Capote’s two

most famous works, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “In Cold Blood”. Published in 1958,

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” tells the story of a wannabe New York journalist and his attachment to

his unorthodox neighbor, Holly Golightly. On the other hand, “In Cold Blood” was released in

1966 and is the account of a quadruple murder of a family in Kansas and the two killers who

executed the crime. When analyzing these texts, it can be seen that Truman Capote carefully

incorporated the theme of sexuality into both, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “In Cold Blood”, to

address the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960s’.


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Before these texts can be analyzed, it is important to provide a summary of “Breakfast at

Tiffany’s” and “In Cold Blood” to guarantee that readers not only comprehend the different

storylines within the two pieces of literature but also so they can see how these storylines later

relate to the claim being made within the thesis. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” opens with a setting of

New York during World War II. Readers are first introduced to an unnamed narrator as he is

moving into an apartment building in the spring of 1943. He is aware of his downstairs neighbor,

the 18-year-old Holiday “Holly” Golightly, only from the identity card attached to her mailbox

in the lobby. Although having viewed her multiple times before, the narrator doesn’t have a real

conversation with Holly until September, when she climbs up the fire escape and into his

window to avoid an inebriated visitor in her apartment. Holly is quick to name the narrator

“Fred”, after her brother who is currently fighting in World War II. As the two spend the rest of

the night talking, the narrator informs Holly of his aspirations to become a writer while allowing

her to read one of his stories. Holly then explains how her aspirations differ from his, as they

include making a living by entertaining different men at parties in her apartment. As the two

grow closer and spend more time together after this initial interaction, the narrator is invited to

one of these parties. Upon arrival, he meets a few of Holly’s friends, including Mag Wildwood

and Rusty Trawler. The party is cut short, though, after Holly receives news of her brothers

passing in the war. Being devastated by this, Holly makes the quick decision to buy a plane

ticket and move to Brazil, thinking that it would make her feel better. A few days before she’s

scheduled to leave, Holly and the narrator go horseback riding in Central Park so she can say

goodbye to not only the narrator but also to her favorite horse. As an amateur rider, the narrator

is quickly thrown off his horse within the first few minutes of being upon it. Later that night,

Holly is tending to the narrator as he is very sore from the horseback ride when she's arrested by
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two policemen for being a part of an international drug-smuggling cartel. This prompts her to

leave the country earlier than she planned, even though she was still under investigation. Years

pass before the narrator ever hears from Holly, but he eventually receives a postcard from her.

Within the card laid information that implied that she had made her way to Buenos Aires and

had fallen in love with a wealthy and not surprisingly, married man. Holly promises that she will

write soon, but readers learn that the narrator never hears from her again.

Conversely, “In Cold Blood” opens with a setting of River Valley Farm in Holcomb,

Kansas in 1959. The four members of the Clutter family, Herb, Bonnie, Nancy, and Kenyon,

reside on the farm. One evening in mid-November, four gunshots were heard near the farm,

signaling the death of the entire Clutter family. The killers were said to be Richard “Dick”

Hickok and Perry Smith, two newly paroled men who had reason to believe that Herb Clutter

had ownership of a substantial sum of money. Despite this, when beginning to rob the Clutters,

the pair finds that the family has practically zero money on hand. This doesn’t stop them from

killing the Clutters, as they still shoot each member of the family in the head at point-blank range

with a 12-gauge shotgun later that night. Soon after the initial murder, Perry and Dick flee to

Mexico on the account that Perry has dreamed of being a treasure hunter. Back in Kansas, news

of the killings spreads and the townspeople quickly become afraid and distraught. The Kansas

Bureau of Investigation (KBI) is awarded the case even though the only form of evidence they

have is two footprints. Some time passes before the case has a breakthrough, which came when

Dick’s past cellmate, Floyd Wells, told the police about Dick’s plan to rob and kill the Clutter

Family. With this lead in their hands, the KBI propels a nationwide search for Perry and Dick

that ends up with them finding and arresting the pair in Las Vegas. The trial for the murders is

held in Garden City, where the result is Perry and Dick being sentenced to death. The two stay
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on Death Row for several years, until 1965 when they both were hung on April 14th. The main

investigator on the case, Alvin Dewey, is a witness of the hanging. The hanging provides Dewey

with little to no closure, yet he manages to find some in a brief conversation he had afterward

with Nancy’s best friend, Susan Kidwell.

