Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Short Novel and Three Stories Breakfast at Tiffany's discussion


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Was she a prostitute?

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Mike Discuss.


yellowbird Whether there was any actual sex or not was never revealed. Still, I think she was. At the very least she was a paid escort, and she was pretty unscrupulous in other ways, so why would a little prostitution bother her?


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Yeah, a paid escort. Mmmm...I think she'd try get around the label of "prostitute". (Although she was okay with stealing, so who knows?)
She seems okay with the label "playgirl", but what does that really mean?


Lisa She says that she had 11 lovers, including Doc and Jose. The rest of what she said seemed to suggest that she meant men she had had a sexual relationship with, though it isn't stated outright that is what she means. Granted that is a fairly high number for a 20 year old in the '40s, but obviously she isn't turning tricks. So...prostitute? Not likely, at least not in the usual sense. I think in another era she might be called an adventuress or a courtesan. She discusses why she isn't a whore; she is honest with herself....


Lisa Hayley wrote: "Yeah, a paid escort. Mmmm...I think she'd try get around the label of "prostitute". (Although she was okay with stealing, so who knows?)
She seems okay with the label "playgirl", but what does that..."


Playgirl in 40s slang would be a party-going, fast-living socialite.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Ohh.
In that case, I think "playgirl" to Holly would seem more glamorous and classy than actually admitting to prostitution. I imagine she believes that the men she sleeps with give her money because of the force and glamor of her being, not just for sex.


Lisa Hayley wrote: "Ohh.
In that case, I think "playgirl" to Holly would seem more glamorous and classy than actually admitting to prostitution. I imagine she believes that the men she sleeps with give her money becau..."

That sounds about right. some pay just to be with her-money for the powder room and taxis. Not knowing your age, I don't know if you are familiar with the old practice of tipping the lady's room attendants and sometimes needing money for a towel or soaps or other amenities in the washrooms. Even when I was a child in the '60s you saw less of this. so that is what all the talk about money for the powder room is about, but $50 in a night would pay for months of trips to the lady's room, so I am sure they were expecting something for their money, though seems she rarely paid up in full beyond the charm of her company and a snuggle. That is if her accounting of having slept with only 11 men including her husband is accurate.


Michael T She was dirty


message 9: by Mia (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mia I'd call her a party-girl or a gold digger more than a prostitute.


message 10: by Monika (last edited Jun 16, 2012 11:25AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Monika I don't think she was a prostitute. I got the impression that Holly had a line she didn't want to cross. There were some situations when she tried to escape from men.


message 11: by Leajk (last edited Jul 19, 2012 03:28PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Leajk Of course not she's not a prostitute. As someone already stated she has only had a limited amount of men. There is no reason for her to lie about this, given that she likes shocking Fred and gives the information freely to him.

Rather she's causally dating rich men, some of them who think they can buy her with their powder room money or paying for her food and drink, but as we see in the first scene that she's in that is not the case. She rejects a man even though he has given her money.

She also clearly states the the mobster's 'lawyer' got the wrong girl when she thinks that he's trying to ask her to do something sexual on the visits to Sing Sing.

She only has sex with two men that we know of during the book. One is out of guilt/pity sex, Doc, with a someone who married her at 14. The other time, José, is when she's vulnerable after the shock of her brother dying, also believing herself to be in love with him. Nothing to constitute as prostitution there I think.


Janet Lisa wrote: "She says that she had 11 lovers, including Doc and Jose. The rest of what she said seemed to suggest that she meant men she had had a sexual relationship with, though it isn't stated outright that ..."

This is a good and well thought out analysis.


Shanna There was the line "Just a few more trips to the powder room" when the narrator is questioning her about the price of the bird cage gift, this is what sold me that she was "turning tricks"


message 14: by Monty J (last edited Dec 23, 2018 12:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Monty J Heying Taking what's on the page at face value, there is little evidence that Holly engages in prostitution. She was a "loose woman" by 1943 standards, but (how do you prove a negative) not a hooker.

A, if she were entertaining men for money in her apartment, "Fred" the narrator and other tenants, would have noticed the high traffic of male visitors at odd hours and complained much more so than was the case.

B, in order to attract a suitable target for matrimony Holly couldn't risk damaging her reputation.

C, with her $100/week income from visiting Sally Tomato and her $50 powder room scam, she made enough money to get by nicely. $450 a month in 1943 equates to $6,564.25 in 2018.

