In Cold Blood
Truman Capote’s Nonfiction Novel in Cold Blood
In the novel “in cold blood” a family of four is murdered horrifically in a small town named Holcomb, Kansas that has the whole town in shock and fearful. Truman Capote wrote this to argue the controversial topic of capital punishment. Capote throughout the book uses rhetorical devises and tone to get the reader to think about the events the horrific events that happened in Holcomb and to get the reader to think about the overall argument of the book.
In his book, Capone starts off by talking about the quiet town of Holcomb and introducing the victims the Clutters. Then he foreshadows to what may happen later in the book. “The last to see them alive” is a quotation from the Bible that the disabled Mrs. Clutter keeps in her room. This item is one of the items Mrs. Clutter has in her room while she is in her room all day. This is important because it foreshadows death is coming sometime soon. After the foreshadow, Capone begins to give the descriptions of the two convicted murderers. Capone then uses a simile, “It was as though his head had been halved like an apple, then put together a fraction off center”. This quote compares an apple that is put together in bad shape to the structure of Dicks Face. The reason being is an aftermath of a car accident that happened years before in his life. This situation gives off imagery to picture one of the murders and can get an idea of the murderer’s early life and what could be an idea that led up to the killing of the innocent family. Capote then explains the people that Dick and Perry have met in the past. Which shows the un stable mentally people they’ve met have similar personalities as them.
Capone creates the somber tone in the book “in cold blood “to create a dark tone to emphasize how significant this murder is. The Murder of the Clutter family has the entire town in shock and afraid. The somber tone, Capone used creates the cold-hearted nature of the investigation of the horrific murders, and how there is no happiness about the conflict.
He also uses logos in the novel to show the true story of the murder of the Clutter Family. Capote uses logos to show facts within the text. He labels the events and facts as truly as in reality. He provides the dates and real names of certain people involved in the story, and locations.
In the novel, I agree he successfully argues his central claim by using the rhetorical strategies. I agree because in the story there are two side the claim. I believe he does because of the way he creates such a mournful feeling towards the death of an innocent family that wanted no trouble. The horrific scenes he created in your mind of shotgun blows at point blank and the blood all over the walls and not being able to recognize who they were. Also, I agree how they could be a threat in the future to do another horrific event like this where more innocent people are killed.
The Path of Nature Versus Nurture in In Cold Blood
A Common Psychological debate is whether individuals are controlled by nature vs nurture, The story of In Cold Blood shows how the character of Perry was led down the path of nurture. Through the story Perry attributes the sorry state of his life to a childhood filled with constant violence and neglect. On the other hand, there are also individuals that are controlled by nature more than nurture such as Dick Hicklock. Throughout the story Dick has shown that he is clearly mentaly unstable and needs serious help. He can’t experience any sense of emotional connection to another person or have concern for the effect of his actions on anyone else. With the evidence shown in the book it is shown individuals are controlled by nurture tremendously more than nature.
As a child, Perry was all in all a pretty happy kid, until his father started brutally beating his mother, who in return started to drink heavily. Do to her circumstnces she brutally dragged her kids to San Francisco, and she ended up commiting suicide. Then Perry ended up in a series of orphanages and Salvation Army homes, where he was beaten for wetting the bed and tortured by the overseers. According to the text it states, “there was this one nurse, she used to call me ‘nigger’ and say there wasn’t any difference between niggers and Indians. Oh Jesus, was she an Evil Bastard! Incarnate. What she used to do, she’d fill a tub with ice cold water, put me in it, and hold me under until I was blue”. Even though Perry is a criminal he didn’t truly want to kill the Clutters, he just delt with too much trauma in his life and sadly the Clutters had too suffer. In the passage it also states, “And it wasn’t because of anything the Clutters did. They never hurt me. Like other people. Like people have all my life. Maybe it’s just the Clutters were the ones that had to pay for it.”
Dick Hicklock is in one way a prime example of how individuals are controlled by nature more than nurture. Dick has loving parents, and had a normal childhood. By his parents’ and his own account he was a good kid, did well in school, participated in nine sports. But like Perry, he feels as if life hasn’t given him what he deserves and he feels entitled to get it by whatever means necessary. But we learn throughout the story that attachment disorder, he can’t experience any sense of emotional connection to another person or have concern for the effect of his actions on anyone else. This lets him do what he does without being particularly bothered by it, but still think he is normal. According to the textual evidence it states, “‘Deal me out, baby,’ Dick said. ‘I’m a normal.’ And Dick meant what he said. He thought of himself as balanced, as sane as anyone—maybe a bit smarter than the average fellow, that’s all. But Perry—there was, in Dick’s opinion, ‘something wrong’ with Little Perry.” Dick uses Perry as a cover his own self-image, often belittling for his more eccentric, “childish,” or effeminate qualities, in comparison with which Dick convinces himself that he is “normal. But told in the story Dick had got into a car accident, and his father stated that he was never that same after that day which may be the cause of his problems. According to the book it states, “I still think the reason he started doing stunts such as that was connected with the smash-up. Concussed his head in a car smash-up. After that, he wasn’t the same boy. Gambling, writing bad checks, I never knew him to do them things before”. As reader can see Dick’s father was way ahead of his time. Now that scientists can look inside the brain, they’re looking at what kinds of brain damage might lead to criminal behavior by affecting aggression and impulse control. Nature does have the power to take control over somebody’s life but with the evidence given from the book, “In Cold Blood” nurture has a tremendous hold over an individual’s life and can lead them with trauma for the rest of their life.
