Throughout “A Christmas Memory” the narrator refers to himself only in the first person (I, me, myself), but his friend calls him Buddy ‘ ‘in memory of a boy who was formerly her best friend” and who had died when she was a child. Truman Capote said that Buddy is based on himself; as a boy, Capote indeed lived with an elderly, somewhat eccentric cousin in a country house full of relatives. At the time the story takes place Buddy is seven years old, and his age influences the way he perceives the events going on around him. Despite his youth, he proves perceptive. Buddy understands that even though his friend is in her sixties, “She is still a child.” He lives with relatives in “a spreading old house in a country town,” but he and his cousin manage to remain somewhat separate from them. ‘ ‘We are not, on the whole, too much aware of them. We are each other’s best friend,” he says. By recognizing this, Buddy reveals his compassion for society’s outsiders, as his cousin is considered. Every Saturday she gives him a dime and he goes to the movies, which influences his decision to be a tap dancer when he grows up. Because his friend never goes to movies, Buddy tells her about them, thus honing his storytelling skills. Later, when he recounts that he has been sent to military school, the sensitive narrator breaks the nostalgic mood of the story and provides its bittersweet resolution:’ ‘home is where my friend is, and there I never go.”
Mr. Haha Jones
Described as a “giant with razor scars across his cheeks,” Haha Jones is proprietor of a ‘ ‘sinful” fish-fry and dancing cafe. The name “Haha” is ironic, because he is purportedly a gloomy man who never smiles. Buddy and his friend purchase whiskey for their fruitcakes from Haha, and when he gives them their money back he demonstrates that there is good in all people.
Although she remains unnamed throughout the story, this “sixty-something” distant cousin is the narrator’s best friend. Capote said in interviews that he based this character on Miss Sook Faulk, an elderly cousin with whom he spent much of his childhood. Buddy’s friend is described as “still a child,” and it is her innocence which allows their friendship to occur. The narrator reveals her to be a very idiosyncratic person—one who possesses unusual characteristics—by stating the things she has never done: “eaten in a restaurant, traveled more than five miles from home, received or sent a telegram, read anything except the funny papers and the Bible.” She is also very wise, however, and it is she who teaches Buddy to value each individual object because “there are never two of anything.” She also helps Buddy to appreciate nature as the place where God reveals Himself every day.
Queenie is a dog, described as a “tough little orange and white rat terrier who has survived distemper and two rattlesnake bites.” Her resilience symbolizes the main characters’ friendship, for though each is small and physically insignificant, their spirits are united by a strong bond. Queenie’s death symbolizes the friends’ forced separation and foreshadows the eventual death of the narrator’s friend.
Those Who Know Best
See Two Relatives
Buddy never refers to the other people who live with him and his friend by name, and by doing so he demonstrates his emotional distance from them. The irony in the term “Those Who Know Best” signifies that he believes they really do not know what is best for him. The relatives are shown to be harsh and scolding. He admits that “they have power over us, and frequently make us cry.” Buddy also does not think much of their pious religious attitudes. When he receives a subscription to a religious magazine for children as a Christmas present, he says,’ ‘It makes me boil. It really does.”
Short Stories for Students, Volume 2 – Truman Capote, Edited by Kathleen Wilson, Published by Gale Research, New York, 1997.