D, direct quotes from the book:
p. 26 - "He asked me how I'd like to cheer up a lonely old man, at the same time pick up a hundred a week. I told him look, darling, you've got the wrong Miss Golightly, I'm not a nurse that does tricks on the side."
p. 26 - "I wasn't impressed by the honorarium either; you can do as well as that on tips 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."
p. 82 - "...I've only had eleven lovers--not counting anything that happened before I was thirteen because, after all, that just doesn't count. Eleven. Does that make me a whore?"
p. 83 - "...the answer is good things only happen to you if you're good. ...Not law-type honest--I'd rob a grave, I'd steal two-bits off a dead man's eyes if I thought it would contribute to the day's enjoyment--but unto-thyself-type honest. Be anything but a coward, a pretender, an emotional crook, a whore: I'd rather have cancer than a dishonest heart."

Holly seemed to have little respect for men in general, regarding them as needy and weak and a ready source of income. Her behavior fits the gold-digger profile, an attractive, wily young uneducated woman with no apparent means of support, selling her looks, warmth and charm. Easy money.

Holly values freedom, but with men as her avowed and demonstrated source of financial security she's caught in a paradox. Being tied to a man is hardly consistent with freedom.

The birdcage she gave to "Fred" symbolizes her fear of that captivity. "Don't ever put a living thing in it" she said.

Her fascination with expensive jewelry at Tiffany's and her request for a list of the fifty wealthiest men in Argentina evidence her greed. She's trapped herself in a cage of lovelessness, for love will always escape those who place wealth before it. For Holly and the universe of women she represents love is a curiosity, a luxury, a need secondary to freedom and security.

Beyond the role of homemaker, the 1940-50s was an era of limited opportunity for most American women, especially those from economically depressed agrarian roots. Holly is a sharply defined and memorable archetype.

Per Wikipedia: [A 1968 interview with Playboy magazine contains the following exchange. Playboy: Would you elaborate on your comment that Holly was the prototype of today's liberated female and representative of a "whole breed of girls who live off men but are not prostitutes. They're our version of the geisha girl..."?

Capote: Holly Golightly was not precisely a call girl. She had no job, but accompanied expense-account men to the best restaurants and night clubs, with the understanding that her escort was obligated to give her some sort of gift, perhaps jewelry or a check ... if she felt like it, she might take her escort home for the night. So these girls are the authentic American geishas, and they're much more prevalent now than in 1943 or 1944, which was Holly's era.
{Reprinted in a 2009 New Yorker article.}]


Karina Personally, I think that she was a prostitute. It was definitely hinted at--and the most PC way to describe her activities would be to call her a "paid escort."


message 16: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim To me, the word prostitute suggests the idea of what that means today. I have always thought of her as an escort but in the context it must have meant in that time period. Although I really think she was more of a 50s hustler.


message 17: by Ana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ana Dalasta No, I think she was more of a gold digger. She knew how to wind me around her little finger and to use them until she was done with them. If she had been a prostitute the scandal with Sally Tomato wouldnt have impacted her relationship with Jose.


Leseratte If she was having sex in exchange for something (money, clothes, jewelry) then I'd say yes, she was a prostitute. She just didn't operate in the standing on the corner, soliciting strangers way that most people associate with prostitution.


Olivia My understanding is that the book is based on Marilyn Monroe. That is how I read it, which only complicates the question of prostitution.


Leseratte Not that Wikipedia is a reliable source, but:

According to Capote, Golightly is not a prostitute but an "American geisha."


Monty J Heying Capote and Marilyn had a lot in common. Both were denied the birthright of loving and stable parentage.

They were friends: http://oldhollywood.tumblr.com/post/5...

and for both reasons I'd expect that Holly to be a composite of Marilyn and other people he had known, including himself.

"American Geisha" is a metaphoric balloon that Capote would likely float to encapsulate Holly. Geisha's accepted gifts and money in exchange for their company and favors. The analogy feels true.


message 22: by Leajk (last edited Nov 12, 2012 08:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Leajk "Geisha's accepted gifts and money in exchange for their company and favors. The analogy feels true." - people who date each other give gifts to each other as well.

