Analytical Essay for “In Cold Blood” Truman Capote

Analytical Essay for “In Cold Blood” Truman Capote, in his narrative “In Cold Blood”, characterizes Holcomb, Kansas as a dull and trivial town. Capote expresses his views of Holcomb through diction and contrast. In the passage, Capote’s diction helps the reader to understand his view on Holcomb as being insignificant and boring. Words such as “irrelevant sign”, “haphazard hamlet” and “falling-apart post office” portray Capote’s view on the “lonesome” village. A picture of the irrelevant town is also painted when Capote describes different parts of it; “the streets, unnamed, unshaded, and unpaved” is a good example of his choice of words. Capote also describes the people wearing “rawhide jackets”, “denims”, and “cowboy boots”, showing the small, western town style of the village’s inhabitants. Capote’s diction is an important role in expressing his views about Holcomb, and informing the reader of how unimportant the town is. Capote’s choice to contrast certain aspects of the town also helps to convey the “aimless congregation” of Holcomb. At first, Holcomb is described as an ordinary town with “flat land”, being somewhat “out there” and its people having an “accent barbed with a prairie twang. ” These boring qualities of Holcomb are supported by Capote’s allusions to the “ramshackle mansion”, “one-story frame affairs”, and the “peeling sulphur-colored paint” of the depot. After Capote has built this view of Holcomb, he contrasts the town with an unanticipated outlook on the town. He describes the school as “modern and ably staffed”, the people as “prosperous”, and that Finney County “has done well. The contrast of different parts of Holcomb make you wonder what other things about Holcomb are you not aware of. Truman Capote expressed his views of Holcomb to be uneventful and having no significance what so ever. He was able to communicate his views to the reader through his choice of diction and the way he contrasted different features of Holcomb. Capote’s choice of rhetorical devises help to set up the town of Holcomb in the way that foreshadowed an event that will forever change the town.

The Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system plays a very important role in the novel In Cold Blood. When Dick Hickock and Perry Smith murdered the Clutter family many parts of the community were affected, but also played a role in their arrest. Many theories of crime can be examined in the text to try to explain why Dick and Perry committed such murder.

In the novel, the reader sees the different levels of police it took to track down these two men. When Dick and Perry got arrested the justice system played a big role in their trial and sentence as well.

The murder Dick and Perry committed was very hard to trace for authorities. The murders left no finger prints, no witnesses, and no shotgun shells. Not only did Dick and Perry leave no evidence, there also was no true motive behind the crime. This is definitely an oddity considering the setting and victims of the murder. Crimes with no motive are often a huge problem in our society. It is hard for police and authorities to come up with a suspect when there was no reason for someone to hate the victim, like the Clutter family. Their family was considered as very respectful, giving, and peaceful in the small town of Holcomb.

Dick and Perry even themselves thought Mr. Clutter was a good man. Perry confesses, I thought Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat.(Capote 244) This proves that there was no true reason for Perry and Dick to murder such an innocent family for nothing but a radio, few dollars in cash, and binoculars. The quote also proves the true insanity and mental illness of both murders. Dick is a very mentally unstable person and acts very impulsive. Dick seems to have no ability in his brain to think about the consequences of his actions. This leads Dick into breaking the law. Dick will do anything to satisfy his money hunger. He passed bad checks, robs people that pick him up as a hitch-hiker, and even killed the Clutter family. Money and impulse are two reasons why Dick committed the crime. He is quoted saying, I know it is wrong.

But at the same time I never give any thought to whether it is right or wrong. The same with stealing. It seems to be an impulse. (Capote 176) However, Perry was deeply affected by his childhood and past life. He seems to be mentally ill with Schizophrenia and struggles with the sensation he gets between sanity and violence. We see Perry’s unstable mind when dick says, In some ways, old Perry was “spooky as hell.” Take for example, that temper of his. He could slide into a fury “quicker than ten drunk Indians. And yet, you wouldn’t know it. “He might be ready to kill you, but you’d never know it, not to look at or listen to.” (Capote 106) Perry is even caught sucking on his thumb like a baby at one point and wet his bed. The only explanation for why Dick and Perry committed the murder is that they were money hungry and mentally ill.

The small town of Holocomb, Kansas was affected deeply by the murder of the Clutter family. The community played an important role in the beginning stages of the murder by community policing. Community Policing is when the police wants to interact with citizens more to help reduce crime by citizens reporting crimes, providing information, helping in investigations, and respecting the law. The first role the community plays is investigating why the Clutters are not answering the door at 9 am when all the cars are in the driveway. After discovering the dead bodies and calling the sheriff, word quickly spreads throughout the town and headlines of the world. The community does not trust any of their neighbors, and sleeps with their lights on all night. Lack of trust is displayed when the author states, This hitherto peaceful congregation of neighbors and old friends had suddenly to endure the unique experience of distrusting each other; understandably, they believed that the murderer was among themselves. (Capote 88) Soon people began to leave town in fear for their lives. However, the biggest role the community circle plays is what the police find out through Mr. Floyd Wells. Communities are connected in weird ways sometimes, and people can help authorities with evidence/information. The Justice System relies on communities very heavily to help them track down criminals.

