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Mental Illness In Truman Capote's Novel "In Cold Blood"

676 words - 3 pages

Madness, madness, madness. It is but a word, yet those who possess it are capable of doing the most amazing or terrible of things. According to the Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, madness is defined as “a state of severe mental illness.” Perry Edward Smith is the best individual that depicts this characteristic. Throughout Truman Capote's novel “In Cold Blood” the main character, Perry Smith, as Dr. Jones says “... shows definite signs of severe mental illness” (Capote 296). There is no coincidence in the definition and Dr. Jones' description because the truth is that Perry is utterly, and unconsciously mad. Perry, in his madness, commits acts so inhumane that chill as well as perplex the reader. However, it is essential to understand what Perry's madness was and how his previous experiences can possibly justify his actions.
During his childhood, Perry experienced and was marked by brutality and lack of concern on the part of both parents (Capote 296). Dr. Jones gives ...view middle of the document...

Jones says, stand out as pathological is his paranoid orientation toward the world. “He is overly sensitive to criticisms that others make of him, and cannot tolerate being made fun of” (Capote 297). There is a particular event that is extrusive of this personality. Lowell Lee Andrews, a very educated Kansas student, after being convicted, arrives at the Kansas State Penitentiary, where he is quick to mend Perry's grammatical and lingual errors. Though Andrews only means well, Perry sees it as otherwise. “... but Perry could have boiled him in oil- yet he never admitted to it, never let anyone there guess why, after one of the humiliating incidents, he sat and sulked and ignored the meals that were delivered to him three times a day” (Capote 318).
As well as his paranoia, Perry has a poorly controlled rage that can and is easily triggered by any feelings of being tricked, slighted, or labeled inferior by others. Andrews' example could again be used as an example for this personality. In his last, would be testimony, Dr. Jones describes Perry as a paranoid schizophrenic though he is not a hundred percent sure. “More extensive evaluation would be necessary to make an exact psychiatric diagnosis, but his present personality structure is very nearly that of a paranoid schizophrenic reaction” (Capote 298).
Perry is now diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, but could this condition justify his action? Another doctor, Dr. Satten, considers that the only Mr. Clutter's murder matters psychologically for when Smith attacked Mr. Clutter, “... he [Perry] was under a mental eclipse, deep inside a schizophrenic darkness, for it was not entirely a flesh-and-blood man he 'suddenly discovered' himself destroying, but ' a key figure in some past traumatic configuration': his father? the orphanage nuns who had derided and beaten him? the hated Army sergeant? the parole officer who had ordered him to 'stay out of Kansas'? One of them, or all of them” (Capote 302) It can be sadly said that the Clutters were the unlucky ones to be under the circumstances that ultimately lead to their death. Perry said, “ They [the Clutters] never hurt me. Like other people. Like people have all my life. Maybe it's just that the Clutters were the ones who had to pay for it” (Capote 302).

Works Cited

Truman Capote, "In Cold Blood", pages 296, 297, 298, 318, 302.

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