I think people are fast to judge Holly since she's a stated outcast of society, things we easily accept from our friends becomes scandolous as soon as she does them.


message 23: by Erin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Erin W I don't think you can be a prostitute without a pimp. I think Holly definitely had sex with the men she brought home (sure she says it's only been 11, but she hasn't been in NYC that long, either), and that they definitely paid her for her time. But I think she saw this as comparable to being an actress: getting attention by putting on a show, earning a living via her beauty and her charm. It's sordid, but I don't think it fits (my definition of) prostitution, which is about victimization.


message 24: by Katy (last edited Aug 29, 2012 06:46AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Katy You can be a prostitute without a pimp. Plenty of women are.

I don't know how much Holly gave the men in exchange for money, but she clearly knew how to hustle.

I don't think Holly thought of herself as a prostitute. Whether that's a good or a bad thing, I don't know. A woman who knows she's a whore is different than a woman who trades on her sexuality but doesn't think of herself as a whore. One may be more honest than the other. One may be more cynical than the other. Which is better? I don't know.


Leajk Is she a prostitute according to any common defitition? Let's look at Wiktonary:

"prostitute (plural prostitutes)
1. A woman, or other person, who performs sexual activity for payment.
2. A woman, or other person, who is perceived as engaging in sexual activity with many people.
3. A person who does, or offers to do, an activity for money, despite personal dislike or dishonour."

By definition 1 - no, she recived money from a lot of men without having sex with them, the payment is not in it self enough, in the end she chooses who she has sex with or not. Just as she would if she would date them, she seems to prefer dating richer men, which makes the label gold digger more fitting.
By definition 2 - it depends on whether you think eleven people is a lot of people or not. It's probably subconcsiously by this definition a lot of people judge her, forgetting that it's a gender specific problematic and definition - men who have a lot of parnters are seldom called prostitutes.
By definition 3 - she does not seem to dislike or find any dishonor in any of her activities, which is probably why people are so upset and wants to call her a prostiute.


message 26: by Meran (last edited Feb 28, 2013 01:14AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meran I believe that "lovers" are those she had real feelings for... Lovers are very different from one night stands. Now, I still don't think she was a prostitute as many here have defined the word... You don't have to have sex with many men in 1 day or have a pimp.
In her day, which was my grandmother's time, she would definitely be termed by the general populace as a loose woman. She did favors for the men who paid her. This doesn't always mean sex; heck, she may have just entertained them by undressing in a beguiling manner, being seen with them at functions so others THOUGHT they were sexual, and maybe doing the occasional "releasing" of those men in their cars.
I also believe that she took money for payment of all those events; after all, she'd worked for it! AND I believe, if a guy was rather revolting, that she'd happily jilt him. What woman hasn't had a date with a slime bucket? :)

I think she was a rather free spirit, a woman of our time, without the knowledge of the women of our time.

I definitely agree with Leajk ^.

It's funny. I hadn't read the interview above by Playboy when I wrote this ;)


Patricia Toth she led a pretty promiscuous life in her time but whether she had sexual relations or not is never revealed. I like to call her more of a party-girl.A very classy and glamorous party-girl. I just love her anyway:D


message 28: by Feliks (last edited Feb 28, 2013 08:08AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Feliks Actually I think 'loose morals' and 'questionable integrity' is just as apparent --if not more--in Pal Varjak; since he is receiving a regular stipend from his sugar-mama and being a 'kept boy' for his 'sponsor'.

Hollie is clearly seen 'asking for money to go to the powder room' --yes--but this could really cover a lot of different, and perhaps harmless activities. She lives on treats and favors and milks this money specifically out of big-spenders who like to toss money around and show off their wealth. She also gets money from Sally Tomato for her messaging service, remember (which is startling that she didn't cotton- on to what that was about, btw).

It may be as someone said above; that a 'powder room trip' is simply a bit of showing-off by the man, to signal to everyone that she is 'officially on the arm of so-and-so'.

I think she's very clever and coy about getting as much of these trips as possible; and then when the man might actually try something; she fobs them off. Like the way she does the Japanese landlord--always promising but never actually giving him the chance to shoot his photos.

Meanwhile Paul is totally selling himself so he can have a cozy apartment.


Monty J Heying Feliks wrote: "Meanwhile Paul is totally selling himself so he can have a cozy apartment. "

You must be talking about the film, because in the book, Paul didn't have a woman paying for his apartment. The film diverged from the book in this and other significant ways.