Furthermore from “In Cold Blood” there is an abundant amount of evidence shown that support both cases too whether nature or nurture can controls individuals life. But with the evidence given Characters such as Perry gives readers reader the belief that nurture can control individuals more than nature. Readers are shown the traumatizing experience Perry has had to go through in his life and how it has shaped him into the person he is today. Perry isn’t truly a Criminal or a Killer he just has dealt with so much trauma in his life that he was driven to make the wrong decision and sadly the clutters who were innocent had to pay the price. However with Dick we see that his nurture was perfectly simple and for other terms normal. He had a normal mother and father,he grew up in a stable environment. But we know that he got into car accident an since that from his fathers words he was never the same. To conclude, nurture has strong control over people life than nature.
In Cold Blood: a True Account of a Multiple Murder
In Cold Blood takes place in a small town in Holcomb, Kansas during the year 1959. Truman Capote, the author, writes about a seemingly random cold blooded murdering, which during this time period, was not a very common subject to write about. The book starts by describing four members of the Clutter family’s last day of living. It then introduces Perry Smith and Dick Hickock as the two murderers. The news of the murderings spread like wildfire throughout Holcomb. The townspeople went into a panic because they knew the Clutters as a very secure and respectable family in the community, so when the family got murdered, the people fell into paranoia and mistrust. The book then goes into a series of places the killers travel some time after the murdering. Eventually, a police officer in Las Vegas spotted their license plate and took them in for questioning. After many interrogations, Dick eventually broke, and Perry gave a full confession. The mysteries of the murder became clear and what remains at the end of the book is their awaiting execution. The book concludes with Dick’s and Perry’s testimonies and their passing of time on Death Row.
Truman Capote strives to discover a new genre of New Journalism, a style developed in the 1960s that emphasizes truths over facts. He aims to convince his audience that even though humans are naturally kind, traumatic experiences can make people capable of doing extremely horrific activities such as murder.
Chapter four of Jay Heinrichs’s Thank You for Arguing explains that pathos is arguing by emotion. It is when the author sympathizes with the audience and pulls at their emotions. Once the author has a tight grip on the audience’s feelings, they then change the mood to suit their goal. Truman Capote incorporates this strategy through his one of his most complex characters, Perry Smith. Capote writes many reminiscences of Perry’s childhood, ranging from letters from his father to reports from his sister. Perry was a good kid, until the days of his father beating his mother, who turned to drinking. He then ended up in a series of orphanages, where he was constantly beaten and tortured by the overseers. Capote chooses to include Perry’s abusive background to show his audience the cognitive side of his upbringing. By exploiting Perry’s troubled background, Capote makes the audience sympathize with Perry, grasping their emotions to highlight the fact that Perry had an extremely traumatizing childhood and showing the extremities of his abusers and how horribly they will treat a child. To add to the horrendous childhood, Capote added Perry’s accident that resulted in his legs being crippled and in constant pain. Continually pulling at the audience’s sympathy, Capote uses the emotional strategy to build his foundation that shocking incidents can cause distress within a human, making them more irrational towards decision making. Capote then elaborates on Perry’s desire to have an education when he writes quotes Perry, ‘You think I like myself? Oh, the man I could have been! But that bastard never gave me a chance. He wouldn’t let me go to school. O.K. O.K. I was a bad kid. But the time came I begged to go to school. I happen to have a brilliant mind. In case you don’t know. A brilliant mind and talent plus. But no education, because he didn’t want me to learn anything, only how to tote and carry for him. Dumb. Ignorant. That’s the way he wanted me to be’. When Capote present the inner thoughts of Perry and his wish to continue an education, he creates a sense of pity in the audience, making them see how Perry wanted to have an education to become a better self, but never got the opportunity because of his abusive father.
From chapter nine of Thank You for Arguing, Heinrichs describes storytelling as a well-told narrative that gives the audience a virtual experience. By making the story more virtual and realistic, it makes the audience feel more involved in the story, thus allowing their mood be more directly changed. Capote wants to present the narrative of In Cold Blood to his audience in a realistic yet immersive style to engage his readers. He wants his viewers to see his characters as comprehensible while also giving a thorough view of the complexity of human minds rather than writing about one-dimensional emotionless, triggerhappy robots. By providing his audience the front row seat of a murderer’s mind, he slowly changes the mood and interpretation of the whole Clutter case situation. Capote includes many accounts of what the murders thought and said throughout the book, for example, when Perry thinks “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”. By recounting the story in Perry’s inner thoughts, the audience can see how Perry felt a sense of humanity before he succumbed to his desire of killing the Clutters. This builds upon Capote’s argument that traumatic experiences can influence a person to do heinous activities by having his audience understand the characters through a wider perspective.
