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Truman Capote Essay

2122 words - 9 pages

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Neglect and painful insecurity tainted both Truman Capote and Perry Smith’s childhoods, resulting in common fears and experiences that Capote translates in his writing of In Cold Blood. Truman Capote lacked a stable childhood upbringing, internalizing a fear of abandonment, which he echoes through Perry Smith. Capote demonstrates an intense emotional attachment with one of the killers, Smith. Throughout the five years in which Capote worked on his project, he thoroughly examined Smith and ultimately befriended him because Smith’s troubled childhood that resembled his own. Capote’s parents, Lillie Mae and Arch, divorced at a young age, leaving Capote in the ...view middle of the document...

[Smith] Nearly drowned” (Capote 82). Like Capote, Smith’s issues of lifelong abandonment had dramatic effects that stayed with him throughout his life causing him to hate the traits of a happy family, the traits the Clutter family possessed. Instead of translating his feelings into writing like Capote, Smith translated his feelings into rage. Yet, Capote still empathized with Smith. Capote redirects his feelings into his writing, displaying the abused and abandoned child, and the scorned adult, consistently encouraging compassion for Smith. Capote questions whether a man alone can be held accountable for his actions when his surroundings have continuously neglected him.
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In addition to Capote and Smith’s neglect, Capote also faced persecution based on his physical appearance and ostentatious personality, driving him into a deep isolation that Smith experienced as well. Even Capote’s mother, Lillie Mae commonly called Nina, partook in the harassment of her son. Nina was ashamed of her son’s sexual preferences and tried several times to change her son’s standpoint. However, at a young age, Capote had already confirmed his homosexuality, which greatly infuriated his mother. Nina made it her mission to change her son, so she took Capote to New York to see Dr. Murphy, a doctor who delivered testosterone shots. Capote was outraged when he discovered Nina’s motives for the trip, and Nina became physically violent with Capote, hitting and beating him (Clarke). In a second attempt to make Capote more masculine, his mother sent him to St. Joseph’s Military Academy. The year of 1936-1937 proved to be a disaster for Capote. He was the smallest in his class, only around five feet tall, and his classmates tormented him. He had a flamboyant personality accompanied by a high, squeaky voice, which made him the punch line of many jokes (Truman Capote Biography). Yet despite the public’s reaction, Capote was still able to embrace his individualism; however, Smith struggled. Smith allowed the cruel words of his mother, father, the orphanage workers, and even his own partner, Dick Hickock, to influence his opinion of himself. "He was short and stocky", (Capote 79) “a little fellow and no taller than a twelve-year-old child” (Capote 15). He “had been concerned throughout [his] early years about being considered a 'sissie,' physically undersized or sickly'" (Capote 190). Hickock further takes advantage of the vulnerabilities of Smith, addressing him as “sugar,” “honey,” and “baby.” These names emasculate Smith and present him as feeble and childlike, highlighting the weaknesses that Smith associates himself with. While Dick Hickock was the more masculine of the two, Smith was more sensitive and thoughtful, attributes generally given to women. Smith’s “’early defects in ego formation’” (Capote 191) drove him into isolation. However, Smith was not alone. Capote had those same words spoken to him in a time when looking or acting...

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