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: The Story Behind The First True Crime Novel
Author, Truman Capote wrote the nonfiction novel, In Cold Blood, by which he speaks upon the impact childhood trauma may cause others as well as how that may influence someone to murder an entire family of innocent strangers. Capote’s purpose throughout the nonfiction novel is to influence the reader to feel sympathy for the murderers. Capote adopts a realistic and sentimental tone to appeal upon the audience regarding real world experiences, such as the ones Perry Smith was forced to face as a child which eventually led him to take place in the Clutter family murders.
Growing up, Perry’s childhood consisted of a constant cycle of violence and neglect. One of the most traumatic moments Perry experienced as a child was being put in an orphanage where he would be “taken care” of by nuns who would mistreat him. One nun in particular would constantly abuse Perry, eventually leaving him traumatized. Throughout the novel, Capote speaks upon when Perry was almost killed as a child by this nun by which he says, “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”. The image Capote tries to portray concerning the challenges Perry had to face as child, invokes the audience to feel sympathy towards him and all of the terrible events he had to experience. It also brings to mind negative emotions towards the nun as well as his parents through which it establishes that no child deserves to be faced with such traumatic childhood events. The events Perry had to face as a child helps establish the mental instability it caused him, they are used as an appeal towards pathos, and the audiences’ feelings of sympathy and frustration.
Traumatic events such as the one Perry experienced with the nun shaped him into the man he became. Upon all of the events that he went through as a child caused him to believe that it might have been something he was born with rather than his own fault. In addition to Perry speaking about this, Capote states, “After all, 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’”. When Perry begins to reflect upon himself and his childhood, Capote tries to bring a sense of pity towards him causing the audience to take in consideration that Perry may have not been mentally okay. Concerning that Perry might be mentally unstable brings a sense of compassion towards Perry and the murders he committed for which he may have not been at fault for. Upon Capote referring towards this moment, it is portrayed as an appeal towards pathos by which the audience has a sensation of pity and compassion towards Perry, leaving his traumatic childhood at fault instead.
After Perry gives thought about not being particularly normal, he begins to reflect on the murders he committed. As he is reflecting on the Clutter family murders, he begins to wonder if he was destined to live this life, if maybe his traumatic childhood wasn’t his fault but rather the way things were meant to be. When Perry begins to reflect upon this moment, Capote writes, “And it wasn’t because of anything the Clutters did. They never hurt me. Like other people. Like people all my life. Maybe it’s just that the Clutters were the ones who had to pay for it”. Prior to Perry’s reflection upon the murders, results in the audience feeling sorrow towards him and disappointment upon all of the terrible people who mistreated him growing up. Referring to this particular moment, Capote begins to illustrate an image of Perry as the victim rather than the Clutter family by which the audience begins to feel more sympathy towards him than the actual victims.
Indicated through the novel, Capote’s use of strong language helps bring the audience a sympathetic feel towards the murderers. Eventually leading the thought that trauma may influence an individual to commit such crime as murder. Furthermore, childhood trauma may lead one to murder an entire family of innocent strangers.
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.
Analysis Of Truman Capote’s Novel in Cold Blood
Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood describes the murder of an affluent family committed by Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. The murder occurs in Holcomb, Kansas, a minutely populated town in which everyone befriends their neighbors. After an extensive six weeks without being caught, the two are eventually captured and tried in court. Throughout the entire case, with the aid of a special investigator, numerous witnesses, the judge, and the jury, the two perpetrators are sentenced to death. In the novel, through the judge, jury, and lead investigator’s bias, the notion of truth and justice is used for revenge, even at the costs of undermining morals and values.
