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Truman Capote’s Anonymity Essay

2427 words - 10 pages

In an interview with Truman Capote, George Plimpton asks if In Cold Blood is truly an accurate portrayal of the Clutter family’s murder, “One doesn’t spend almost six years on a book, the point of which is factual accuracy, and then give way to minor distortions” (Plimpton). Capote claims he only uses factual information in his story, completely removes himself from the novel, and has created a new genre of literature by combining reportage journalism with fiction techniques. However, literary critics have long debated whether or not In Cold Blood is the first of its kind: a non-fiction novel. Capote’s novel is something unique that the world has never seen before, but it is not the non-fiction novel that he claims it to be. Regardless of this fact, Capote still strives for the impossible by attempting to remove himself from the narrative. When Capote removes himself he creates the novel’s main fallacy: the absence of the author. Through his interpretation of the events and the structure of the novel, Capote projects his argument, ultimately giving him more control over the text because of his invisibility.
Capote’s goal of establishing anonymity is essential to his objective of developing a completely true, accurate account of the Clutter family’s murder. However, this removal of self is impossible to achieve due to his physical presence in the event. Capote’s determination to distance himself from the story actually creates more problems for the reader. As Capote witnesses trials, personally conducts interviews with townsfolk as well as the murderers, and develops a personal tie to the event, the reader desires to hear Capote’s firsthand experience with the murder case. Capote’s goal is to focus only on factual evidence. While Capote states many facts, he fails to depict their relevance.
When Capote coins the novel as an accurate depiction of true events, he attempts to renounce his power as an author. The realism that Capote claims his novel exemplifies is the absolute, God-honest truth. Capote distances himself from the novel by declaring authenticity:
One way for a writer to renounce power is to lay a claim to realism. Capote goes further. His narrative, he declares, is not only realistic but also completely and utterly true, a nonfiction novel. Given the nature of the project, any departure from fact is unacceptable. (Guest 119)
Capote professes complete realism to prove his absence and depict true events. Capote refuses to stray from fact as that defeats the purpose of establishing a new genre of literature. However, inevitably, Capote himself is involved in the events, so his opinions, interpretations, and feelings, are all expressed, one way or another, through his writing. To avoid revealing his own opinions, he places entire word for word conversations into the text between Hickock and Smith or the detectives and the murderers. While word for word accounts show factual evidence, they do not prove his absence:
The novel's...

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