The first symbols of this short story are colors. Miriam’s favorite color is blue. Blue is a symbol for sadness. The sky was blue when she went shopping and sad because Miriam had to die. She often wore plum or white clothing. Plum is a symbol for wealth and white is a symbol for being clean or good. Because Miriam wears so much white, the reader knows that she is good. Many times during the story it is snowing, and snow is also white. The snow, being white, helps the reader understand that snow is a symbol for health. The snow Miriam is a symbol for the angel of death.
st after I met him, Truman began telling me his life story. This terrible, tragic story. The central tragedy, as he saw it, in his life is a scene. Truman is two years old. He wakes up in an utterly strange room, empty. He yells, but he’s locked in there. He’s petrified, doesn’t know where he is–which is in some dumpy hotel in the Deep South–and his parents have gone out to get drunk and dance. They have locked this tiny little boy in his room. That was his image of terror, and I think it was his way of symbolizing the insecurity of his youth–this image of that kind of abandonment (quoted in Plimpton, 1997, 26)
Capote recounts the same scene to interviewer Gerald Grobel: “It was a certain period in my life. I was only about two years old, but I was very aware of being locked in this hotel room. My mother was a very young girl. We were living in this hotel in New Orleans. She had no one to leave me with. She had no money and she had nothing to do with my father. She would leave me locked in this hotel room when she went out in the evening with her beaus and I would become hysterical because I couldn’t get out of this room” (Grobel, 1985, 48).
This memory assumes a super-saliency because of its singularity, its quality of discreteness. As Knowles explains, the scene of abandonment is Capote’s “central” tragedy. It is “nuclear”; it summarizes the life story. There is a need, moreover, to recollect it, to repeat it, as though it were especially explanatory. It also has the earmarks of developmental trauma. Capote recalls it with terror. He remembers becoming hysterical (as any two year old would, no doubt). And the scene underscores an obvious life-theme: abandonment fear and consequent efforts to defend against the fear. As Capote himself would later declare, “Because of my childhood, because I always had the sense of being abandoned, certain things have fantastic effects on me, beyond what someone else might feel. . . Every morning I wake up and in about two minutes I’m weeping. . . I’m so unhappy. I just have to come to terms with something. There is something wrong. I don’t know what it is” (quoted in Clarke, 1988, 498).
The theme of abandonment showed up in Capote’s fiction, too. His most famous short story, “Miriam,” concerns a mysteriously motherless little girl who enters then promptly destroys the life of a 61 year-old widow, Mrs. H.T. Miller (Capote, 1969). As the story unfolds, Miriam makes the widow want her. The widow is pathetically powerless to say no. She ends up helpless, under Miriam’s thumb, and quite possibly mad. Is Miriam-qua-Capote the motherless cast-off come home to exact revenge, to drive the capricious and crazy-making mother into abject insanity? It seems likely.