The novel In Cold Blood gives the reader a look into the process of chasing down criminals. In the book, like in many cases today, the police first inspect the crime, then analyze evidence, conduct interrogations, and finally the novel shows the process of being patient to track down the criminal. Criminals like Dick and Perry that have been in and out of jail multiple times shows that the status quo of the prison system does not help bring corrections to certain types of people. Dick and Perry have committed other crimes like fake checks, breaking out of prison, and stealing. This proves that going to prison does not reform some inmates. Capote uses Capital Punishment to show that it does not do justice, but rather it depreciates the value of life and morals. Capital punishment is a government action to kill a person as a punishment for a crime. Capote expresses his views on the death penalty through Dick’s thoughts when he says, “They’re mad ?cause they’re not getting what they wantrevenge (Capote 335).

Throughout the book Capote references the criminal’s personalities, lives, and thoughts. The author spends a lot of effort to make Perry and Dick seem innocent and later justifies thier actions through their bad lives they had to cope with. Capote has Dewy mention, “a measure of sympathy”for Perry Smith’s life had been no bed of roses but pitiful, an ugly and lonely progress toward one mirage or another (Capote 246). Even after the criminals are convicted, Capote continues to fight the unjust jury, attorneys, and trial as a whole. The jury was chosen from the Clutter’s friends that were pro-death penalty. Judge Tate was also very close friends with Mr.Clutter. In today’s court, all of these issues would have been addressed before the court proceedings. The prosecutor also played the fear card to the jury. He said that if Dick and Perry were not executed, they could have been released.

In Conclusion, the book In Cold Blood relates to our criminal justice system and its flaws. The author uses many terms and ideas of criminal justice throughout the text. Some of the main points have to deal with what caused the crime, how the community reacted, how the police tracked Dick and Perry down, and the court room process. Although Capote sees the death penalty as wrong in this case, Dick and Perry deserved to die because of what they did to the Clutter family and town of Holocomb.

The Death Penalty For Perry Smith and Dick Hickock

The death penalty for both Perry Smith and Dick Hickock was for the best. Having them dead meant peace to the public and justice for their crime. They have carried out other offenses in their time such as check fraud and theft.

Though they were both wounded in accidents they were still sane enough to know they were in the wrong. As for the series of events that involved the Clutters, Hickock and Smith planned out the burglary and even added no witnesses. They are a dangerous and needed to be hung, especially since the only other choice is 15 years in prison with parole. Having them out and about will only fuel the community’s fear of not knowing if they could be the next to go.

No matter how it’s looked at, Hickock and Smith are a threat and a danger to the public. They did not just commit simple burglary and check frauds, but also perpetrated capital murder. At one point they planned to rob another victim, Mr. Bells, of his belongings and his life. If they can go and execute another citizen then there is proof that they will not do it again. This unpredictability will make it hard for pedestrians to live safely when Hickock and Smith are on the loose. There is probability of Hickock and Smith to commit another crime, or even another murder, and even possibly be able to get away with it. 15 years in prison will not completely change their way of thinking, there is a possibility that it will but it could also let them see where they messed up. The death penalty was necessary for Hickock and Smith because their mental state was competent enough to stand trial, they would most likely be tempted to escape, and they had a high chance of being rearrested.

Hickock and Smith were competent enough to be able to stand trial according to psychologist. Disregarding the fact that he said that there was a chance that Smith might be insane, at the time of the murder Smith seemed to be very conscious of what he was doing. He knew it was wrong to let Hickock rape Nancy Clutter and to kill the Clutters that were in the house at the time. Hickock, on the other hand, was the one that planned the robbery and the one that said to leave no witnesses. It was also his idea to rob and kill Mr. Bells before they got to their next destination. He knew exactly what he was going to do even before he stepped in to the Clutters’ house and he was even persistent when they could not find the safe that was said to be there. They showed signs of being sane from what was told and as Dwane West said that if they knew right from wrong then they had to be competent.

If Hickock and Smith were to have gotten the life sentence instead of the death penalty, once they get paroled then the police would have to keep a close eye on them. The reason for this is that there is high chance of criminal that is released from prison to get rearrested in a span of 3 years. There is a higher chance for those convicts to be rearrested in an extent of 5 years and Hickock and Smith are no different. After they were arrested the first time, they went on and kept on doing fraud checks, petty theft and then burglary which then led to capital murder. With this alone, it shows that letting Hickock and Smith be paroled would not be that should be done because it would put the public in danger again.

Many people lived in fear when Hickock and Smith were on the run, it also caused distrust between the citizens of Holcomb. If the so called life sentence was extended and used without parole then that would be the better choice but there is still the chance of them trying to escape. Smith tried to break out by attempting to have some random individuals help him, which of course failed in the end.

Consequently, there is no way to escape the punishment for capital murder unless they were wrongly accused, which they were not. All of the evidence is there, from the boot that made the footprint pattern to the murder weapon that was used to kill the Clutters. They got a fair trial and even if they didn’t, the outcome would most likely not be any different especially since the detectives had enough proof to sentence them to jail three times over. Hickock and Smith already knew that there would be no way to change their punishment once they got caught, Smith even went as far as to say that he was not going to apologize to the family. Smith knew that he could not change anything with an apology, the law is the law there is no way to overlook it for a couple of convicts. Even if it was morally wrong to hang them, the jury had the last word and once decided there was no going back. It all came down to the lives of two murders who killed for what seems to be no reason, or the health and safety of Holcomb’s community. There was only one way to protect the public from Hickock and Smith whilst still getting justice for the crime.

Perry and Dick

The story begins with a description of the landscape in Holcomb, a small, isolated town. The description reflects the tranquility of the place before the murders occurred. Capote alludes to the Greek temples to maybe hint a deeper meaning, like in Greek tragedies.