In chapter eleven of Thank You for Arguing, Heinrich introduces the concept the commonplace as a viewpoint that an audience holds in common. Quoted from Thank You for Arguing, “The rhetorical commonplace is a short-form expression of common sense or public opinion. It is any cliche, belief, or value that can serve as the audience’s boiled-down public opinion”. Truman Capote writes In Cold Blood as a means of creating a new genre of meticulous realism. By utilizing the commonplace, Capote explores the pros and cons of counter culture ideas of the 1960s. Deemed unconventional throughout the 1960s, New Journalism received many critics from contemporary journalists that worried about writings were going to be more subjective towards favoritism and personalized reports. Capote realized the public’s commonplace towards this genre, so he sought to discover a new way of writing in a New Journalistic style. The commonplace believed that authors would be tempted to stray from including specific facts and events in order to create a more dramatic story. In order to avoid this ordeal, Capote writes as an omniscient narrator that alternates between the perspectives of the murderers, the Clutter family, the town, and the investigators. By including all perspectives from a non-personalized standpoint, Capote continually keeps the readers aware of what is happening at all times while also emphasizing important events. To steer clear of inaccuracy, Capote spent six years intensively studying and recovering information in order to advocate to his audience that New Journalism can push the boundaries of non-fictional writings. He pushes himself beyond his limits for years in order to acquire as much information as he can to strengthen his credibility and emphasize truths and facts while utilizing the exciting and intricate structure of a novel.
When Capote pulls at his audience’s emotions throughout the book, he makes them wonder how they could feel sympathy for this man. By making his audience sympathize with Perry, Capote effectively grasps at their emotions, successfully making them concede to his point that a traumatic past create many contradictions and conflicts within a person, which shows how one’s decision making can be influenced by their earlier influences of faulty morals. Also, by unfolding the Clutter Case with the storytelling strategy, Capote effectively gives his audience a meaningful experience that makes them connect to the murderers in the sense that they could feel the toll that the murder case has taken on everyone. Lastly, Capote’s use of the commonplace allows him to effectively advocate the New Journalism movement. He successfully persuades his audience of the 1960s and ‘70s that nonfiction writing can be combined with aspects of fictional storytelling by writing in an all-inclusive style.
Truman Capote’s Biography and Book in Cold Blood
In Cold Blood is a non-fiction book published in 1966 and wrote by Truman Capote, an american novelist and playwritter born in 1924 and deceased in 1984. Capote is also known for writing other important books and for having and extravagant lifestyle. As for Capote’s life we can say that, he developed his love for literature at a very young age, this obsessive love for writing forced him to quit college because he believed that it was teaching him nothing, and it was taking away lots time he could otherwise use to write. After that, Capote began working at The New Yorker while in school for two years, this job, proved to be very beneficial for him, because he got a chance to learn about the inner workings of the magazine. At the early 40` he began being recognized. His first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms was published in 1948, this one launched Capote’s career as a novelist after becoming an instant bestseller. Then he published A Tree of Night and Other Stories which came a year later. Capote’s first non-fiction work, The Muses are Heard was a collection of articles which included travel essays from his trip to Europe. And then his most known works, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood came without notice anyone. Leaving behind a big amount of recognized works, Truman Capote passed away in Los Angeles on August 25, 1984.
After making a summary of Capotes life, we are going to explain and analyse one of his masterpieces, In Cold Blood. This one, investigates the brutal murder of a family living in Kansas while they were at home, the search for their killers, and the process of the trial. Capote followed the case day by day, analyse how the victims were, their personalities and way of living, and helped the police with the investigation until they found the perpetrators of that horrible crimes. So, we can define it as a mix between a detective story and a crime documentary.
The book it is written in the style of a novel, so you can get inside the heads of the victims, the detectives, and the townspeople, also it is a very descriptive novel thanks to the narrator you have the impression of being inside of it. First of all, he describes the town, Holcomb a little tiny town in Kansas, so you can locate the place where the events took place. Then he introduces us to the townspeople, their feelings and opinions about the victims so we can get a more accurate image about how was the family and try to understand why would they have such a tragic end. The Clutter’s were a very important family in this little town, respected and known by everyone, their neighbours could not understand why did they get murdered , because apparently there were no reasons to do such an awful thing. This is why after what happended no one trusted anybody even their friends or family because the killer was free and they were scared that he would attack again. Finally, Dick Hickcock and Perry Smith appear, this ones will be the main characters of the story. By making a flashback in their lives, we are able to know their personalities and their evolution through time, making the reader more curious about how did they were and creating a link between the murderers and the reader. Which brings you to several feelings like anger, compassion, sadness for all that has happened in their life’s and the relationship between them until their destiny the final solution. Capote, leads us to think about the death penaly and if it is positive or negative for all the members that are involved in the story. Also, in this book we can see the American prejudices when it comes to justice.
