A Chilling Perspective in Capote's In Cold Blood
Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" is the story of Perry and Dick and the night of November 15, 1959. This investigative, fast-paced and straightforward documentary provides a commentary on the nature of American violence and examines the details of the motiveless murders of four members of the Clutter family and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers.
While reading Truman Capote's novel,"In Cold Blood ", I spent more than one night lying awake in my bed, frightened by Capote's presentation of the facts surrounding the murder of an obscure Kansas farmer and three of his family members. Several times, I caught myself wondering why this book was having such an effect on me and why it seemed so realistic to me. Initially, I thought the answer to be that the book was a true account--these things had actually happened, and they were not simply a fictional story produced by some author's imagination. As I progressed farther into the novel, however, I realized it wasn't just the horrific story of these murders that was bothering me, but an aspect of how Capote told the story that made me uneasy.
Unlike many other murder stories, Capote not only discusses the criminals and their role in the crime, but their childhoods, their lives right before the crime, and their lives after the conviction until the executions. In an interview with "Playboy" magazine in 1968, Capote has been quoted as saying that the night of April 14, 1965, the night both Dick Hickock and Perry Smith were executed, was "the worst night of my life." Capote referred to these two men as very good friends of his and went as far as to say that they may have been the best friends he had ever had in his life. Because he was able to establish such rapport with these two men through countless hours of interviews over many years, the reader of "In Cold Blood" is given the cold, hard facts about the murderers, and the effect of their previous lives on their actions and thoughts regarding the matter. This draws the reader closer to the men than they would, perhaps, like to be.
Capote talks about the lives of both killers previous to the murders in fairly significant detail. In the case of Perry Smith, his parents divorced early in his childhood and neither his mother nor father really wanted him. This produced feelings of abandonment and uselessness early on in Perry and affected the rest of his life. Capote brings up a letter written to the Kansas State Penitentiary about Perry by Perry's father, who was trying to have Perry paroled for a previous crime he had committed. Perry says that "this biography always set racing a series of emotions--self pity in the lead, love and hate evenly at first, the latter ultimately pulling ahead" (130). Perry didn't feel as though his father ever knew him very well, or even wanted to know him. He says, "whole sections of my Dad was ignorant of. Didn't...