Mr. Clutter seems to be a successful, well-respected hard worker. He is able to accomplish his goals and dreams of owning a farm and does it successfully. He was brave enough to leave his job and it’s security and join the risky business of owning a farm. He seems like such a well-liked guy that it seems impossible to think he would be murdered.

The tattoos on Perry and Dick reflect the character’s personality. For instance, Dick’s tattoos are simple and show his attempt to look masculine and scary. Perry’s tattoos show his artistic side and truly makes him look strong and scary, unlike Dick’s tattoo.

Willie-Jay was the only person who Perry believed truly understood him. Willie-Jay wrote this sermon to Perry to help him understand himself and prevent him from making bad decisions. Willie-Jay was the only one who believed in him, but when he went to go meet him and he wasn’t there, he was disappointed. This is why Perry agreed to help Dick because he knew he had no one else to go to.

Nancy’s diary is a symbol of the future she will never have. Her different types of handwriting portrays how young she was and how she still didn’t know who she was. This is surprising to know because as a very talented girl, you would never think she would ever feel this way.

Part II:

The shock of the murders caused the small town to distrust everyone they know. Capote emphasizes how the murders affected the whole community from the beginning with Bobby becoming emotionally damaged and Dewey with all the stress of solving the murder. This story really show how peoples actions can affect everyone.

Mr. Fox’s opinion of the death penalty brings a new perspective on what others think of the criminals. Most people in the town are scared and want them dead. However, Mr. Fox believes that they need to forgive them as God will do to them and that taking another life would do more harm than good. This really questions whether capital punishment is necessary. Capote seems more biased towards the anti-death penalty point of view.

Capote often looks at the past of the criminals to better understand why they did what they did. He especially does this for Perry. Perry’s terrible childhood with no one who was there for him. It can be hard to think that something is wrong with you and can often blame it on someone else.

Barbara and Perry grew up with a terrible childhood without any love and care, yet their lives are so different. This is because Barbara learned to use it as motivation to become better, while Perry is still stuck in those childhood feelings causing him to act out with anger. This is also shown in Dick when he is so fixated on getting rich that he doesn’t realize the consequence. Their childness end up preventing them from succeeding in life and getting caught.

Perry’s childhood prevented him from making lifelong relationships because so many people helped Perry in his life, but he could only see people out there to hurt him.

Part III:

Perry has created a fantasy of adventure to make up for his unfortunate reality. Dick leads him on that they will get to his dream of finding treasure, but Perry soon realizes that the fantasy is dead. He realizes that they are criminals on the run and none of his dreams are possible anymore.

This shows how big Dick’s ego is and his insecurity of his masculinity. Even though Dick has a caring family, unlike Perry, he cannot be happy with what he has. He looks at the world with jealousy of everyone that causes him to react with violence. He only feels powerful with a weapon.

When Perry finds the silver dollar, he realizes how pathetic he was by stealing from a little girl. This makes him realizes how senseless the crime is.

Dewey can’t help, but feel sympathy for Perry even though he committed such a brutal crime. He believes that maybe something in Perry’s life is the reason for his behavior. This feeling is also shown in the author, Capote, because he wrote many stories about Perry’s terrible childhood, which you can’t help but feel sympathy for him.

Perry explains that since he didn’t know the Clutters that well, he couldn’t really have any compassion for them, just like when soldier go to war and kill people. However, if he had known them, then he would probably feel different. This shows the soft side of Perry and that he accepts what he has done, rather than Dick who tries to blame it all on Perry.

Most of the psychiatrists diagnosed all the death penalty inmates for having schizophrenic. This conveys how little they knew about mental heath back then because schizophrenia isn’t that common.

Capote used unusual diction to illustrate a haunting tone.

Perry understands what he has done and wants to apologize for it. Unlike Dick, Perry regretted what he did, which is why more people have sympathy for him. If only he had never meet Dick, Perry wouldn’t have ended up this way.

Finally, Agent Dewey gets closure as he heads home, leaving behind the case and moving toward the future.

In Truman Capote’s

In Truman Capote’s true crime novel “In Cold Blood”, it recalls the gruesome murders of the members of the clutter family, a much loved family that were huge members of their tight knit community in Holcomb, Kansas. The book begins from the family’s perspective and gives us insight to the lives they lived. It showed us that people really loved the Holcombs, and how, as the book describes, it was a community where no one locked their doors.

Capote is able to give his readers, an insight to the impact a loss of a human life or lives really does to others. We are given very specific details and how the Clutter family impacted Holcomb and how important and loved they were by everyone in the town and in just one night, those people who were so loved, were taken away.

Before the night of the actual murder, we are introduced to the killers, Perry and Dick. Their pasts are unknown in the begging but what the author gives us is that they are going to get a huge score, with us having no idea what the score is. Dick does stress one thing to Perry throughout the way, “No witnesses.” It’s a very ominous foreshadowing for what’s to come.
The Clutters are found in the morning by the Nancy’s two friends, and the police show up. We are shown in gruesome that each family member has been bound and blasted with a shotgun in the head almost point blank, all with the exception of Herb, who not only has been shot, but has his throat slit.

A investigation is started right away, led by Dewey. They look for clues and leads, but almost nothing turns up. This not only shocks the town of Holcomb, but causes people to turn against one another or even leave the town with their families for good.

