Truman Capote: The Man Behind an Icon

We know him for two very different novels. The first novel helped define Audrey Hepburn into the style icon she is remembered as. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of Capote’s most well known novel. He also wrote In Cold Blood, the grizzly non fiction story about the Holcomb, Kansas murders that took place in 1959. Whether you know him for one novel or both, there is no doubt that Truman Capote is a literary icon.

The critically acclaimed author was born on September 30th, 1924 in New Orleans, Louisiana. After his parents divorced when he was only four years old, they sent him to Monroeville, Alabama. He spent quite a bit of time under the care of his relatives in Alabama during his younger years. While in Monroeville, Truman became acquainted with a young Harper Lee, marking the beginning of a friendship that would last a lifetime. The two were quite the pair, Truman being a sensitive young boy while Harper was the rugged tomboy.

Eventually, the young writer had to move back home. Capote saw very little of his parents until his mother took him to live with her full time in New York City in 1932. Unfortunately for Truman, his home life could get extremely toxic. His mother, kind and cruel depending on her mood, began a completely new life in New York. She began to call herself Nina instead of her real name, Lillie Mae. Nina never provided the support and affection that the young Truman needed, often picking on him for his sensitive personality. However, despite Truman’s disinterest, his new stepfather was the light during these dark times. Joe Capote became a stable parental figure for Truman and eventually Joe adopted his stepson, giving him a new last name.

Truman never stood out in school like many of influential writers. He attended a private school in Manhattan from 1933 to 1936. He paid little attention to subjects he had no interest in, but did do well in the courses he loved. Truman’s time spent at the private school came to an end quickly. Nina, spiteful of his effeminate personality, sent Truman to a military academy with hopes of making him more masculine. He attended the military academy for a year, which turned out to be a huge disaster. Truman was constantly bullied and ridiculed for being much smaller than the other students.

Eventually, the Capote family packed their bags and moved to Greenwich, Connecticut in 1939. While attending Greenwich High School Truman began working on the Green Witch, the schools very own literary journal. Truman finally found a place that he could excel in. He began making friends and even doing better in school. A few years later the family returned to New York City and Truman enrolled in Franklin School, a private school located on the Upper West Side.

During his teenage years, Capote began working as a copyboy at The New Yorker magazine. Capote began writing novels, but he shined with his short stories. A short story titled Miriam was published in Mademoiselle in 1945. After this Truman had various short stories published in a wide variety of magazines including, Harper’s Bazaar, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly.

In 1948, Capote’s first novel Other Voices, Other Rooms was published. The novel sold well enough that Capote continued to pursue his passion. A year later he published A Tree of Light which was a small collection of short stories. The authors career continued on with lots of bumps. Some of his work was well received, others the critics despised. Finally in 1958, Capote published his most well known work, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  The novel was so popular with audience members that the novel was adapted into the iconic film starring Audrey Hepburn.

After the success of Tiffany’s, Capote moved onto a project for The New Yorker. Jetting off to Kansas with childhood friend, Harper Lee, the two began working on what was meant to be a small article. Lee and Capote interviewed and researched the the murder of the Clutter family while in Kansas. The duo eventually interviewed the perpetrators in 1960 before returning home to New York. When Truman began writing the article, it turned into something much bigger and a masterpiece was born. In Cold Blood became a huge success, critics and audience members loved the book. The novel was published in four separate installments in The New Yorker before it was published as book.

Over the years Capote began turning to drugs and alcohol. Creating a strained relationship between him and his partner Jack Dunphy, the couple eventually began sleeping in separate rooms. In addition to Capotes drug and alcohol addictions, he began being intimate with younger men, creating a much bigger divide between him and Dunphy. On August 25, 1984 Truman Capote died. The cause of death was liver disease which had only been made worse by his increasing drug addiction.

Truman Capote saw a great deal of success during his lifetime. Unfortunately like many authors before him, he let his drug addiction consume him. Audience members continue to celebrate and love his work today. His memory will live on through his writing and hopefully continue to impress and captivate young readers.