Truman Capote’s famous novella “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was a pioneering piece of

literature that daringly addressed the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960s. Upon analyzing it,

readers can see that Capote did this by carefully incorporating the theme of sexuality into the

pages of the short story. This theme of sexuality can clearly be seen when looking at the main

character, Holly Golightly (Mastilo, 2007). Readers are first introduced to Holly through the

explanation of a sexual encounter she had with an ugly-sounding man named Sid Arbuck. This

male character is elucidated on the eighth page of the novella as being “short and vast, sunlamps

and pomaded, a man in a buttressed pin-stripe suit with a red carnation withering in the lapel

(Capote)”. As a reader, one might wonder why this woman, having so easily attracted the

attention of not only the narrator but also the other men at the party she was returning from,

would be interested in such a repulsive-sounding man. The narrator himself wonders this, as he

continues to elaborate on the situation by explaining how Sid’s “plump hands were clutched at

her hips” and how his “thick lips were nuzzling at the nape of her neck (Capote)”. Regardless,

Holly’s disinterest in this is quickly shown as she was said to mistakingly call Sid by the name

“Harry” while being more focused on finding her keys than entertaining him. This section from

the text gives hint at the fact that Holly allowed Sid to believe that she might be sexually

interested in him, as earlier in the day he had paid for her and her friends’ lunch. However, Sid is

fast to realize that he will be getting nothing sexually from Holly, as the only thing she willingly

gave him was a door slam to the face and the advice that “The next time a girl wants a little
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powder-room change… take my advice, darling: don’t give her twenty-cents.” (Capote). This

encounter, as it was observed by the stalkerish narrator, immediately provides readers with an

image of a woman who is using her sexuality and womanly features to reap the benefits of a

wonderful life without having to pay for a single penny for it (Canavan, 2018). Continuing, one

could notice that Holly being suggested as a lesbian could further prove how Truman Capote

intertwined sexuality within the pages of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. This idea can be seen in the

text where Holly herself says:

“People couldn’t help but think I must be a bit of a dyke myself. And of course, I am.
Everyone is a bit. So what? That never discouraged a man yet, in fact, it seems to goad
them on” (Capote).
From this quote, a reader could assume that Holly is, in fact, bi-sexual and is liberated by the

attitude in which she chooses to act upon. By creating Holly as a bi-sexual female character who

carefully exploited men to get what she wanted, one can notice that Truman Capote successfully

addressed the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960s within this novella. This is because Holly’s

actions and open homosexuality allow her to be a representation of a modern, liberated female,

who in the time of the “Sexual Revolution”, became increasingly popular (Canavan, 2018).

Moreover, her actions and open homosexuality also allow her to promote a type of sexual

freedom for women in a time where previously, doing these things would’ve caused them to be

labeled as “sick” or culturally inappropriate (Grönfors, 1987).

At the same time, Truman Capote’s other famous novel “In Cold Blood” was another

pioneering piece of literature that daringly addressed the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960s.