The way Capote drops hints and uses dramatical irony to have the reader piece together the case that others will figure is a wonderful part of the book. It causes you to want to continue each page to see if any more pieces of information is revealed or if a new clue was found.
We now switch to the killers perspectives, now long gone in mexico just the two of them, having many fantasies of their own. We find out more about their pasts too, how Perry lived a horrible childhood and the attitudes of both of them, both different yet complimenting each other in their own unique ways. It shoots a big hint to the reader that there isn’t something quite right in their head.

We then switch back to the investigators and the case, they have finally broken their first lead. Floyd Wells, who used to work for Mr. Clutter and was was Dicks, ‘bunk inmate” at the penitentiary. He exposes to the police that he told dick that the clutter family hid a safe with 10 grand inside their house, finally revealing to us what the “big score” was. The police track down the two killers and are able to bring them in when they find a stolen car that leads back to them and that they indeed, were traveling, the night of the killings.

The police are able to capture Dick in an interrogation, catching him in a web of lies and contradictions, he finally confesses. Dewey tells Perry and that everything has been exposed by Dick, and here we finally see the killers true intention and how the night went down.
It is revealed that the men were originally there for the money, but when they found nothing there, as Mr. Clutter had spent it on his family’s life insurance ironically enough, Perry wanted to leave as soon as possible. However, Dick had said what he had stressed before, “No witnesses.”. He continuously tried to rile up Perry, and Perry who had reached his breaking point to prove himself to Dick, took his knife and slit Mr. Clutters throat. The shootings quickly took place thereafter and they fled the scene.

After this the men are trialed and sentenced to death, throughout this process, we are shown that after a psychiatric evaluation, both men are definitely mentally ill, Dick had obtained his condition from the same crash the claimed his legs, and Perry suffered from Schizophrenia. The reason or motive behind the murders are decided that it was a revenge for the horrible childhoods they have been put through and the killings were a triggered response.

After both men are hung, the final scene is Dewey visiting the graves of the Clutter family where he also meets Sue Kidwell, where they both end up doing what the Author wanted people to do by reading this book, to truly see and experience the endurance of life, no matter what happens to others, even if it be death.

“In Cold Blood” was a roller coaster, amazing read from start to finish I completed probably half the book just on a plane ride to san fran, because it was such a page turner. It makes me think in a melancholy type of way, that life stops for no one, no matter what happens. To me this book is an absolute must read and I am thoroughly thrilled that I got to experience reading this.  

Device Quote Analysis Juxtaposition

Device Quote Analysis Juxtaposition

He did not believe that Hickock and Smith would be caught in Kansas City. They were invulnerable. (198) The second umbrella, blue and bearing the command Tan with Coppertone,’ sheltered Dick and Perry, who for five days had been living at the Somerset, in a double room renting for eighteen dollars weekly.

(199) The somber, depressing mood of Dewey sharply contrasts with the bright cheeriness of Dick and Perry who have escaped to Florida. The juxtaposition of these two drastically different moods heightens the suspense of the book to the point of the climax. The intense emotional buildup hints at the final arrest of these criminals.

Simile The sound of Dick’s voice was like an injection of some potent narcotic, a drug that, invading his veins, produced a delirium of colliding sensations: tension and relief, fury and affection. (194) This simile compares Dick’s voice to a drug for Perry, which demonstrates the unique relationship between these two ex-cons. But Perry’s extreme reaction to Dick’s voice also shows the problems between them, namely a lack of trust and understanding and two very different mental worlds, which hints at more arguments to come. Moreover, this display of Perry’s anger reveals the volatile nature of his that his sister talked about. Situational Irony ?I told Dick, There people are telling the truth.

The one who lied is your friend Floyd Wells. There isn’t any safe, so let’s get the hell out of here. But Dick was too ashamed to face it.’ (239) The irony lies in the fact that Dick thought this robbery would be a big score, yet the entire motivation behind the crime, the Clutter’s money-filled safe, turned out to be false, therefore, his whole elaborate scheme was pointless. This situational irony creates an almost comedic effect; Dick is so excited about this robbery, yet they leave with only 50 dollars. However, it emphasizes the tragedy of this crime even more, since the brutal murder of the Clutter’s was only for 50 measly dollars.

Verbal Irony ?I didn’t want to harm the man. I thought he was a very nice gentleman. Soft-spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat.'(244) Perry claims that he does not want to hurt Mr. Clutter, yet kills him anyway, which is where the irony is at. This also reflects the meaning of the title: these murders are committed without a guilty conscience, therefore they are committed cold-blooded. This sentence demonstrates where murderers differ from average people, they can say they like someone and then kill them without feeling a conflict of emotions. Symbolism Warm rooms and warm suppers beckoned them, and as they hurried away, leaving the cold square to the two gray cats, the miraculous autumn departed too; the year’s first snow began to fall. (248) The two lonesome cats scavenging for food symbolize Dick and Perry.

Similar to the cats, Dick and Perry are homeless loners in society, struggling to survive off scraps. The season change described in the last sentence is an analogy to how their circumstances, previously bright, is now bleak after finally being caught for their crimes. Question: Why does Dewey not want the public to know about their leads in solving the murder case? Dewey expresses a valid fear that they are chasing the wrong people, for they have followed many dead ends already. He may also think that the killers might hear about their leads and become more careful in their hiding. They only have two sets of footprints as solid evidence, if the murderers hear about the footprints, they would definitely get rid of their shoes as to destroy the only evidence linking them back to the crime scene.