At the end of the narration, we can see how Capote is tired of the investigation and the way he is involving himself, leading him to an obsession until the end of his days, he never wrote anything else, This investigation drove him to depression and he never got recovered.
In 1967, In Cold Blood was made a movie and the story became more real and famous.
Finally, we can say that In Cold Blood catch your attention from the very first paragraph, it is like if you were inside of the story, seeing everything that is happening, knowing every single character and making your own suppositions. Also, we think that this is a very good book if you like crime investigation and you are curious about how did they try to find the perpetrators at that time. So, we definitely recommend this book without any doubt.
In Cold Blood: a Tale Of Two Different People
In Cold Blood Literary Analysis
In Cold Blood is the story of a family named the Clutters, and how they all got brutally murdered in their own home. Or is it? The story actually focuses on two different people; Dick and Perry. These men are the ones who murdered the Clutters, and almost got away with it. In Cold Blood tells the tale of these two, and how they got away. But is this not a crime story? Should the book not be about the family, the actually crime, and the criminal’s’ conviction? Well, not necessarily. The story focuses on these two for good reason, for entertainment purposes, practical purposes, and to fill in the unknown blanks about the true crime.
The Clutters die very early on in the story. Only after a few chapters of explanation of who they are, and what they do, they die. But why kill off the subjects of the story so soon? Because, according to the police at the time,”There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there was almost no clues,”(Capote, In Cold Blood). So what story is there to tell about them beforehand? Not much really. That is one of the reasons why the story mainly focuses on Dick and Perry. The Clutters are dead, so the story of Dick and Perry are much more interesting. For example, how they got to the Clutters’ house in the first place. Dick’s old cell mate, Floyd Wells tells him about a secret safe that the Clutters have locked up, full of money. So, Dick grabs up his friends Perry to go snatch the cash up. Later, when Floyd testifies, “He insists that he always liked Mr. Clutter and had no intention of encouraging Dick to rob him.”(Shmoop). He gets away with the reward money for turning Dick and Perry in, even though he was the one who caused the whole crime in the first place. But however in 30 years, “Despite his reward and parole, (Floyd) ends up in prison again for 30 years.”(Schmoop).
The escape of Dick and Perry is actually, quite interesting. Their misadventures provide a very diverse story type, following the villain rather than the more common protagonist of a story. They do things that not normal people would do, like for example, murder an entire family.
Throughout their stories, they get “picked up by a driver — the perfect target for them to murder in order to steal the car.”(CliffsNotes), and they intended to murder him, be eventually, “The driver picks up another hitchhiker in what Perry calls a “goddamn miracle.””(CliffsNotes), so they end up not killing him. They then later picked up “hitchhikers, a boy and an old man,” (Capote, 207). They helped them out by giving them a lift, and they picked up old cans and bottle to later turn in for money. Living life in poverty and being an outlaw is just something people might read. It is much more interesting than exploring to lives of soon to be dead people.
Not much of the crime was revealed at the beginning of the book, in fact, the motive, and many details of the actual crime were not explained until the very end of the book, where the reader would find out about it at the same time as the characters in the book. “Perry and Dick initially get away with the murder, leaving behind scant clues and having no personal connection with the murdered family.”(CliffNotes), was the police’s report at the time. Not even all of the facts in the story are correct, ”Characters in the book denied that certain scenes had taken place and insisted that their conversations had been altered for dramatic effect.”(Shmoop). This shows that this was all just made for entertainment purposes, not to inform those of the murder. The book is not even technically nonfiction. There is a lot of altered language and events present in In Cold Blood. “The lead KBI agent in the last scene claimed it was a total fabrication,”(Shmoop), making it seem like a lot of this book was made up for the sake of a story. Rightfully so, there wasn’t much to begin with.
While the Clutters are very important in the story, their roles in entertainment are not. All of their traits only matter until they die, which happens very early. Following Dick and Perry in the story was a very good choice as a n author, and it really shows that Truman Capote is a really great author. He knows what will make a good story, and what is boring and irrelevant. The Clutters’ purposes in the book is just to die, giving Dick and Perry a story to write about.
A Cycle Of Crime in a Book in Cold Blood
In Cold Blood
The 50’s was an era in American history where it was relatively quiet, the calm before a storm. The murder of the Clutter family in a small stale Kansas town radiated the midwest 50’s into a world of crime and where nothing was safe anymore. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, examines what happens when the world of criminality and a “safe” world collide and the factors that go into why one chooses a life of crime in the first place.
The criminal world is introduced as one for the forgotten and mainly the “mentally unfit”, they do not conform to society so they are forced to make do on their own. “And in his own seclusive world it seemed to him just as right to kill his mother as to kill an animal or fly” (201). The criminals stop regarding the “functional” members of society because they are envious of their success, so they exploit them, and kill them. They live in the shadows, from city to city, ready for their next bait. “He might be ready to kill you, but you’d never know it, not to look at or listen to” (67). The world of criminality is described as on the edge, intense, and full of unawareness.