Upon analyzing it, readers can see that Capote did this by, again, carefully incorporating the

theme of sexuality into the pages of the book. This theme of sexuality can clearly be seen when

looking at the two main characters, Richard “Dick” Hickok and Perry Smith (Noel, 2011).
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Before Capote even explains the crime that is the center of the novel, he first takes the time to

explain the relationship between Dick and Perry (Stockton, 2007). Their relationship is said to

hold a “deep and intimate bond”, as both men are ex-convicts on parole and use vocabulary with

one another that suggests a relationship of more than friends. For example, Dick can be seen

repeatedly calling Perry “honey” throughout the novel. This can first be seen on page fifteen,

where Dick says “Whoa honey whoa. I seen that show. Ends up everybody nuts (Capote)”. Perry

has only positive responses to this pet name, as he commonly compliments Dick after being

called it. For instance, Perry compliments Dick’s smile after being called honey on page thirty-

one, saying “The Eye doesn’t matter. Because you have a wonderful smile. One of those smiles

that really work (Capote)”. As if this intimate relationship-style dialogue isn’t enough to hint at

the fact that Dick and Perry were more than just friends, Perry’s attraction towards Dick is put

into words on page sixteen. The text reads, “Dick’s literalness, his pragmatic approach to every

subject, was the primary reason Perry had been so attracted to him, for it made Dick seem,

compared to himself, so authentically tough, invulnerable, “totally masculine (Capote)”. From

this text, one can gather that Perry, regardless of Dick’s sexual orientation, is homosexual from

the way in which he is “so attracted to [Perry]”. Dick, on the other hand, isn’t as open about his

sexuality, despite having often called Perry those pet names previously mentioned. In fact, Dick

can be seen saying “‘Faggots of scorn’! He’s the faggot (Capote)”. The repetition of the word

“faggot” by Dick shows not only his viewpoints on sexuality but also how he judges those who

are, in fact, homosexual. By highlighting this type of behavior throughout the novel, one can

notice that Truman Capote successfully addressed the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960s within

“In Cold Blood”. This is because Perry and Dick’s relationship provides readers with a rather

unique look into gay male life during the “Sexual Revolution”(Stockton, 2007). As the two
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weren’t extremely open about their sexuality, their relationship is used by Capote to highlight the

idea that homosexuality is a topic that can be discussed and talked about, even if at the time such

a relationship would be labeled as “sick” or culturally inappropriate (Grönfors, 1987).

While it has been argued that the theme of sexuality was present within Truman Capote’s

novels, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “In Cold Blood”, some might argue that the theme of the

American Dream was more present. Despite being hinted at in both novels, this theme is most

clearly shown in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. An odd form of this theme is shown within the pages

of the novella, as the main character, Holly, can be seen using men as a way to achieve her

version of the American Dream. This American Dream, as it stands for Holly, is to be

undeniably wealthy. She can first be seen reaching towards this dream on page twenty-one,

where she talks about one of her many methods of receiving money from rich men. The text

reads, “You can do as well as that on trips to the powder room: any gent with the slightest chic

will give you fifty for the girl's john, and I always ask for cab fare too, that's another fifty

(Capote)”. Here, readers can gather the idea that Holly exploits men as a method to gain financial

success to achieve her American Dream. Despite this being factual, one can still notice that the

theme of sexuality was still more present in the novella “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. This is because

although she does attempt to achieve her version of the American Dream, the method by which

she does so includes her exploiting her sexuality. This can be proven as Holly leads these men to

believe that she’s sexually interested in them when really the only thing she’s interested in is the

money inside their wallets. If the way she attempted to receive this money included her not using

her sexuality as a deceitful tool, then the theme of the American Dream could be proved to be the

main theme of the novella. As she did not, though, it can finally be seen that the theme of

sexuality outweighs the theme of the American Dream in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.