Question: How are Dick and Perry’s different personalities shown through their separate interrogations? Dick appears to be the tougher, more masculine guy. This is shown during the first part of the interrogation, where he is cool, suave, and gave impressive amounts of detail to the detectives of their made up stories. Perry seems to be the weaker link, he is not the smooth talker Dick is, he admitted that the trip to Fort Scott did not happen first. However, ultimately, Dick is selfish and sold Perry out first, despite his claims that he would stick to the story. He also expressed no remorse whatsoever about the murder. This further demonstrates how he does not care about anyone besides himself, not even about his family or Perry.

Perry, on the other hand, did not confess until he learned that Dick has already betrayed him, and admitted to feeling wrong about the murder. This shows how, unlike Dick, Perry still had some conflicting morality and loyalty within his heart, enough that he would not easily buck under pressure for his own selfish gain. This causes readers to feel sorry for Perry more, an effect Capote probably intended.

Truman Capote Adds Apart

There is a thousand to a million dollars being spent to put someone on the death penalty and to see it out. Truman Capote is against the death penalty you can tell on how he writes about it. I agree with Truman Capote, to be against the death penalty. Truman Capote does not really say whether he is against or for the death penalty but the way he writes the story and talks about the death penalty you can tell he does not agree with it at all.

Truman Capote adds apart of what one of the lawyers says the judge, I do not desire to serve, he told the judge. But if the court sees fit to appoint me, then of course I have no choice. Truman wanted the readers to see the lawyers did not really want to be Perry’s and Dick’s lawyers. It is also showing it was a unfair trial, to begin with because the lawyers did not even want to be there serving Perry and Dick. Truman is showing that even though they may be guilty they are still not getting the best work from their lawyers to help keep them off death row. One reason I disagree with the death penalty is that it is technically going against the eighth amendment which talks about how there should be no cruel or unusual punishments.

Yes, the Supreme Court said the death penalty does not fall under that but only for certain cases it could, but when you think about killing someone for a crime kind of sounds like a cruel or unusual punishment. Would it not just be better for someone to just stay in jail or prison till they die naturally, because killing them is just taking them out of their misery of being in a cell for the rest of their life. By letting them stay alive and stay in prison or jail their whole life they will be thinking about how wrong the thing they did was and how they want out but they can not get it. Killing them is just mostly helping the person who committed the crime get away from their problems. The second reason I disagree with the death penalty is that sometimes the wrong person can be killed.

It happens a lot a person is said to be guilty of a crime they did not commit. They could get put on death row for something they did not even do. So they are killing a innocent person sometimes which is why they should get rid of the death penalty and just let them be a jail cell the rest of their life because when someone goes over the case again and sees that the person they claimed was guilty is actually not guilty, not can just simply let them free.

Which if the person was put on death row, by the time someone does review the case again and sees they are innocent they can not help that person because the person has already been killed. In summary, Truman Capote does not agree with the death penalty, which he is right too. There are many reasons to get rid of the death penalty like, the money it costs and the innocent lives that are killed because of it.

In Cold Blood and Criminal Justice

In Cold Blood and Criminal Justice

The criminal justice system plays a very important role in the novel In Cold Blood. When Dick Hickock and Perry Smith murdered the Clutter family many parts of the community were affected, but also played a role in their arrest. Many theories of crime can be examined in the text to try to explain why Dick and Perry committed such murder.

In the novel, the reader sees the different levels of police it took to track down these two men. When Dick and Perry got arrested the justice system played a big role in their trial and sentence as well.

The murder Dick and Perry committed was very hard to trace for authorities. The murders left no finger prints, no witnesses, and no shotgun shells. Not only did Dick and Perry leave no evidence, there also was no true motive behind the crime. This is definitely an oddity considering the setting and victims of the murder. Crimes with no motive are often a huge problem in our society. It is hard for police and authorities to come up with a suspect when there was no reason for someone to hate the victim, like the Clutter family. Their family was considered as very respectful, giving, and peaceful in the small town of Holcomb. Dick and Perry even themselves thought Mr. Clutter was a good man. Perry confesses, I thought Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman.

I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat.(Capote 244) This proves that there was no true reason for Perry and Dick to murder such an innocent family for nothing but a radio, few dollars in cash, and binoculars. The quote also proves the true insanity and mental illness of both murders. Dick is a very mentally unstable person and acts very impulsive. Dick seems to have no ability in his brain to think about the consequences of his actions. This leads Dick into breaking the law. Dick will do anything to satisfy his money hunger. He passed bad checks, robs people that pick him up as a hitch-hiker, and even killed the Clutter family.

Money and impulse are two reasons why Dick committed the crime. He is quoted saying, I know it is wrong. But at the same time I never give any thought to whether it is right or wrong. The same with stealing. It seems to be an impulse. (Capote 176) However, Perry was deeply affected by his childhood and past life. He seems to be mentally ill with Schizophrenia and struggles with the sensation he gets between sanity and violence. We see Perry’s unstable mind when dick says, In some ways, old Perry was “spooky as hell.” Take for example, that temper of his. He could slide into a fury “quicker than ten drunk Indians. And yet, you wouldn’t know it. “He might be ready to kill you, but you’d never know it, not to look at or listen to.” (Capote 106) Perry is even caught sucking on his thumb like a baby at one point and wet his bed. The only explanation for why Dick and Perry committed the murder is that they were money hungry and mentally ill.

The small town of Holocomb, Kansas was affected deeply by the murder of the Clutter family. The community played an important role in the beginning stages of the murder by community policing. Community Policing is when the police wants to interact with citizens more to help reduce crime by citizens reporting crimes, providing information, helping in investigations, and respecting the law. The first role the community plays is investigating why the Clutters are not answering the door at 9 am when all the cars are in the driveway. After discovering the dead bodies and calling the sheriff, word quickly spreads throughout the town and headlines of the world. The community does not trust any of their neighbors, and sleeps with their lights on all night.

