Short Story Analysis

"A Christmas Memory" by Truman Capote

Critical Biography

Truman Capote, an American writer, was born on September 30, 1924 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He attended private schools in New York and Connecticut and later worked on The New Yorker. An article about Truman Capote states that, "When Capote was ten years old, he won a children's writing contest sponsored by the Mobile Press Register with his submission of 'Old Mr. Busybody'" (Lovett-Graff). From early on, Capote won fame with several works including Other Voices, Other Rooms, A Tree of Night and Other Stories, The Grass Harp, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and A Christmas Memory ("Capote, Truman (1924-1984)"). Another article about Truman Capote says, "Numerous pieces about himself or about him by others are filled with references to his childhood" ("Inventing a Self and a World"). After his successful career as a writer, Truman Capote became a New York celebrity because of substance abuse, mental illness, lawsuits and broken friendships. However, he did still write sometimes, though more nonfiction than fiction. Before his death, due to illness, Capote started to write a major works, called "Final Prayers," which has parts of the story to have seen print.


"A Christmas Memory," written by Truman Capote, tells about the unbreakable friendship of two people and the memories they share. Narrator, Buddy, flashes back to the age of seven when he and his cousin performed their annual tradition of baking fruitcakes at the start of the Christmas season. Although they do not not have a lot of money, they use what they have saved in their "Fruitcake Fund" to bake these fruit cakes. They give the cakes to their friends and even people they have only met once. After the delivery of all of their fruitcakes, the two adventure into the woods. Christmas came and went for Buddy and his friend and this was the last Christmas they spent together. The following year, Buddy is sent to military school and his cousin dies. Each Christmas, Buddy, now an adult, often brings up memories of he and his friend's tradition.

Analysis of Theme

The theme in "A Christmas Memory" is the memory of a relationship between two people. Although the sixty-something year old woman and her seven year old cousin whom she calls "Buddy," in memory of her former best friend, they are like each other's closest friend. They have formed a special bond with each other that Buddy longs for after his friend passes away.

From the beginning of the story, the narrarator, Buddy, who is now an adult, flashes back to the memory of things he and his elderly cousin did, such as baking fruitcakes. Since most of the story is the scenes of preparation and the gathering of ingredients to make the fruitcakes, the narrarator makes many references from the past of the ingredients in the cakes and stories behind them.

One example is the whiskey that is used in the fruitcakes. The narrarator talks about the first time he and his cousin went to "Mr. Haha Jones's" cafe. The narrarator describes him as a giant, gloomy, never happy man.

"Memory also acts as a retreat from reality..." ("A Christmas Memory", 24) I think this statement is very true. It is portrayed in "A Christmas Memory" as the theme of the story.

Works Cited

"Capote, Truman (1924-1984)." Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature. George B. Perkins, Barbara Perkins, and Phillip Leininger. Vol. 1. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. 160. Literature Resource Center. Web. 12 May 2016.

Capote, Truman. "A Christmas Memory." Weber State University. Web. 26 April 2016. PDF File.

"Inventing a Self and a World." Truman Capote: A Study of the Short Fiction. Helen S. Garson. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1992. 83-99. Twayne's Studies in Short Fiction 36. Twayne's Authors on GVRL. Web. 17 May 2016.

Lovett-Graff, Bennett. "Capote, Truman (1924–1984)." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Ed. Thomas Riggs. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Detroit: St. James Press, 2013. 503-505. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 16 May 2016.