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The “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960s’ brought many changes to the climate of the

United States (Escoffier, 2004). Traditional beliefs about sexual orientation, marriage, and

family norms were severely challenged as things like interracial dating, open homosexuality and

contraceptives made their way into American society. This wave of reform went on to transform

many aspects of life, most noticeably the worlds of art, cinema, and literature. In literature,

especially, authors began subtly incorporating homosexuality and other controversial subjects in

regards to the “Sexual Revolution” into their novels. Truman Capote was an author who was

known for doing this, as he was openly gay and built his reputation upon work that directly

featured the ideas of homosexuality (Solomon, 2005). These ideas can be noticed when looking

into Capote’s two most famous works, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “In Cold Blood”. Published

in 1958, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” tells the story of a wannabe New York journalist and his

attachment to his unorthodox neighbor, Holly Golightly. On the other hand, “In Cold Blood” was

released in 1966 and is the account of a quadruple murder of a family in Kansas and the two

killers who executed the crime. When analyzing these texts, it can be seen that Truman Capote

carefully incorporated the theme of sexuality into both, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “In Cold

Blood”, to address the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960s’. It can be seen that Capote

incorporated the theme of sexuality into “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” through the actions of the main

character, Holly Golightly, as she was a woman who used her sexuality and womanly features to

obtain money from wealthy men (Mastilo, 2007). By creating Holly this way, one can notice that

Truman Capote successfully addressed the “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960s within this novella.

This is because Holly’s actions not only allowed her to be a representation of a modern, liberated

female but they also allowed her to promote a type of sexual freedom for women. Furthermore, it

can be seen that Capote incorporated the theme of sexuality into “In Cold Blood” through the
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actions of the main characters, Richard “Dick” Hickok and Perry Smith, as they were two men

who were suggested to have an intimate relationship with one another (Noel, 2011). By

explaining this relationship, one can notice that Truman Capote successfully addressed the

“Sexual Revolution” of the 1960s within this book. This is because their relationship is used by

Capote to highlight the idea that homosexuality is a topic that can be discussed and talked about,

even if at the time such a relationship would be labeled as “sick” or culturally inappropriate

(Grönfors, 1987). In our current time of marriage equality movements, queer theory, and gay

pride events, looking back on the idea that Truman Capote included these ideas into his writing

allows readers to learn many very important lessons. These lessons relate to not only the topic of

literary freedom and authors being able to write about whatever they please but they also relate

to the idea that whichever sexual orientation someone chooses to identify with is acceptable,

regardless of what society says.

Works Cited

Capote, Truman. Breakfast at Tiffanys. Ishi Press, 1961.

Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood: a True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences.

Modern Library, an Imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, 1965.

Canavan, Brendan. “Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner at Tiffany’s: Existentialism and Consumption

in Capote’s Novella.” Marketing Theory, vol. 18, no. 4, 2018, pp. 571–578.,

doi:10.1177/1470593117753982.

Escoffier, Jeffrey. “The Sexual Revolution, 1960-1980.” The Sexual Revolution, 1960-1980 ,

2004, http://www.glbtqarchive.com/ssh/sexual_revolution_S.pdf.
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Grönfors, Martti, and Olli Stålström. “Power, Prestige, Profit: AIDS and the Oppression

of Homosexual People.” Acta Sociologica (Taylor & Francis Ltd), vol. 30, no. 1, Mar.

1987, pp. 53–66. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/000169938703000103.

Mastilo, Tatjana. “Miss Holly Golightly, Travelling.” Journal of an Investigation of

Female Representation in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 2007

Core.ac.uk,https://core.ac.uk/reader /12516222.

Noel, Melissa W. “A Cold Manipulation of Language.” English Journal, vol. 100, no. 4,

Mar. 2011, pp. 50–54. EBSCOhost,

search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=59520249&site=ehost-live.

Solomon, Jeff. “Young, Effeminate, and Strange.” Studies in Gender & Sexuality, vol. 6,

no. 3, Summer 2005, pp. 293–326. EBSCOhost, dYoi:10.1080/15240650609349279.

Stockton, Kathryn Bond. “Feeling Like Killing?” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian & Gay

Studies, vol. 13, no. 2/3, Apr. 2007, pp. 301–325. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1215/10642684-

2006-035.

Uplifting Education. “Consequences of the Sexual Revolution” Uplifting Education, 2015,

https://www.upliftingeducation.net/consequences-of-the-sexual-revolution.