Lack of trust is displayed when the author states, This hitherto peaceful congregation of neighbors and old friends had suddenly to endure the unique experience of distrusting each other; understandably, they believed that the murderer was among themselves. (Capote 88) Soon people began to leave town in fear for their lives. However, the biggest role the community circle plays is what the police find out through Mr. Floyd Wells. Communities are connected in weird ways sometimes, and people can help authorities with evidence/information. The Justice System relies on communities very heavily to help them track down criminals.

The novel In Cold Blood gives the reader a look into the process of chasing down criminals. In the book, like in many cases today, the police first inspect the crime, then analyze evidence, conduct interrogations, and finally the novel shows the process of being patient to track down the criminal. Criminals like Dick and Perry that have been in and out of jail multiple times shows that the status quo of the prison system does not help bring corrections to certain types of people. Dick and Perry have committed other crimes like fake checks, breaking out of prison, and stealing. This proves that going to prison does not reform some inmates. Capote uses Capital Punishment to show that it does not do justice, but rather it depreciates the value of life and morals.

Capital punishment is a government action to kill a person as a punishment for a crime. Capote expresses his views on the death penalty through Dick’s thoughts when he says, “They’re mad ?cause they’re not getting what they wantrevenge (Capote 335). Throughout the book Capote references the criminal’s personalities, lives, and thoughts. The author spends a lot of effort to make Perry and Dick seem innocent and later justifies thier actions through their bad lives they had to cope with.

Capote has Dewy mention, “a measure of sympathy”for Perry Smith’s life had been no bed of roses but pitiful, an ugly and lonely progress toward one mirage or another (Capote 246). Even after the criminals are convicted, Capote continues to fight the unjust jury, attorneys, and trial as a whole. The jury was chosen from the Clutter’s friends that were pro-death penalty. Judge Tate was also very close friends with Mr.Clutter. In today’s court, all of these issues would have been addressed before the court proceedings. The prosecutor also played the fear card to the jury. He said that if Dick and Perry were not executed, they could have been released.

In Conclusion, the book In Cold Blood relates to our criminal justice system and its flaws. The author uses many terms and ideas of criminal justice throughout the text. Some of the main points have to deal with what caused the crime, how the community reacted, how the police tracked Dick and Perry down, and the court room process. Although Capote sees the death penalty as wrong in this case, Dick and Perry deserved to die because of what they did to the Clutter family and town of Holocomb.

Is In Cold Blood a Polemic Against Capital Punishment?

Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is critically acclaimed as a masterful portrayal of American crime and is known for the introduction of the concept of a “nonfiction novel.” At such crossroads of true events and storytelling, many criticisms can be drawn. For example, many have viewed the book as a polemic against capital punishment. It is easy to argue this is not the case, for surely Capote’s objective descriptive style and lack of opinionated comments do not exemplify what the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as “a strong…attack against someone else’s opinions.” However, to ignore the text’s negative connotation towards capital punishment would be just skimming the surface of a book that certainly presents some form of a case against capital punishment, whether what one would refer to as a “polemic” or not. By the end of the book, the reader is not guided to feel any sense of joy or success from the hanging of two criminals, but rather some form of the opposite. Perhaps it does not go as far as to invoke sorrow or grief, but after getting to know the Clutter killers as characters and following along with their lives—from childhood to death row—the reader develops a sense of closeness to them, allowing Capote to craft a subtle argument against capital punishment that is perhaps far more compelling than any direct criticism.

One of Capote’s main tools in developing this argument is describing at length the personality, actions, and lives of the Clutter murderers—Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. Especially in terms of Smith, who Capote himself became quite close with, the reader develops an attachment to these characters as one would in a novel, even if not made out to be especially likable. From the start of the story, we are introduced with Perry’s (for the majority of the book, Capote uses their first names) dreams of success as an entertainer and obsessions over the world’s lost treasures left for him to find. Perry’s almost childlike personality is contrasted with Dick’s more practical mindset, and sets the foundation for delving deeper into the relationship between the two criminals as characters. Simply the length and detail of the account of their time while together alone invokes some closeness for the reader just as any story focusing on a character does. In terms of developing sympathy from the reader, while Dick’s affection for his family must be noted, especially compelling are the details of Perry Smith’s life. A “‘childhood marked by brutality’” (296), abuse by orphanage nuns who would “‘hold me under [cold water] till I was blue’” (132) and an army sergeant who wanted him to “roll over,” (134) a “lack of concern on the part of both parents,” (296) and other details give Perry a sense that the world is working against him, allowing the reader to possibly relate, or at least sympathize. This sense continues once the trial is wrapped up, with the murder perfectly understood in the eyes of the law, yet Perry—and indeed, the reader—still face confusion as to what led Perry to kill four people who “‘never hurt me…like people have all my life.’” (302) Perry is often described wondering whether he was trying to prove his worth to Dick or let out a rage against figures in his life, including his sister, whom he on one occasion wished “‘had been in that house.’” (143) When everybody around him is depicted reaching conclusions quicker than Perry, the reader is left wondering whether these conclusions should be enough to warrant the man’s death.

