Name _________________________________________________________________ Period______
Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory”
“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner
music that words make.”
The SIFT method is intended to help you explore how a writer uses
literary elements and stylistic techniques to convey meaning or theme. It
allows you to “sift” through the parts in order to comprehend the whole.
Symbol: examine the title and text for symbolism
Images: identify images and sensory details
Figures of speech: analyze figurative language and other devices
Tone and Theme: discover how all devices reveal tone and theme
Note: “A Christmas Memory” is autobiographical in nature. When Capote was ten years old he moved
to a rural town in Alabama to live with his distant, elderly relatives. The short story is a personal
reminiscence which depends on first-person narration and the nostalgia of a rural Southern setting to
evoke its mood. Its realism is supported by its straightforward, linear structure, while its use of lyrical
language evokes the idea of a mythical past.
As you read “A Christmas Memory” found on page 50 in Elements of Literature, consider reading it
aloud. The pleasure that Capote found in creating an inner music with his words is very apparent in
this story. You are encouraged to read this story carefully, paying close attention to detail. You will be
expected to apply the SIFT method to the story.
1. SYMBOL: Explain the reference to kites in the last paragraph. What do kites symbolize?
2. IMAGES: Look carefully at the sensory details in Capote’s description of the kitchen at different
points in the story. What mood or feeling do these details of setting convey in each scene?
3. FIGURES OF SPEECH: “The candle burns too short to hold. Out is goes, exposing the starlight, the
stars spinning at the window like a visible caroling that slowly, slowly daybreak silences. Possibly we
doze; but the beginnings of dawn splash us like cold water: We’re up, wide-eyed and wandering while
we wait for others to waken.”
Identify the figures of speech in the excerpt found on page 59. What are the comparisons, and why
are they effective? How do they contribute to the meaning?
4. TONE: “ A Christmas Memory” has been described as a bittersweet tale with an elegiac tone. Find
examples in this story that reveal the author’s melancholic and nostalgic tone. Consider Capote’s
word choice, imagery and details.
THEME: Hint: insights gained from analyzing symbolism, imagery, figurative language and other
literary devices lead to tone and theme.
Earlier in the story, the winter setting created a warm, nostalgic atmosphere. At the end of the story,
what mood does the “fruitcake weather” create and how does the wintry setting add to the overall
theme of the story?
Enrichment Activity: Read following website to learn about
o PBS American Masters website
During your research, list five pieces of factual information about the author.