What Irony Is in "A Christmas Memory"?

Buddy and his friend exchange kites for Christmas many years in a row.
... Kane Skennar/Photodisc/Getty Images

"A Christmas Memory" is a semi-autobiographical tale by Truman Capote about a 7-year-old boy named Buddy who is best friends with his distant cousin, who is "sixty-something" and referred to only as "my friend." The two enjoy annual Christmas traditions together such as baking fruitcakes and making each other gifts. Irony is used in the story to underscore the unusual nature of this friendship and for comic effect.

1 Funny Name

In the beginning of the story, the narrator talks about how he and his friend make fruitcakes every Christmas. They procure one of the most expensive ingredients for their fruitcakes -- the whiskey -- from a bootlegger named Mr. Haha Jones. Buddy says that Haha is "a giant with razor scars across his cheeks" and is "so gloomy, a man who never laughs." The irony of his name is used to be funny. The dog also has an ironic name: Queenie, or Queen. Despite her royal name, the dog lives in quite poor conditions and only looks forward to a bone on Christmas.

2 Strangers As Friends

When Buddy and his friend make their fruitcakes, they don't make them for family. They make them for "Friends. Not necessarily neighbor friends." Buddy says they make the cakes "for persons we've met maybe once, perhaps not at all. People who've struck our fancy. Like President Roosevelt." The reason they make the cakes for these people instead of people they see regularly is "because my friend is shy with everyone except strangers." The irony of this endeavor underscores the disconnect seen between Buddy and his friend and their family members.

3 Old Friend

The main irony in the story is that Buddy's friend is old but quite childlike. Though she has white hair and a craggy face, she engages in activities like kite-flying, counting pennies and making paper decorations for the tree -- all with the enthusiasm of a child. She is also irresponsible, not only taking Buddy to buy whiskey from a bootlegger but also allowing him to drink it and get drunk. She gets excited on Christmas Eve and says she "can't sleep a hoot" and takes delight in small things like oranges for gifts and brightly colored lights. She and Buddy are an unlikely pair for their age, but in spirit they are perfectly matched.

4 Happy Day

After Buddy and his friend exchange their kites on Christmas morning, they go out to fly them together. His friend wonders whether the Lord actually shows himself in the every day, such as in "clouds and kites and grass and Queenie pawing earth over her bone." She says that seeing these things "was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes." The irony in her statement is that it is the last Christmas she spends with Buddy, and in some ways she does leave the world with that day in her eyes. It is the last truly happy day she has since she is left alone with a family that does not understand her, and then she loses her memory to dementia.

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.