This sentiment is strongly brought out in Capote’s portrayal of the murderers’ trial, now transitioning to a more specific and direct criticism of a legal system that results in capital punishment. The trial is in many ways made to seem biased, and while, again, not directly condemning anything, Capote writes and includes information in a manner that guides the reader to think in a certain way. Evidence is presented that certain jury members—all of whom were from near the location of the murder—held opinions on capital punishment or the Clutters. Statements by psychological analysts are given to the reader but were not allowed to be heard in court due to the “M’Naghten Rule,” which Kansas state abides by, allowing “nothing more than a yes or no reply” to the question of the murderer’s mental state, which Capote describes as a “formula colorblind to any gradations between black and white” (294). The reader is informed such gradations did exist based on the analysis of Dr. Jones, which is included in the text. In the case of Hickock, Jones stresses the importance that the presence of “‘organic brain damage’” be studied more closely, due to his “‘serious head injury,’” and that either way Hickock showed signs of “‘severe character disorder’” (295). In the case of Smith, this is even more apparent; Jones states that “‘Perry Smith shows definite signs of mental illness’” but again calls for “‘more extensive evaluation’” (298). The fact that this further analysis did not happen and was not even allowed to be mentioned in court strongly suggests to the reader the incapability of this trial to determine the life or death of these men. Further opinions from other characters strengthen this view—from a jury member calling the trial “rabble-rousing, brutal,” and execution as “‘pretty goddam cold-blooded too’” to a Reverend claiming that “‘capital punishment is no answer: it doesn’t give the sinner enough time to come to God’” (306). An especially credible opinion—that of a Dr. Satten, a respected authority in psychiatry—identified the murder as one “‘without apparent motive,’” relating to “‘personality disorganization’” (299) and understood that Smith was “‘deep inside a schizophrenic darkness’” (302) while killing Mr. Clutter. This again shows the additional attention Capote thought this case should have had, considering it put these two men to death, and led the reader to agree.

Finally, Capote draws closer to the topic of controversy itself, and spends the next section of the book creating a sense that capital punishment is very arbitrary, yet always results in the same brutal ending for a human life. He discusses the inconsistent bureaucracy behind the death penalty, as well as its variance from state to state, including Kansas, where “‘juries hand it out like they were giving candy to kids’” (322). A point he focuses on is the time prisoners spend on death row, the variance of which he says “depends little on luck and a great deal on the extent of litigation” (330). For example, he contrasts a Texas robber killed a month after his conviction with a pair of Louisiana rapists waiting 12 years. Capote also brings up the point that while all the other members of death row in Kansas State Penitentiary were murderers, Hickock had technically “‘never touched a hair on a human head.’” Once again, none of this is direct criticism, but through such details Capote is able to establish an impression that a system so varied and arbitrary may not be trustworthy when it comes to human lives, no matter their crime. The book’s inevitable ending, Smith and Hickock’s execution, is Capote’s final subtle criticism of capital punishment. The reader is presented the event through the perspective of Al Dewey, another character the reader has gotten to know quite well over the course of the book. No more pleasant than the description of the Clutters’ murder, the hanging is depicted in detail, and then, through Dewey’s eyes are described “the same childish feet, tilted, dangling,” of the “dwarfish boy” he had first met in a Las Vegas interrogation room (341). One would think that if anyone, Dewey, who had worked so hard to solve this murder, would be satisfied with their death. But instead the reader is surprised to find that even he, who was “certain capital punishment is a deterrent to violent crime,” found no “sense of climax” or “design justly completed” by watching the execution (340). If not even the head of the investigation resulting in the death of the two men felt satisfaction from it, Capote makes it hard for the reader to feel any better about this case and capital punishment as a whole.

Some may argue, as many have, that Capote makes no clear arguments and wrote In Cold Blood in a strictly objective manner. Whatever his personal views may have been, it is apparent to many that a book including a strong description of a savage murder, details of Hickock and Smith’s other crimes, Hickock’s pedophilia (including that he “‘was going to rape [Nancy Clutter]’” (286) ), extensive evidence supporting the justness of the trial, and ultimately no strong assertions of Capote’s own opinion on anything, could not be considered a “polemic” or argument of any kind against capital punishment. Nevertheless, to ignore the subtext Capote creates would be an incomplete analysis of the text. Capote’s argument is subtle and deeply embedded within his writing style but is certainly present. And perhaps this argument is more convincing just because he includes such details as a vivid description of the murder. That a reader can be faced with such brutality, and yet still find some sympathy towards those who caused it, speaks volumes about human nature, and certainly Capote’s expert ability to guide it. Surely, this aspect of the book is what has made In Cold Blood such a success. Capote is able to use his portrayal of the murders as characters, creating some level of sympathy, as well as more logical, yet indirect, criticism of the trial and capital punishment as a whole, to guide the reader’s opinion with information while not imposing his own. If this was not the case, so many critics would not call the book a “polemic,” and considering that, as subtle as it seems while reading, Capote’s argument is criticised so heatedly, it must in some way be quite a strong one. Therefore, however one names it, Truman Capote’s “nonfiction novel” In Cold Blood presents a subtle yet powerful argument against capital punishment.

The Art of Manipulation

Famous novelist, Truman Capote, in his non-fiction book, In Cold Blood, recounts the murders of the Clutter family committed by Perry Smith and Dick Hickock. Although this book is considered non-fiction, critics have questioned the authenticity of Capote’s story over the years. Specifically, in two segments of text found on pages 107-113, Capote contrasts the two characters as they recount the same day from each of their perspectives. He manages to distort the reader’s perception of the two main characters in order to support his personal opinions of them. The placement and distortion of the juxtaposed texts allows Capote to manipulate his readers into viewing Hickock and Smith as he intends them to be perceived.