Presiding over the trial, Judge Roland Tate illustrates a form of innate and predetermined bias. Capote describes Tate as an “intimate friend of Mr. Clutter”. Despite personally knowing the victim, the judge does not recuse himself, producing an unfair and hindered trial. As a result, any decision he makes pertaining to the sentencing of Hickock and Smith emanates a concern of potential bias. This causes a subjective trial, which leads readers to contemplate about the judge’s motives and judicial acumen. During the trial, the defense attempts to present a crucial piece of evidence regarding the temperament of the defendant; the prosecutors object to the showing, and with a single objection, the judge rejects the proposal. When asked if they have portraits drawn by Smith while in prison, the defense attempts to present the evidence but “an exasperated Logan Green leaps to his feet: ‘If Your Honor please, this is going too far..’ His Honor saw no farther”. Despite possessing the evidence, Judge Tate denies the defense from showing it without valid justification. In addition, when Dr. W. Mitchell Jones, a witness, attempts to provide insight on potential insanity, the judge restricts his answers, instructing Jones, “You may answer the question yes or no, Doctor. Limit your answer yes or no”. Similarly, when Jones is recalled to answer further questions, “And once more the court admonished the witness: ‘Answer yes or no, do you have an opinion?’”. By constraining the witness’ responses, Tate hinders the maximum amount of potential insight concerning the defendant’s mental state. Through suppressing the multiple pieces of evidence, the judge exhibits a one-sided bias and unfairness towards the defense. Consequently, he compromises his morals as a judge in presiding over this particular case.The jury shows its bias and willingness to disregard their own principles in an attempt to obtain retribution for the slain family.
Despite exhibiting personal connections with the victims, the jurors are selected to interpret this case. Discussing his opinion on capital punishment, one juror says “that ordinarily he was against it, but in this case no”. This juror’s willingness to change his opinion on a crucial decision without an explanation for this specific case implies his bias. In addition, many of the jurors “were well acquainted with the deceased”. As a whole, the jury, similar to Judge Tate, has personal connections with the Clutter family. For this, the jury should not be a part of this case, as subsequent judgements insinuates partisan motivations. Furthermore, previous verdicts by juries have hinted at similar results. With doctors’ examinations of four suspects, “All had been examined…and found to be ‘without psychosis.’ Three of the men were under death sentence”. Juries of previous cases appear to depict a pattern of judgement, as death was the ruling of three of the four past convictions. Through personal connections and previous rulings, the jury exhibits predetermined bias in this distinct case. However, in this investigation, the judge and jury are not exclusively biased. Alvin Dewey, the lead investigator of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), portrays an unintended form of bias. Seeking revenge, he undermines his moral obligation to take care of his wife and kids. When introduced to the case and the victims, Dewey says that he “was real fond of Herb and Bonnie” and “saw them every Sunday at church, visited a lot back and forth”. He vocalizes his fondness of the victims by stating his opinion of them. By maintaining a direct connection with them, he should not be part of this case for potential bias or conflict of interest. He then establishes that he “has seen some bad things…but nothing so vicious as this. However long it takes…he is going to know what happened…the why and the who”. He insinuates the severity of this particular case presumably from his connections with the family.
Pledging to solve this case under any circumstances, Dewey conveys his galvanized emotions regarding the nature of the crime. During the span of the investigation, he works extensively, even at costs of his personal health and relationship. Late at night, “He was too tense to sleep…too fretful and frustrated”. His overactive participation in this case undermines his health, and with that, his lifestyle is centered around it. His overzealous pursuit for answers also questions his relationship with his wife. She asks if “he thinks they’ll ever get back to normal living”. By exerting strenuous efforts in attempting to solve this case, with his personal relationships with the Clutters as motivation, he indirectly and unintentionally displays a bias.
Illustrating bias and unfairness, Capote’s novel, In Cold Blood analyzes actions and motivations of numerous characters. Each character acts in an unfair manner towards the case; because of this, readers detect that sometimes truth is skewed and misportrayed. In current times, the authenticity of truth is heavily debated among current political leaders. From reporting news to the criminal justice system, the impression of truth and justice has certainly evolved. And as a result, justice may never fully be restored.
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.
In Cold Blood: The Must-Read for the Students in School
Qualifying In Cold Blood’s Place in Public Schools
When a novel inspires, perplexes, and teaches a lesson to its readers, it is a rare gem. After researching and analyzing Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, there is no doubt in my mind that it should remain in public schools. In Cold Blood retells the story of six murders, four of which are gruesome and revolting, while the other two are of the murderers themselves (after being sentenced to the death penalty). Ever since Capote’s novel first found its way to school bookshelves, it has ignited a controversy that is alive to this day. Though this may be a dark and difficult read, it is a story that deserves to be told because of its outstanding writing, strong emotions, and powerful lessons about life and the human psyche.