Feliks Good point, thx for the clarification on Fred baby.


message 31: by Monty J (last edited Sep 05, 2014 12:48PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Monty J Heying Yes and no. Capote had to get the book past the censors in order to get it published, so he would not have been direct about such a red-hot subject, so you have to analyze the subtext. She clearly used men as a source of income. Fifty dollars for the powder room is coded language. Fifty dollars was a big chunk of change in the '50s. Capote likened her to an American Geisha.

From what's on the page (not the film), Holly was a golddigger looking for a rich husband. Here's my backup, cut and pasted from another post:

(p.81) ["Fred" narrating] "...she rarely spoke a sentence that did not begin, "After we're married--" or "When we move to Rio--" Yet Jose [Ybarra-Jaegar] had never suggested marriage. She admitted it. "But, after all, he knows I'm preggers. Well, I am, darling. Six weeks gone. I don't see why that should surprise you. It didn't me. Not un peu bit. I'm delighted. I want to have at least nine."

(p. 86) [Holly] ..."He'll marry me, all right. In church. And with his family there. That's why we're waiting til we get to Rio."
"Does he know you're married already?"
"What's the matter with you? Are trying to ruin the day? It's a beautiful day: leave it alone!"
"But it's perfectly possible--"
"It isn't possible. I've told you, that wasn't legal. It couldn't be." She rubbed her nose, and glanced at me sideways. "Mention that to a living soul, darling. I'll hang you by your toes and dress you for a hog."

(p. 100) [Holly, after Jose jilted her] "I did love him. The rat."

(p. 102) [Holly, after announcing she's heading for Rio.] "Anyway, home is where you feel at home. I'm still looking."

(p. 103) ...Do me a favor, darling. Call up the Times, or whatever you call, and get a list of the fifty richest men in Brazil. I'm not kidding. The fifty richest: regardless of race or color."

The clincher, per the above, shows her deliberately getting pregnant with Jose to trap him into marrying her ("He knows I'm preggers. ...I don't see why it should surprise you. It didn't me.")

She used men like figures in a chess game to get what she wanted, sustenance, until she could make the big score, Jose. Jose flaked, so she got another hunting list.


Leajk Good analysis! I'm not sure she actually planned to become pregnant and trap men, I'm not sure I found her cunning enough for that, but she didn't stand above using it once it had happened.


message 33: by T.D. (last edited Apr 17, 2013 05:45AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

T.D. Whittle Here's what Capote had to say about Holly and prostitution.

In a 1968 interview in Playboy, Truman Capote addressed the question:

Playboy: Would you elaborate on your comment that Holly was the prototype of today's liberated female and representative of a "whole breed of girls who live off men but are not prostitutes. They're our version of the geisha girl."?

Capote: Holly Golightly was not precisely a callgirl. She had no job, but accompanied expense-account men to the best restaurants and night clubs, with the understanding that her escort was obligated to give her some sort of gift, perhaps jewelry or a check ... if she felt like it, she might take her escort home for the night. So these girls are the authentic American geishas, and they're much more prevalent now than in 1943 or 1944, which was Holly's era.

Later in the interview, Capote has some fun with his interrogator:

Playboy: Holly Golightly alludes to her onetime Lesbian roommate and obliquely expresses a sexual interest in other women. Was Holly a Lesbian?

Capote:: Let's leave Holly out of it. It's a well-known fact that most prostitutes are Lesbians—at least 80 percent of them, in any case. And so are a great many of the models and showgirls in New York; just off the top of my head, I can think of three top professional models who are Lesbians. Of course, there's a Lesbian component in every woman, but what intrigues me is the heterosexual male's fascination with Lesbians. I find it extraordinary that so many men I know consider Lesbian women exciting and attractive; among their most treasured erotic dreams is the idea of going to bed with two Lesbians.

Here's the link to this brief New Yorker article, which is based on excerpts from Truman Capote: Conversations http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs...


Ellena Downes Absolutely even the name sounds like a madam!! Men are a means to an end she doesn't even seem to particularly like them.


Kressel Housman Monty J wrote: "and for both reasons I'd expect that Holly to be a composite of Marilyn and other people he had known, including himself.

I agree, but Capote's mother's name was Lilly Mae, so Lulamae/Holly was probably heavily based on her. When the book came out, she said it was her.


Monty J Heying Kressel wrote: "Monty J wrote: "and for both reasons I'd expect that Holly to be a composite of Marilyn and other people he had known, including himself.

I agree, but Capote's mother's name was Lilly Mae, so Lula..."


Yes, I forgot to mention that. I believe his mother was the principal model for Holly.


