In Cold Blood: The Factors Influencing Perry’s And Dick’s Predisposition To Crime
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, narrates the gruesome murder of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. Four members of the Clutter family were brutally murdered by two ex-convicts on the night of November 15 of 1959. The story follows the pursue for the murders, and their captures. Truman Capote creates an argument that Perry Smith and Dick Hickock’s backgrounds make their crimes inevitable, because of a troublesome childhood, mental problems, and a flawed justice system.
Capote portrays Perry as a victim of his childhood by emphasizing his fear and lack of confidence. During his childhood, Perry witnessed his father abusing his mother, who became an alcoholic and died by choking on her own vomit, when Perry was only 13. As a result, Perry received an education only up to the third grade, two of his siblings committed suicide, and he ended up in a series of orphanages, where he was constantly beaten. ‘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.’ Capote accentuates Perry’s actions by suggesting that fear causes people to make irrational decisions and to make-up for self-worth due to lack of confidence in himself.
Often times, mental issues can lead to people making poor choices, with even worse consequences. Dick Hickock acts on impulses, such as, lust, greed, and indulgence. He does not think about the consequences of his actions. For example, he started writing bad checks to cover up his expenses. Any of the money he gets, he spends spend it on alcohol and women.’I know it is wrong. But at the time I never give any thought to whether it is right or wrong. The same with stealing. It seems to be an impulse.’ His prison psychiatrist suggested that Dick has an attachment disorder, which results in him having a complete lack of remorse, and allows him to do whatever he wants without being bothered by it. Meanwhile, it is suggested that Perry also struggles with Schizophrenia, a mental disorder that affects one’s ability to think or feel clearly. “Perry Smith shows definite signs of severe mental illness… Two features in his personality make-up stand out as particularly pathological. The first is his ‘paranoid’ orientation toward the world. He is suspicious and distrustful of others… In evaluating the intentions and feelings of others, his ability to separate the real situation.’ It can be a result of genetics, brain chemistry, or the environment.
Capote emphasizes that the justice system is flawed, by highlighting that the court never bothered to take into account Perry or Dick’s backgrounds. It did not matter that Perry was abused as a child, his mother was an alcoholic, that two of his siblings committed suicide, or that he exhibits symptoms of mental illness. It did not matter that a psychiatrist diagnosed Dick with an attachment disorder. The jury was also considered to be biased. A lot of the members of the court knew the Clutters and many were also pro-death penalty. Additionally, ”Judge Tate was an intimate friend of Mr. Clutter.” Ultimately, the justice system ignored psychosocial history of both men. In favor of the majority, which was that Dick and Perry killed the Clutters, and that they interrupted Holcomb’s ideal. As a result, they were executed.
A human being deprived of essential needs from their environment can lead to poor choices. This is portrayed through Perry and Dick, and their childhood experiences, mental disorders, and flawed justice systems. There should be many accounts taken in when deciding someone’s fate, especially when dealing with execution. It is important to understand that there are many outside factors that can influence one’s choices.
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