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Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the Fallibility of Dreams

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

by Andrewtrung Le

Art by Michelle Dong

Before you go on pursuing your dreams like everyone says you should, my advice to you is to ask yourself: Why do I call this my dream?

I’ve recently fallen in love with Audrey Hepburn’s work, and one of my favorite movies from her filmography is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I expected this film to showcase the glamorous but two-faced atmosphere of New York City, but this film told a story about something much more profound and resonant. Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a meditation on the fallibility of our dreams and ambitions.

The movie follows a prostitute by the name of Holly Golightly, who sustains herself by having conversations with an imprisoned mob boss named Sally Tomato and is an active socialite with the sole intention of marrying a wealthy man. The basis of her work is to raise enough money so that, eventually, she can retire to a quiet ranch with her beloved brother, Fred. In one of the film’s most magical scenes, Holly Golightly is sitting on the windowsill of her New York apartment, strumming a guitar and singing this sweet lullaby called Moon River (a compositional masterpiece by the illustrious Henry Mancini). This song changed the film for me, because it told me, in two simply but beautifully recited verses, that Holly Golightly was a character whose dreams were misguided. While her dreams motivated her to work hard with what she had, the basis of her dreams was the reason she never found real happiness.

The most intriguing and crucial aspect of her character is her backstory - Holly Golightly was orphaned at a very young age and only had her brother, Fred, to ever love. Golightly never understood the concept of love and relationships and marriage and attachment and commitment, and believed that “no one ever belongs to each other” because she could never feel the magical feeling of being loved and raised properly by people who cared about her. She could only witness what was considered socially acceptable, that marriage was a means of staying afloat and surviving in this cruel world. This explains why Holly decided to marry the 50-year old widower by the name of Doc, in spite of the fact she was only thirteen years old. However, her apathy towards the idea of marriage prompts her to run away from her marriage in the south and to move to New York City, where she would ultimately find a husband that would be able to sustain her financially but also allow her to be free-spirited. And while her intentions are completely understandable (her ultimate goal is to be able to spend time with a brother she loves dearly), her lack of foresight and narrow-mindedness are unforgivable. Holly Golightly believes she has a dream, and does anything and everything to make it reality, but the real problem is she never assesses the reason why her dream is her dream.

This is a mistake many people make. People forget to ask themselves, “Why do I want this? Why is this my dream?” I believe, that before you decide that you actually want something, you must ask yourself why you want it. Because when you’ve spent hours of your time, your money, and your blood, sweat, and tears, only to realize you never really knew what you wanted, you will be miserable. People will claim they want this, but never fully clarify to themselves what’s motivating them to say they really want it. Are you doing this for true happiness and fulfillment, or are you doing this for any reason beyond the simple truth that you should be happy with yourself when you see your reflection in the mirror? Because those that accomplish their dreams, that’s how I’d imagine they feel. Proud of themselves for spending their time doing something that is worthwhile and meaningful.

Some people are purely in it for the cash. I see individuals embark on medical or engineering pathways because they know it’s the safest and most lucrative investment of their time and energy. They ultimately decide that the source of their future happiness will depend on a realistic, modest, and secure means of living, without envisioning the necessary virtue of fulfillment that should accompany life, every step of the way. Some people are in it for the clout. Individuals will choose a path that will allow them to impress others. So they ultimately decide that the source of their future happiness will depend on the happiness and approval of others. This is a dangerous mindset, as I have personally learned the hard way. I believe that if you want something, don’t go get it just yet. Ask yourself why. Because this dream that you want, this passion or career that you plan on pursuing, it should never ever have the chance to bring you down. Your love for this passion or dream must be so strong that it would be nearly impossible for anything to backfire, or for anything to change your mind about it. And most importantly, this dream of yours must come from a wholesome place, from a perspective of understanding and fulfillment. As much as most people don’t know what they truly believe in, most people don’t know what they truly want, either. All it takes is to sit down and think about what you really want for an hour. Dig deeper and deeper into your motives and ambitions, who you are, and who you want to be. As long as you can look in the mirror and be proud of yourself for who you’ve become, then your life has been fulfilling. I promise you, it’ll be the most life-changing hour you’ll ever experience.

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