A Diamond Guitar

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"A Diamond Guitar"
Author Truman Capote
Country  United States
Language English
Genre(s) Southern literature
Published in Harper's Bazaar (volume 84, part 2)
Publication type magazine
Publisher Hearst Corporation
Media type Print
Publication date 1950

"A Diamond Guitar" is a short story by Truman Capote, first published in Harper's Bazaar in 1950; it is noted as one of his better quality early short stories.[1] The title refers to the prize possession of the younger man, a rhinestone-studded guitar; the guitar serves as the key image of the story.[2]

Capote wrote "A Diamond Guitar" in April 1950 during a three-week-long transatlantic freighter crossing from New York to Italy.[3]

It is one of three short stories normally published in the same volume as Breakfast at Tiffany's, first released in 1958.

Plot summary[edit]

The story is set in a prison in a rural area near Mobile, Alabama where convicts perform road work and farm turpentine from nearby pine forests, the two main characters are both convicts, Mr. Schaeffer, an older man serving a ninety-nine year sentence for murder, and Tico Feo, a newly arrived young man sentenced to serve two years for stabbing two men. Mr. Schaeffer and Tico form a fast bond that is simultaneously intimate and platonic, on Valentine's Day they agree to attempt an escape during the following day's work. Tico succeeds in getting away, but Mr. Schaeffer breaks his ankle in a shallow creek. Tico betrays Mr. Schaeffer's affections by not coming to his aid, but Mr. Schaeffer is given credit for trying to capture Tico and takes possession of the prized guitar.[4]

Characters[edit]

Armstrong: the youngest prison guard. He is overweight, but surprisingly quick.

Mr. Schaeffer: a fifty-year-old man who is one of the few literate prisoners, as such he is looked up to and feared by other prisoners. He has graying red hair and is lean in build, he is comparable to Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's because, like Holly, he is a dreamer.[5]

Tico Feo: a lively eighteen-year-old man from Cuba, who has blonde hair and blue eyes. At times he is lazy, and known for being a terrible liar, his character has been compared to the murderer Perry Smith from Capote's famous later novel In Cold Blood who possesses a Gibson guitar.[6]

Critical reception and analysis[edit]

The short story's literary style has been studied for its clear use of literary devices, most notably those of heightened language, metaphorical descriptions and its in medias res opening.[7]

The story has been noted as having "faint echoes" of Carson McCullers' work.[8] Another contemporary of Capote's, Donald Windham, gave Capote a copy of his 1950 novel The Dog Star and believes it influenced elements of "A Diamond Guitar", excluding the events and characters.[9] A modern short story scholar notes that many of Capote's early short stories, including "A Diamond Guitar" place him among a cadre of notable mid-century writers well-versed in the southern gothic genre, including William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, Tennessee Williams and Flannery O'Connor.[10]

Readers have noticed the undercurrent of homosexuality in two main characters' relationship. Helen Garson, a scholar, notes that this type of love is one that Capote treats very carefully, "find[ing] no room for humor, sexual or otherwise".[11] Emmanuel S. Nelson notes that "A Diamond Guitar" is Capote's most openly gay short story and it is his only short story that "has a gay male relationship at its heart."[12]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Schneider, Dan. "Book Review of The Complete Stories of Truman Capote". The New Review. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-11. 
  2. ^ Long, Robert Emmet. Truman Capote, enfant terrible (New York: Continuum, 2008), page 78.
  3. ^ Windham, Donald. Lost Friendships: A Memoir of Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and Others (William Morrow & Co, 1987), page 81.
  4. ^ Gelfant, Blanche H. The Columbia Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Short Story (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), page 186.
  5. ^ Long, Robert Emmet. Truman Capote, enfant terrible (New York: Continuum, 2008), page 92.
  6. ^ Reed, Kenneth T. & Reed, Terry. Truman Capote (Twayne's United States Authors Series) (Twayne Publishers, 1981), page 123.
  7. ^ Turco, Lewis. The Book of Literary Terms: The Genres of Fiction, Drama, Nonfiction, Literary Criticism, and Scholarship (New Hampshire: New England University Press, 1999), pages 51-53.
  8. ^ Long, Robert Emmet. Truman Capote, enfant terrible (New York: Continuum, 2008), page 78.
  9. ^ Nelson, Emmanuel Contemporary Gay American Novelists: a Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1993), page 53.
  10. ^ Gelfant, Blanche H. The Columbia Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Short Story (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), pages 185-186.
  11. ^ Garson, Helen S. Truman Capote: A Study of the Short Fiction (Twayne Publishers, 1992), page 55.
  12. ^ Nelson, Emmanuel Contemporary Gay American Novelists: a Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1993), pages 52&56.
Bibliography
  • Garson, Helen (1992). Truman Capote: A Study of the Short Fiction (1st ed.). Twayne Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8057-0851-6. 
  • Gelfante, Blanche H. (2004). The Columbia Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Short Story (1st ed.). New York, NY: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-11099-0. 
  • Long, Robert Emmet (2008). Truman Capote, enfant terrible (1st ed.). New York: Continuum. ISBN 978-0-8264-2763-2. 
  • Nance, William L. (1970). The Worlds of Truman Capote (1st ed.). Stein and Day. ISBN 978-0-8128-1302-9. 
  • Natali, Carlo (2003). Truman Capote (Bloom's Modern Critical Views) (1st ed.). Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7910-7397-1. 
  • Nelson, Emmanuel S. (1993). Contemporary Gay American Novelists: a Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook (1st ed.). Westport, CT: Greenwood. ISBN 978-0-313-28019-1. 
  • Reed, Kenneth T.; Reed, Terry (1981). Truman Capote (Twayne's United States Authors Series) (1st ed.). Twayne Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8057-7321-7. 
  • Turco, Lewis (1999). The Book of Literary Terms: The Genres of Fiction, Drama, Nonfiction, Literary Criticism, and Scholarship (1st ed.). Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. ISBN 978-0-87451-955-6. 
  • White, Edmund (1994). The Burning Library (1st ed.). New York, NY: Knopf. ISBN 978-0-679-43475-7. 
  • Windham, Donald (1987). Lost Friendships: A Memoir of Truman Capote Tennessee Williams and Others (1st ed.). William Morrow & Co. ISBN 978-0-688-06947-6.