Capote contends with Smith’s hard upbringing throughout the entire book. In emphasizing the tribulations Smith dealt with, Capote appeals to the sympathetic emotions of his readers. “It was ‘painful’ to imagine that one might be ‘not just right’—particularly if whatever was wrong was not your own fault, but ‘maybe a thing you were born with.’” (Capote 110). It is undoubtedly Capote’s own interjections that lead the audience to associate Smith’s actions with his family and childhood experiences. The quotation marks indicate he was directly quoting Smith, while the other words may have been mixed with his own thoughts. Capote continues to appeal to the emotions of his readers by deliberately breaking the fourth wall by directly addressing the readers and Smith in this text, allowing them to directly connect with Smith. Capote is not only conveying his thoughts to the reader, but to Smith as well. This effectively strengthens the narrative voice and the personal connection one feels to Smith. He claims culpability of Smith’s current lifestyle to his childhood, referencing his sister and alcoholic mother who had both committed suicide, “Look at his family! Look at what happened there!” (110). Capote continues to make his own interjections rather than purely narrating the scene. The reader becomes conscious of this and subconsciously agrees with Capote. This tactic continues to evoke sympathy from his readers. In contrast, Hickock is not portrayed as someone who suffered as a child. The immediate contrast between these two characters allows Capote to elicit compassion from the readers and for them to understand Smith’s actions. Dick expresses his normality repeatedly, claiming, “’I’m a normal,” (108). His claims convince the readers that he is ordinary compared to Smith and has experienced no tribulations that have caused his actions. “And Dick meant what he said. He thought himself as balanced, as sane as anyone,” (108). Capote interjects again, expressing his opinion on Hickock, distinctly different from that of Smith’s. As a reader, one’s opinion typically coincides with that of the author due to his use of rhetorical strategies. Capote’s interjections force the reader to become attached to Smith, while becoming disconnected to Hickock. These two clashing personas contribute to Capote’s intention for the readers to sympathize Smith. There is no rationale to Hickock’s actions, but Capote implies a direct correlation between Smith’s childhood and his current behaviour.

In each segment, the characters both recount Smith’s story about killing King, who was “a nigger” (109) friend of Smith. Each point of view allows the readers to understand the story from each perspective and how it develops the character’s persona. Dick recalls the story as it provoked “his original interest in Perry,” and “his assessment of Perry’s character and potentialities, was founded on the story Perry had once told him of how he had beaten a coloured man to death,” (109). Capote addresses Hickock’s intentions for a relationship with Smith were founded on homicidal qualities. This implies Hickock’s objective to kill was premeditated. Smith recalls telling this fib, “because he wanted Dick’s friendship, wanted Dick to ‘respect’ him, think him ‘hard’ as much ‘the masculine type’ as he had considered Dick to be,” (111). Capote directly quotes Smith again, enforcing his own opinion alongside Smith’s. The contrast in stories suggests a difference in character between the two. Hickock is perceived as “hard” and someone who respects others primarily on their ability to kill. The references to Hickock’s masculinity support Capote’s previously expressed opinion. Hickock is not to be sympathized with, as his masculinity reinforces the idea that he is capable of killing, while Smith is weak. Smith suggests that he would never be as “masculine” as Hickock was, thus unable to murder the Clutter family without remorse, making him less of a monster.

From the beginning of the book, Capote’s narration relies heavily on detail in order to set his scene. However, it is the details he chooses to leave out in these two segments of text that allow the reader to perceive Hickock and Smith as he intended. The absence of detail in Hickock’s version followed immediately by Smith’s abundance of detail creates Smith’s persona as that of a more rounded character. In Hickock’s account of the scene, he nonchalantly recalls that he, “saw a dog trotting along in the warm sunshine,” (110), as opposed to Smith’s detailed account containing imagery of the “old half-dead mongrel, brittle-boned and mangy, and the impact, as it met the car, was little more than what a bird might make,” (112). This strong imagery of hitting a feeble dog depicts Hickock as a monster. Despite the frail condition of the dog, “Dick was satisfied. ‘Boy!’ he said— as it was what he always said after running down a dog, which was something he did whenever the opportunity arose. ‘Boy! We sure splattered him!’ (113). Smith confirms that Hickock has previously intentionally hit dogs, but implies he does not approve of these actions. The juxtaposition of these two accounts exemplifies not only the difference between the character’s accounts, but also the contrast between their internal thoughts. Hickock’s narrative enforces the perception that he has little to no discontent in killing, as opposed to Smith, who does. Although Smith ultimately admitted to killing the Clutter family unassisted, (244-245), it was Hickock who had instigated the crime (161). The allegory of the dog indicates Smith’s remorse for killing the Clutter family. Hickock refuses to talk about the murders and does not mention the murder of the dog, where as Smith frequently expresses his guilt and that “there must be something wrong with us,” (110). In Smith’s account of killing the dog, he enforces the idea that it was exclusively Hickock who had done the deed and enjoyed it. The dog scenario itself is significant in portraying Smith as a complex and remorseful character, which implies that Smith is remorseful of the crime he performed and Hickock was the one who initiated it.

Capote subtly manipulates his readers into feeling sympathetic toward Smith through his rhetorical strategies. He conveys Hickock and Smith as complete opposites, despite their shared crime. By influencing his readers through his personal opinion, Capote is able to sway his readers into believing Smith is not as culpable for the murders as his partner, Hickock is.