The “safe” world is a quiet one, ruled by religion and what’s deemed morally right, always. “A belief in God and the rituals surrounding that belief – church every Sunday, grace before meals, prayers before bed – were an important part of the Deweys’ existence” (65). The inhabits of the this world trust each other unlike in the criminal world where everyone is on their own. There’s a plain subtle aspect to it, and they live peacefully in it’s dull setting, “Situated at the end of a long, lane like driveway shaded by rows of Chinese elms, the handsome white house, standing on an ample lawn of groomed Bermuda grass, impressed Holcomb; it was a place people pointed out” (5). The “normal” world is peaceful and still until it collides with the criminal one, “If it wasn’t him, maybe it was you. Or somebody across the street. All the neighbors are rattlesnakes. Varmints looking for a chance to slam the door in your face” (44). The trust is destroyed forever and morals are crushed as it is revealed to the rest of the midwest that not everyone is morally as good as them.
Dick Hickock was once a normal man. He was led into a life of crime after a car accident, “I still think the reason he started doing stunts such as that was connected with the smash-up. Concussed his head in a car smash-up. After that, he wasn’t the same boy. Gambling, writing bad checks” (102). Scamming everyone he knew, he traveled the country ruthfully until the Clutters family murder. He had no commitments like “normal” people of society, he stayed with no women and preyed on young girls with his charm, “He [Hickock] did the work. A very smooth talker, very convincing” (103). Dick has the possibility to be a decent man in society but was not rightly supported, “After he graduated from high school June, 1949 – he wanted to go on to college. Study to be an engineer. But we couldn’t do it. Plain didn’t have the money. Never have had any money” (102). While all the factors leading to his turn into a criminal weren’t exactly in his life plan before his accident, Dick contributed by continuing to do bad every chance he got.
Herb Clutter, alpha of the Clutter family, was a righteous man. He, like the rest of the small Kansas city, took religion as a serious matter and that to be a successful person in society, religion had to pave the way “…he hardheaded the building committee for the newly completed First Methodist Church, an eight-hundred-thousand-dollar edifice” (3). He was able to become an educated individual, given the tools to go to college and partnered with one women to spend his life with. He differed from Dick by not only being given the tools to thrive in society but to also by making the right decisions to affect how he wanted to live his life and ultimately what sphere of the world he ended up in.
There is clear cut criteria to define the criminal and “normal” world, but the people who are in them, can end up there by a lot of factors they’re not responsible for. Dick’s accident and his constant bad decisions lead him to a road of murder and preying on in innocent people without a care. Herb Clutter being given the tools to thrive was able to end up in the respectable part of society where everyone aims to be at. The problem is that being placed there sometimes makes other people envious of that place. Radiating an entire decade into a cycle of crime is what happened when both the sphere of criminal and “safe” meet.
The Murder Of The American Dream
The American Dream is the idea of creating a life that is more prosperous and joyous, where there are equal opportunities for success. However, the promises of these dreams can cause people to grow resentful against others, creating an American nightmare. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood unfolds the darkness of these nightmare through the murder of a wholesome family, the Clutters. The murderers, Dick Hickock, and Perry Smith, attempt to attain their version of the American dream by robbing the Clutter’s, ultimately leading to the families deaths. The American Dream is twisted through the truths toldAlthough one may achieve success, success is not always everlasting.
The Clutter family is displayed as having achieved the American dream and having a quintessential American family and lifestyle. Not only was Mr. Clutter’s farm prosperous, he was also well respected within his community because of his determination and perseverance. Mr. Clutter “labored eighteen hours a day… but after a decade [his] domain consisted of over eight hundred acres owned outright” (11). In addition to his own success, his children were also greatly accomplished; Eveanna was studying to be a nurse, Beverly was engaged to a young biologist, Nancy was the town darling and Kenyon was the dashing young boy. Yet, all of their achievements are thrown away in a single night when they were murdered by Dick and Perry. Their murder generated fear throughout the city of Holcomb because the Clutter’s were idolized and put on a pedestal.
As a school teacher told Detective Dewey, “Anyone less admired. Prosperous. Secure. But that family represented everything people hereabouts really value and respect, and that such a thing could happen to them” (88). Although they achieved the American dream, their death showed the community of Holcomb that success is difficult to sustain. The greed and jealousy from those who could not achieve success, creates an American nightmare. Dick and Perry came from backgrounds exemplary of the typical American dream narrative. Dick was raised in a stable, middle-class lifestyle, he yearned for more and felt as if anything less was below him. After being involved in a car crash, Dick’s behavior began to change rapidly. His father stated, “After that, he wasn’t the same boy. Gambling, writing bad checks. I never knew him to do them things before,” (166). Perry’s childhood, unlike Dick, was extremely traumatizing as he spent many years in abusive orphanages and foster homes. As he recalls, “it was not long afterward [his] mother put [him] to stay in a Catholic orphanage. The one where the Black Widows were always at [him]. Hitting [him]. Because of wetting the bed,” (132).
