I've never read Breakfast At Tiffany's, and know nothing of the plot. Only reading the first and last lines of the book, here is what I think it's about.
First Line: I am always drawn back to places where I have lived, the houses and their neighbourhoods.
Last Line: As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying toward heaven.
The first line of Breakfast At Tiffany’s makes one thing abundantly clear: Tiffany is just the fucking worst.
I can see Tiffany as the kind of person who likes to say “he’s a rescue,” even if nobody has yet inquired about her dog. She would probably take up Reiki if she could pay attention long enough for someone to explain it to her, and though I’m unclear on the story’s time period, if it were set in modern day, Tiffany would absolutely be taking selfies with homeless people.
Because Tiffany, God bless her, is drawn back to places where she’s lived. To put it another way, Tiffany experiences feelings of attachment to a location she once inhabited for a significant period of time. To put it yet another way, Tiffany is just beginning to comprehend very basic concepts like “home” and “identity,” and has graciously decided to pass the good word onto the rest of us mortals.
The fact that Tiffany not only misconstrues banal observations as revelatory discoveries, but believes these observations are worth articulating to others, means she must maintain a nauseating sense of self-importance. To be fair, Tiffany is probably someone of middling intelligence and imagination who was told by her parents from a very young age that everything she thought and said and did was nothing short of a miracle. This is the only reasonable explanation for the first of her presumably many, many vacuous musings.
But Tiffany’s parents are not the only ones to blame for their daughter’s superiority complex. As the pages turn, we learn about the other people in Tiffany’s life - people who have had every opportunity to step up and challenge Tiffany’s warped self-image, and instead do nothing. Cowards, the lot of them.
For instance, in Chapter Two, when Tiffany turns in a poem proposing that when we’re awake we’re really dreaming, but when we dream we’re really awake, does her English teacher grade her poorly? Does she call the fire department and report a possible carbon dioxide leak at the Tiffany residence? No, Mrs. Henderson gives Tiffany an A and frames her poem for all to see.
In Chapter Three, when Tiffany stops her dentist mid-cleaning to remark on the curious nature of teeth, and how they’re kinda like bones, but not really though, you know?, does Dr. Templeton pump her full of laughing gas so he can get on with his job in peace? No, he nods meaningfully and tells her she should consider a career in medicine.
Of course, there is a reason the entire town coddles Tiffany: she’s the heiress to her family’s kite-making business.
A Kite For Sore Eyes had been around for generations, and any competing kite purveyors had long since gone under. With such an iron grip on the market, Mr. and Mrs. Tiffany can afford to pick and choose who gets a kite, and who doesn't. Thus, the townspeople dared not anger the Tiffanys, lest they be banned from the shop and forced to purchase their kites at Kites ‘n Stuff in the next town over.
And so Tiffany is fed a steady diet of praise and validation, and grows into the sort of person who pats herself on the back every time she recycles. In Chapter Four she recalls her first high school party, where she smokes a joint and wonders out loud if the government pumps drugs into the air to blind us to reality, and the reason pot is illegal is because it’s the antidote. In Chapter Six she remembers her Senior Prom, where she interrupts Jumpin’ Jack Flash to remind everyone that white people stole the blues.
Eventually Tiffany leaves for college. When her parents ask why she doesn’t stay and work for the family business, Tiffany says it’s because she wants to be the change she wishes to see in the world or some other hippie bullshit. As she boards the train that will take her far away, her parents weep and the townspeople rejoice.
One would think that in leaving the safe little bubble of her hometown, Tiffany would be forced to deal with the harsh reality of her unenlightenment. Sadly, this was not to be, for the majority of her college experience is spent with her fellow Gender Studies majors, who respond to all of her dimwitted aphorisms with choruses of “right on” and “live your truth” and “the fuckin’ patriarchy.”
But things take a dark turn when, shortly before her graduation, Tiffany learns that her mother has fallen deathly ill, and her father has slipped into a deep depression. Outwardly upset, but secretly eager to use her newfound knowledge of social constructs to provide comfort to her parents in their time of need, Tiffany is, as she so eloquently puts it, drawn back to the places she’s lived.
The town, which in Tiffany’s absence had experienced an economic boom and a major drop in suicides, tenses their collective sphincters at the woman’s sudden return. The more optimistic residents tell themselves that Tiffany has surely reformed; that being out in the world must have shaken some sense into her swollen head. But when Tiffany pops into Tony’s Diner one morning for some coffee, their hopes quickly turn to ash in their mouths.
“Hi Tiffany!” Tony says. “So good to see you again. How are your parents?”
Tiffany stares at Tony for some time, her face as wide and blank as a vat of raw milk, her black eyes reflecting no light. Finally, she says: “No matter who we are or what we’ve done, our graves will always be the same size.”
Tony nods enthusiastically, then goes to the kitchen and prays for the sweet relief of death.
Tiffany’s next stop is the garden supply store, for she’d read somewhere that a meticulously assembled rock garden can create positive energies and help harmonize the spiritual tempos of the sick and weak with the eternal beat of the universe. Upon seeing Tiffany, Ronald, the store manager, takes a deep breath and contorts his face into what he hopes is something resembling a smile.
“Welcome back Tiffany. What can I do for you today?”
“I need some rocks.”
“Can do! And what kind of rocks will you be needing?”
Without answering, Tiffany drifts away from the cash register and goes to a window. She stares out of it pensively, then says: “Every rock is different, every rock is the same.”
“Sounds good Tiffany!” says Ronald. He puts his hand in his pocket and gently caresses a pair of pruning shears. Not long now, he thinks. Not long at all.
Tiffany stays in town for the next few months, dutifully caring for her mother and father. When it becomes clear her father can no longer handle the kite business on his own, Tiffany steps in to help.
For all her faults, Tiffany proves to be a competent kite maker, even if she does go a little overboard with the designs. In fact, the entirety of Chapter Nine is just Tiffany listing off all the kites she wants to make, which includes a kite depicting The Last Supper (except everyone is Judas), a kite shaped like the Chinese symbol for karma, and a kite that doesn’t fly because it represents humility (which doesn’t even make any fucking sense).
After learning her mother only has a few days left, Tiffany closes the shop and dedicates herself to one final kite. Using Tibetan bamboo for the dowels, Mulberry silk for the covering, and locally-grown hemp for the string, Tiffany makes two kites attached by a single line.
One kite is black and one is white, representing the duality of life and death or some shit.
To drive the point home, one kite is embroidered with the word “Life,” the other with “Death.”
To make absolutely sure everyone gets it, the black kite is shaped like a skull and the white kite is shaped like a tree.
On the day her mother dies, Tiffany calls all the townspeople together to witness her mother’s symbolic ascension. They all watch as Tiffany releases the two kites into the warm summer air. They watch as the kites struggle to catch the wind. They watch as the kites fall pathetically back to earth. They watch as Tiffany scratches her head in confusion, apparently unaware that kites shaped like skulls and trees violate the basic principles of aero-fucking-dynamics. They watch as her father sobs at the realization that his daughter will soon run his business into the ground. Literally.
Tiffany quickly shrugs it off and starts talking to Tony of Tony’s Diner.
“I thought the kites would fly toward heaven, you know, like hearts,” she says.
“But Tiffany, they weren’t shaped like hearts.”
“Right. I’m saying metaphorically.”
Tony goes home to finalize his will, and Tiffany is left to ponder the mysteries of the universe.