Capote’s unique writing style immediately catches the essence of the story to follow. Because In Cold Blood follows the lives of the Clutter family and their murderers, each chapter juxtaposes the last one in an unusual yet effective rhetorical strategy. One of the main reasons that this book should stay in public schools is because of its elaborate writing style. Teachers often attempt to teach their students to write with elements that Capote himself utilizes, such as imagery, color, rhetorical strategies, and creativity. An example of this style may be seen when Capote writes: “It was ideal apple-eating weather; the whitest sunlight descended from the purest sky, and an easterly wind rustled, without ripping loose, the last of the leaves on that the Chinese elms” (10). This type of writing is very rich with imagery, which invites readers to see the sunlight and feel the rustling wind. The fact that this rare, beautiful imagery is the backbone of an incredible story makes it even more powerful. School youth need be exposed to this type of writing in preparation for adulthood, so that they may become more advanced in writing.
Another reason that In Cold Blood deserves to stay on the bookshelves is that Capote portrays the mind of the lesser respected character: the murderer. Ann Algeo writes in her scholarly article that Perry Smith is “the total symbol for the exile, the alienated human being, the grotesque, the outsider, the quester after love, the sometimes sapient, sometimes innocent, sometimes evil child” (Algeo). The murderers in this novel and in real life don’t deserve to be forgiven for what they did – but at least they will be better understood. For example, the following quote shows Perry’s vulnerability and how much he looks to Dick for guidance: “Of course, Dick was very literalminded, very – he had no understanding of music, poetry – and yet when you got right down to it, Dick’s literalness, his pragmatic approach to every subject, was the primary reason Perry had been attracted to him, for it made Dick seem, compared to himself, so authentically tough, invulnerable, ‘totally masculine’” (Capote 10). Perhaps if they were understood during childhood as “the alienated human being,” they may not have been so inclined to murder an entire family (Algeo). Perry’s isolation all his life, as Algeo points out, may have led him to seek a toxic friendship with Dick. Everybody deserves to be understood, and without stories like In Cold Blood, students would grow up not knowing why there is evil in the world.
Additionally, In Cold Blood encourages students to consider and debate difficult, hot-button issues, like the death penalty. Megan O’Neil writes in her editorial “In Cold Blood Too Bloody for Students?” that the book should stay in the class room “because it introduces students to the American judicial system and the death penalty, among other contemporary topics.” Perry and Dick are facing the death penalty, a controversial form of capital punishment in the year 1959, which continues to be controversial even today. O’Neil also observed that “it is also superbly written and allows students to form their own opinions.” The book is also unbiased. Interestingly, upon doing a search in the novel, I noticed that Capote never actually uses the phrase “death penalty” – it is only ever used in the context of a quote said by someone else. He remains unbiased by including opinions from others but never his own. As a result, readers can learn from the quotes and information provided and synthesize their own opinion. As O’Neil points out, whether the students were influenced by the story or not, at least they were taught a few lessons about powerful writing, rhetorical strategies, the court system, and the death penalty. This goes to show that there are many angles to take as to why students should be given permission to read this book.