However, the two end up in prison where one Floyd Wells told them about the Clutters: how successful, generous and most importantly, rich they were. Floyd recalls,“Dick was talking about killing Mr. Clutter. Said him and Perry was gonna go out there and rob the place, and they was gonna kill all witnesses—the Clutters” (161). Out of hatred and jealousy, Dick had decided to rob and kill the Clutter family. This is because the Clutters portrayed everything Dick and Perry wanted out of their life: wealth and prosperity. Throughout the novel, the American dream is invalidated through the demolished fate of the Clutter’s deaths which symbolizes the obliteration of the dream. Whereas Dick and Perry’s desire of the money and success seems to compel them to commit their crime. Capote demonstrates the corruption of the American dream through the tragedy of the 1959 murder. It depicts how in our society, both those who have and haven’t achieved success can all lose everything out of greed and jealousy.
Parallel Character Development in in Cold Blood: Humanization of Victims and Their Murderers
A majority of the world would agree that random murder is unethical and deserving of severe punishment- especially if this murder is done to an innocent, kind family. However, there is a great debate over the extent of punishment which random murder deserves. Should capital punishment be permitted? What is human life worth, and who has the authority to declare it? In the nonfiction novel In Cold Blood, author Truman Capote fully characterizes the victims, the Clutter family, using dialogue and outside descriptions in order to help the reader comprehend the loss and murder of the family more fully, and to ironically humanize the murderers Dick and Perry using parallelism; this is done in order to subtly suggest Capote’s belief that capital punishment is wrong.
As the reader gets to know the Clutter family members through dialogue and outside description, the characters become more real to the reader, so their deaths feel more personal. First, we read a description of Nancy, “a pretty girl… [whose] eyes… made her immediately likeable, [they] at once announced her lack of suspicion” (Capote 19). Nancy’s eyes stand out, especially because of their reflection of her innocence. She is personified here as a doe eyed gazelle unaware of the huntsman, or an innocent lamb to be slaughtered. This makes the reader feel increased sympathy for Nancy, as the damsel in distress is a familiar character- and the damsel who wasn’t saved is by far a tragic story. Second, the reader sees Mrs. Ashida’s opinion of Herb, as she tells him, “I can’t imagine you afraid. No matter what happened, you’d talk your way out of it” (Capote 36). Herb is the father figure. He is supposed to protect his family. He is, ideally, practically invincible. With the murder of Herb, the reader sees a hero’s failure, and so further comprehends the loss of the family.
Finally, we see the nature of Bonnie and Kenyon. In one of her meltdowns, Bonnie tells Wilma, “I’m missing out on… The best years, the children- everything… And how will [Kenyon] remember me? As a kind of ghost” (Capote 30). All Bonnie hopes for is a chance to connect with Kenyon, who is in every sense “Bonnie’s child, a sensitive and reticent boy” (Capote 39). However, with the murder of the Clutter family, any possibility for a close relationship is taken away with the brutality of chance and a gun. In all of these cases the author plays on the sympathies of the reader using intertextuality, as a familiarity with the types of characters helps further realize the loss of the characters and the value of human life. Further, Capote uses stock characters to develop the reader’s expectations, and then he changes the narrative from the stock character’s traditional role in order to further emotionally involve the reader.
As Capote continually quotes and references the Clutters throughout the book, he also characterizes the murderers. So, while the reader winces upon hearing Perry’s testimony of the final cries of Nancy, which sounded like, “Oh, no! Oh, please. No! No! No! No! Don’t! Oh, please don’t! Please!” (Capote 245), the reader also feels a twinge of sympathy upon hearing of the immense neglect and abuse Perry suffered (Capote 130-136). As Capote himself said, ” If [Perry had] had any chance in life, things would have been different…” The author uses parallelism to humanize the murderers in the same way he had humanized the murdered: with life stories and outside descriptions. In this way, Capote is claiming equality between the murderers and the murdered; both parties are a part of humankind and capable of loving and being loved. This serves to finalize Capote’s subtly written belief that capital punishment is inhumane. The Clutters, Dick, and Perry all had valuable lives and great potential; ultimately, the Clutters, Dick, and Perry all lost this potential.
Capote expresses his disapproval of capital punishment to the readers, simply by employing human understanding. While most would agree the deeds Dick and Perry had done were sick and cruel (to say the least), some are able to read Capote’s narrative of their lives and come away with the slightest compassion for Dick and Perry. Though they have killed and done wrong, they are still a part of humanity. Capote shares his belief that all people are equal- all are surging forward to their goals, all are loving or hating, all are different and yet one coherent whole of ingenuity and hope. Capote wanted the reader to see the truth: human life is valuable.
It is Parents’ Fault: Rough Childhood as a Way to Raise a Murderer
By juxtaposing the childhoods of Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, Truman Capote shows that although a solid family structure is the most important influence on a person’s character, it is ultimately up to each person to decide what his actions will be. Factors like home structure, parental guidance, and socio-economic background are often taken into consideration when trying to understand a murderer’s motive, but criminal behavior can come from anyone.