Roberta Gibson Yes, Holly Golightly was a prostitute, but it was delicately phrased. Fifty dollars for needing to use the powder room, is how I think it was phrased.


Vanessa  Eden Patton Yes she was a prostitute.


Roberta Gibson Just got your question again on my e-mail. YES! Holly was a high priced call girl. I read Truman Capote's novel, many moons ago, but I remember the old, 50.00 for the powder room. I also remember that their was never any romance between Holly and the aspiring writing who lived above her apartment. In reality, the writer was Capote. And in further reality, he was gay. I love his writing style and so did his childhood friend Harper Lee. She openly admits that she employed his writing style when she wrote, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.


Christine I don't think she was a prostitute. After all, Holly was a bit of a bumpkin. When she got to the big city she figured out that she was an attractive girl and men would give her money for certain favors and attentions. I get the idea that this may or may not have involved actual sex, and Holly had a good deal of choice in the types of relationships she decided to get involved in. (which is not what a prostitute does!)


Peter Castine Vanessa Eden wrote: "Yes she was a prostitute."

How do you define "prostitute"?

If it mean "engage in sexual activity for money" (OED), nope, she didn't shag men for cash.

Yes, she was was a gold-digger. Yes, she might sleep with someone if she thought it would lead to a rich marriage (and she'd probably accept presents). Yes, she was an escort in the original meaning of the word ("a person, typically a woman, who may be hired to accompany someone socially"). But when someone followed her home with a view to getting her in the sheets for his fifty bucks, she slammed the door in his face and took safety with the novelist.

As Capote himself said, an American Geisha. But that's pretty obvious on reading the book.


Monty J Heying Mike wrote: "Discuss."

Here's a great Vanity Fair article directly and astutely addressing whether Holly was a prostitute.

http://www.vanityfair.com/online/dail...


Christine Monty J wrote: Here's a great Vanity Fair article directly and astutely addressing whether Holly was a prostitute.

http://www.vanityfair.com/online/dail......"


Thanks for the link, Monty! Quite fascinating. I've often wondered what would happen if they did a remake/ updated version of the movie without the 1950's taboos.


message 44: by Emma (new) - rated it 4 stars

Emma Edwards I think she was a paid escort, but there could be the possibility that she slept with the men she thought could improve her lifstyle such as Rusty. With her casual attitude to sex and relationships I think she did use sex in order to gain access to men, however I don't think it was a typical "I'll play, you pay" situation. However, It could be she was't an escort either. After all men with high stature, in those days, were more than expected to pay for their lady friends in those days. Perhaps she just attached herself to these men and charmed them out of $50 for the powder room.


message 45: by Monty J (last edited Sep 09, 2014 01:20PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Monty J Heying Emma wrote: "erhaps she just attached herself to these men and charmed them out of $50 for the powder room."

The chances of that are pretty slim. The story takes place in 1943. $50 then in today's money is $690.

At that rate, she was a pretty high class hooker. $5 a throw was the going street rate in New York City in those days, if Salinger's scene in The Catcher in the Rye is any indication.

Here's my source:
http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/


Monty J Heying Leajk wrote: "There is no reason for her to lie about this..."

I can think of a couple: 1-she could get kicked out of her apartment on morals grounds and 2-she needs to maintain a reputation to find a suitable husband.

Aso, the publisher couldn't sell near as many books if prostitution were evident. America was/is pretty Puritanical compared with Europe. The book wouldn't be allowed in libraries or schools.


message 47: by Shawn (new)

Shawn I am not so concerned with her being a 1940's liberated women. To me the character seems bi-polar. Which I think is much more interesting topic for that time period.


Christine Shawn wrote: "I am not so concerned with her being a 1940's liberated women. To me the character seems bi-polar. Which I think is much more interesting topic for that time period."

Maybe you are right! Not sure if they diagnosed bi polar back then.


Camilla Tilly I have not had time to read any comments but when you receive $50 for having sex in the ladies' room in clubs and restaurants and she goes there some extra times in order to pay off the Christmas present for "Fred" (the bird-cage from the antique shop costing $350), then YOU ARE A PROSTITUTE. Sex for money is prostitution!


Randi I don't think she was having sex in the ladies room. In fancy restaurants, you used to have to tip the bathroom attendant, thus the pretext for giving her money. She might have been having sex elsewhere, or she was a escort or paid companion.


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