Although Capote’s writing is mesmerizing and his book is powerful, there is controversy regarding the accuracy of the genre of In Cold Blood, which has been called a “nonfiction novel” for its dramatization of a journalistic style (Hickman). Trenton Hickman writes in his scholarly article, “The Last to See Them Alive: Panopticism, the Supervisory Gaze, and Catharsis in Capote’s In Cold Blood” that Capote’s thought-provoking writing “could well be argued as his most significant contribution to the development of the so-called nonfiction novel”. This provokes a separate argument that stems from the credibility of Capote’s recollection of events. In other words, critics wonder if Capote is filling in the story with incorrect memories or figments of his own imagination. While the murders and trial that took place in the novel actually did happen in real life, there is uncertainty surrounding the details in Capote’s writing, which makes it less of a true story. Nevertheless, this is not a valid argument as to why it should not be allowed in schools because the benefits of reading Capote’s unique, journalistic writing style outweigh the controversy surrounding the book
Perhaps the main counterargument is that public schools should not allow kids to read about murder, sex, and profanity, all of which can be seen in In Cold Blood. James Moore and his wife Minnie of Savannah, Georgia, fought to have this book banned because “the endorsement of putting trash in the minds of children by a school system is horrifying to think of and it is dangerous to the social stability of this great country” (Anatomy of a Book Controversy). After all, according to their logic, wouldn’t this type of reading influence students, especially adolescents whose brains are developing? This is an understandable counterargument, but what is missing is the fact that students do not have to read this book because alternative assignments are available (although surely not as powerful or effective in teaching a life lesson).
From the moment a child can understand language, they begin to understand the cruelty of life. In elementary school, kids are already learning about war and poverty. By middle school, 11-year-olds are taught about the extermination of over 6 million Jewish people during the Holocaust; they are taught about slave trade and how other races and classes were seen as inferior; and they are taught about the Trail of Tears, 9/11, the bombing of Japan, the Crusades, and countless other indecencies of life. After a long day of learning about some of the darkest times in history, they go home to watch the news. The daily news covers stories of rape, murder, child abuse, poverty, starvation, and more. Yet nobody in their right mind would think of banning the news. Nobody would rewrite a textbook to teach only the good. Nobody would ask for an alternative assignment when learning about World War II. Somehow, though, parents are proclaiming that it is not okay for a student to read a book with incredible writing that captures the essence of a powerful true story because of gruesome details surrounding a murder that vastly affected the lives of real people. This is the same argument that has been used over and over again for several other banned books, but children are perfectly capable of handling heavy themes in literature because they are not naive to real world issues.
The use of racially charged curse words has long been debated as a reason to censor literature, such as in the classic novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’s controversial use of the n-word, a commonly used word in that time period. In Cold Blood, just like Huck Finn, also makes use of the n-word. Although it is understandable why parents might be concerned about the use of such racial slurs, it is important to the integrity of the book to include the original language because it maintains historical accuracy. One conversation by Dick and Perry proceeds as follows, using racially charged language and insults profusely: “‘But a nigger,’ said Perry. ‘That’s different.’ The comment, the reluctance with which it was pronounced, made Dick ask, ‘Or did you? Kill him like you said?’ (Capote 109)” It was a significant question, for his original interest in Perry, his assessment of Perry’s character and potentialities, was founded on the story Perry had once told him of how he had beaten a “colored man” to death. This shows the much lower value he would place on the life of a black person, and also makes use of another outdated term, “colored.” However, the use of the words “colored” and “nigger” make sense in the context because they reflect how Dick and Perry would actually speak in the 1950’s, a time when segregation was legal and the Civil Rights movement was right around the corner, so tensions were high. Censoring these words would not reflect the true nature of this time period.
Capote’s novel is one that sparks every feeling and emotion known to man. Julia Fierro, who read the book for the first time as a high schooler, writes in her editorial that “the ultimate test of a book is how it makes me feel. The more complex my emotional reaction, the more meaningful the book.” She goes on to describe her love-hate relationship with Perry Smith, as well as the fear she had for him mingled with hope. This book is not a happy-go-lucky, feel-good book that should be taken lightly; it is a gruesome and realistic portrayal of love and death, exposing the flaws of the human psyche. But, any novel that elicits a reaction within the reader that inspires them to read and write more, whether gruesome, sexual, and profane or not, deserves a position on the library bookshelf. In Cold Blood provides a chance to inspire a younger generation of readers, as well as reveal to them the hard truths of life. Fierro sadly declares that “I spent most of that year with my nose in a book, looking over my shoulder (both figuratively and literally), waiting for some adult in our nearly all-white, all middle-upper-class community to tear the book out of my hands.” At the end of the day, no school student who finds themselves engaged and connecting with characters on a piece of paper should fear reading. It is a rare moment for them to grow and learn about what it means to be human.
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.