Many people believe that a stable household is the most important factor in raising a stable child however, the contrast between Dick’s secure family, and Perry’s broken home shows that both lives are capable of producing a criminal. Dick was raised in a “normal” home, with a mother, father, and brother. Dick and his family, like the Clutters, had family meals and spent their evening watching television together. Dick had everything he wanted as a child, and when he got married, he and his wife continued to live their lives as if they could have anything they wanted. For that reason, they were always in debt. To fix that, Dick began passing blank checks. If Dick had been taught that you don’t always get everything you want, perhaps he wouldn’t have passed blank checks and ended up in prison where he met Floyd Wells and planned the Clutter murder. Perry’s parents were rodeo stars, so he and his three older siblings were constantly traveling. His mother became an alcoholic and his parents split up, his mother taking the children with her to San Francisco while his father stayed in Alaska. Perry yearned to be with his father, but when he went to live with his father in Alaska it was not as good as he imagined. He hated him for not allowing him to get an education and for treating him like his slave. Perry turned to crime, possibly as an act of rebellion, which landed him in prison where he met Dick Hickock. The way that Dick’s family never held him accountable for his actions, as well as the way Perry’s family always gave him a hard time about his mistakes are both two extremes that could lead to the personalities of Dick and Perry when they committed the crime. Dick’s family was always supportive of
The way that Dick’s family never held him accountable for his actions, as well as the way Perry’s family always gave him a hard time about his mistakes are both two extremes that could lead to the personalities of Dick and Perry when they committed the crime. Dick’s family was always supportive of him, but never blamed him for his faults. He never was held accountable for his actions.When Mr. and Mrs. Hickock tell Mr. Nye about Dick’s childhood they talk about how he divorced his first wife, Carol, for a woman named Margaret Edna. About the divorce Mrs. Hickock says: “Dick couldn’t help that. You remember how Margaret Edna was attracted to him.” (p.166) This shows that despite the fact that they believed his first wife Carol was a lovely girl, they do not believe he is to blame for divorcing her and instead blames his second wife. Later they remark that Dick has “plenty good inside him” and his father says he doesn’t know what happened to Dick to turn him to a criminal. Dick’s mother says “That friend of his. That’s what happened.” (p.167) Dick’s mother blames Perry for changing Dick from the good person he used to be, despite the fact that he was gambling, writing bad checks, and possibly cheating on his wife before he even met Perry in prison. Contrarily, Perry’s family never supported him, and his sister and father are quick to chastise him for what landed him in prison. While Perry is in prison for theft, his sister writes him a letter and says “I truthfully feel none of us have anyone to blame for whatever we have done with our personal lives.” (p.139) This is quite the opposite of what Dick’s parents say when they blame every one of Dick’s mistakes on someone else. Unlike Perry and Dick’s families, the Clutters practiced a healthy balance of encouragement and expectations. Nancy and Kenyon were not forced to do good, but instead enjoy helping others because of the example set by their father. When Mrs. Clarence Katz asks Nancy if she could teach her daughter make an apple pie, Nancy already had a busy day planned, and could have easily turned little Jolene away, but because she decided it was more important to help others first, she rearranged her full schedule to fit Jolene in. All of Holcomb wonders how Nancy has time to be so successful and selfless in so many things, but their answer is “She’s got character. Gets it from her old man.” (p.18) This is not something Nancy’s parents could force her to do, but something they had to teach her with hopes that she would want to make the right choices, unlike Dick and Perry. As shown by the other criminals on death row with Dick and Perry,
As shown by the other criminals on death row with Dick and Perry, socio-economic background is not always an influence on whether or not you become a criminal. While Dick came from a lower-middle class family and Perry was raised in poverty, many of the other criminals they met on death row were from upper class families. Two other prisoners on death row, Ronnie York and James Latham, were from wealthy families and were members of the United States Army. Perry also attributes his criminal behavior to the fact that his father never allowed him to go to school, however Lowell Lee Andrews, a twenty-year-old who shot and killed his mother, father, and sister, was an honors student at Kentucky University. These other criminals are important contrasts to the unstable childhood one might believe caused Perry and Dick’s criminal behavior. These three murderers had no reason other than their own sick motivation to murder their victims, just like Perry and Dick.
As shown by the differing lives of Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, as well as the other criminals living on death row with them, no one is accountable for the actions of a criminal besides the criminal themselves. Although a hard childhood or difficult family life may influence those decisions that led to their crimes, no one is responsible for someone else’s actions.
Actual Story Over Fictional Storytelling: Capote’s New Literary Form
In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the concept of the nuclear family was a personification of the American dream, the illusion of the perfect life, the perfect wife and the perfect children, all living in a model community. With four staccato shotgun blasts, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood all but irreversibly cracks that quintessential familial mold, sending it on a journey of misguidance, sympathy and greed that Dick and Perry were responsible for. For many, however, their thoughts of the “perfect score” and the subsequent manhunt and trial were adulterated with the grimy hands of the author’s puppeteering and personal bias. Every action in the story was manipulated for his true endgame, to create a tantalizing atmosphere out of a macabre act. For all of its realistic re-creation of dialogue and alternation of arcs to slowly interweave the two plots together, Capote falters in ultimately creating the book’s fictionalized true-to-life atmosphere, the consequence of his failure to separate the intimate aspects of his writing from the set facts of the events that have transpired.
The “nonfiction novel” that Capote introduces to the literary canon successfully creates a layered plot that effectively evokes both conflicted feelings for the antagonists as well as creates a realistic atmosphere that mirrors the actual events of the murder while subtly adding enough elements to include a fictional aspect to it. The book itself is split into 5 different sections, each one another part of the two divergent story threads that contribute to the mythos of the story through the following of both Dick and Perry and law enforcement back in Garden City, developing two distinct layers to what will eventually become a single plot line. As a result, Capote is able to treat each plotline as its own self-contained, multi-faceted entity before they merge and by keeping them separate, fleshes out the development of each character, combining real-life and made-up elements effortlessly to truly portray the person that he desires them to be, not who they were. To many impressed, including the New York Times, “[Capote] demonstrated that reality, if heard out patiently, could orchestrate its own full range” (Knickerbocker 4). This “full range” is exemplified in the conflicting emotions that Dick and Perry bring to mind, sometimes compassion, sometimes anger, all feelings that twist the book’s perception of them and offer different perspectives for how they might be interpreted long after their executions. In doing so, Capote stresses that while his characters are partially his own creation, they are still essentially a product of their own, set actions in reality.
Unfortunately, Capote’s often-manufactured dialogue, designed to hasten the pace of the story, ultimately hurts it by becoming a difficult aspect of it to overcome in relevance to the book’s descriptive diction and the absurdity of the author’s supposed memorization of every word. As a “343-page true-crime chronicle,” (Kauffmann 1) Capote pushed for the story to be as realistic as possible, a decision that was as misguided as poorly executed. Because the story is consistently rooted in the interactions between its characters, dialogue is used heavily to fill in the necessary plot gaps that the author’s descriptions could not fill themselves. Although Capote wanted it to add a degree of authenticity to the novel, each character’s words does little more than break up the quick style of his writing when every stoic sentence is accompanied by lines of hurried speaking. The book’s struggle to balance its use of dialogue with use of complex plot elements is exemplified in dialogue-heavy passages such as Perry’s resigned confession on the way back from Las Vegas, which is so drawn-out that Capote draws doubt about the truthfulness behind it rather than the sympathy he intends to. Indirectly responding to the NYT, a different perspective was found as a result of this conflict of motives, that “Capote demonstrates…that he is the most outrageously overrated stylist of our time” (Kauffmann 7); that, in itself, is a definite point that the book’s over-emphasis on dialogue cannot deny, as it further convolutes Capote’s writing and damages his sense of ethos.
Likewise, for the first half of the book, Capote alternates haphazardly between the arcs of Garden City and Dick and Perry’s escapade, a spontaneous style of writing that contributes more to the compromising of the story’s timeline than its proceedings. Capote lacks a set organizational structure to find plot points where it is appropriate to switch between arcs; along with the added “illumination… [of] vastly oversupplied facts,” (Kauffmann 8) the story never has a clear path to reaching its climax, where the threads of law enforcement and the murders intertwine in Sin City, a point in the book that should be an explosive payoff, the sum of all the built-up tension and mystery in the land of greed and malice. Instead, it comes off as more liberating than gratifying, as if the plot itself is being released from Capote’s manipulation and generously veers into more realistic, true-to-life territory. By switching back and forth constantly between different stories, Capote intended to draw out the process of capturing Dick and Perry as much as possible, showing the intricate workings and careful actions of bold characters such as Alvin A. Dewey. The author never successfully achieves this desire because his syntax is continuously bogged down with “Reddiwip [style] writing, goo that gushes out under…compressed air and that…looks like the real thing,” (Kauffman 7) a caustic point that is in conjunction with the struggle for him to omit the “fluff and filler” from his writing. In republished notes about the book, Capote hypocritically wrote down that “There is a flaw in…your strength and unless you learn to control it the flaw will prove stronger and defeat you” (Wiener 7). As much as he was praising himself and his work, there was an underlying hint of irony, subtly highlighting his general failure to follow the ideology that he himself preached.
Capote’s new literary form of a “nonfiction novel,” to somehow interweave a fictional re-telling of a story with the actual events as how they happened, struggles to achieve its full potential because it cannot escape the difficulty of at re-creating authentic dialogue while incorporating fictional elements as well his misguided shifting between the two divergent story arcs that make up the main plot. As didactic as he was about his philosophy of learning flaws and correcting them before they became too overwhelming, Capote evidently suffered from the same mistakes that he earnestly tried to correct in his writing and his philosophy; the pressure of creating an entirely new genre showed in the cracks of the story. He then became his own hamartia and unconsciously became like the character of Perry Smith in his own book, a person stuck in his own daydreams and misconceptions about reality, a person who was not and could not be cognizant of the actual world that was around him, a person who refused to change and believed he was the epitome of everything that was right in the world. In a sense, with the two worlds that he was tied to, he did not have the courage or capability of merging them together.