In Cold Blood By Capote

Truman Capote is one of the greatest authors of all time. He was born in 1924
and died in 1984. Sincehis early childhood, he has written many books and he has
won many prizes and awards. Many people say that In Cold Blood was Capote’s best
work. In this book, Capote writes a carefully detailed account of the murder of
the Clutter family. In this detailed account, Capote follows the Clutter
family’s subsequent adventures, which include the murders, the arrest, trial,
and executions of the murderers (Magill 2175). Capote has also been known for
his key sense of detail and imagery. It has been said that the artistic value of
In Cold Blood is as much to be found in it’s illuminating detail (Reed 104).


This book is special in the way that it has been set-up. Capote looks at the
murderers preparation for the murders. Then he goes back to the Clutter family
in their happy household. Capote has a technique of writing that he feels
stemmed from his childhood. In many of his books, In Cold Blood included, Capote
makes usage of a character’s detrimental childhood. He feels that this has
stemmed from his childhood because Capote had a bad childhood also. What makes
In Cold Blood unique is that at no time in this book does Capote render a
judgment about the criminals (Reed 107). In order to write this book, Capote had
to compile years of research, mounds of tapes and endless interviews (Magill
51). Capote wanted to write this book in a way so that the murder was known
almost as gruesome as it was. Truman Capote made significant contributions to
American Literature in the mid twentieth century, especially by portraying the
murder case as being inhumane, unnecessary, and without motivation throughout
the novel In Cold Blood. Truman Capote was an author with a well diversified
background. From his birth, Capote always thirsted for fame (Gale 13). However,
it was not always the kind of fame that he wanted. Capote’s life became public
knowledge (Gale 1). His troubled childhood was even a factor in the media. When
looking back on his childhood, Capote associated his mother with emotional
neglect and his father with leaving the family. Even though he had a rough
childhood, Truman always excelled in school, especially in English classes. From
elementary school he maintained an A average, even through high school. When
Capote was 17 years old, his first story got published in a national magazine
(Gale 2). Capote was excited and proud of this accomplishment. At the age of 18,
Capote took an I.Q. test. His score of 215 was well above genius level (Gale 1).

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He then began to write short stories, and he eventually got into writing novels,
which led up to the strenuous training for the writing of In Cold Blood. Before
Capote arrived in Kansas, he had already assessed over 6,000 pages of notes
(Gale 20). After writing In Cold Blood, Capote became dependent on tranquilizers
(Garson 29). While trying to get over his dependency, Capote became very
depressed. His depression was brought upon by the murderers case staying in the
courts for so long (Garson 93). Capote was put in jail prior to the trial’s
verdict because he refused to be a witness. After being released from his short
jail term, Capote’s doctor said the book took a great toll on his physical
condition, and he was extremely worried about his health (Reed 32). Another
devastating event happened shortly there after. The murderer’s, Perry and Dick
were executed. this was such an awful thing for Capote, because Capote once said
that while writing this book, he became best friends with the killers. Capote
had one last great book which was Answered Prayers. Capote then began a short
decline downhill, because of his writer’s block and failing health. Capote then
passed away in 1984 and the cover was closed on a great career. In Cold Blood
was a book written on a true account of the murder’s of the Clutter family of
Holcomb County in Kansas. The book starts out describing the setting and the
family. The descriptions reveal the Clutter family as being a happy go-lucky
family, with everything going for them. Capote then switches his point of view,
and describes the murderer’s and their plan for the attack on the Clutter
household. The Clutter family is going about their normal way of life, while
Perry and Dick, the killers, travel and prepare for the savage attack. Then,
Saturday night, shortly after the Clutter’s turn in, Perry and Dick arrive on
the Clutter’s land. They break through the patio door into Herb Clutter’s office
in hopes of finding a safe that they have heard about. After having no luck,
Perry and Dick awake Mr. Clutter and demand the code for the safe. When he tells
them that there is no safe, they get more outraged. So they precede to go
upstairs and gag Mrs. Clutter, and tie her to the bed. They break into Nancy’s
room and tie her to the bed. Then they grab Kenyon and take him to the basement
with his father. They both are bound and gagged in seperate rooms of the
basement. Perry and *censored* then shoot Herb and cut his throat. Kenyon,
Nancy, and Mrs.Clutter are all shot, with the shells being carefully retained
after each blow to the head. The killers started to travel towards Mexico. On
the way there, they stopped at a small shopping district, and with a bad
checking account they buy a lot of goods to sell in Mexico. By this point the
Clutter’s are found, but the police have absolutely no leads and only 2 clues.


The police named this murder “the perfect murder”. A convict named
Floyd Wells is sitting in County jail while listening to his headset. He hears
of the Clutter family murder weeks after it has happened, and then realizes that
he knows the victims, and more importantly, he knows who the murderers were. He
tells the warden who then tells the chief of police investigations. The police
department formulates a path of the murderers which leads them to the exact
location of Perry and Dick. While driving back to Holcomb County, Perry proceeds
to confess the whole incident. They have a trial and the death penalty is
assigned, they sit in jail for 2,000 days. On the night they are suppose to die
their attorneys are still trying to appeal the case, but it does no good. The
executions take place, and the killers got what they deserved. Officer Dewey
states that as he was walking home, he heard “the whisper of wind voices in
the wheat” (Capote 343) and realizes that the Clutter family can now lay at
rest. The dictionary defines the term inhumane as not humane; a cruel or
barbarous act. This definition is a huge understatement of the actions that took
place during the Clutter family murder. Herb Clutter was a universally respected
man (Magill 2176). Right up until the point which he was killed, Herb remained
calm and thought positively. As stated by Perry Smith in a later interview, he
can be quoted as saying “I thought he [Herb Clutter] was a very nice
man…I thought so right up to the moment I slit his throat” (Matuz 86).


Perry and Dick had tied Herb Clutter to a duct in the furnace room . They then
decided that this wouldn’t be a comfortable setting so they laid him down on a
cardboard box. Afterwards they preceded to club him on the head, gag him, slit
his throat, and shoot him. Every other family member was gagged and tied to
something with the exception of Nancy, who was only tied to her bed. Nancy had
been laying in bed with her hands and ankles tied together. Her bedcovers were
drawn to he chin, and she had been shot with the barrel of the gun not 2 inches
away from her head. On top of Perry and Dick shooting a completely innocent and
helpless girl, Dick, having an obsession with little girls, wanted to sexually
molest Nancy. But Perry, thinking it was grotesque, stopped him from doing so.


Finally, Perry and Dick were inhumane because of their lack of compassion. The
whole town loved and respected the Clutter family, and on the day of their
executions, neither Perry nor Dick apologized to anybody when given the chance
to do so. This tragic murder was inhumane because of the actions of Perry and
Dick. When Perry and Dick killed the Clutter family, they didn’t know who they
were killing-for the most part. They knew of the Clutter family as being fairly
wealthy. The came to the Clutter’s farmhouse expecting to rob Mr. Clutter for a
large sum of money. The 4 lives were traded for 50 some odd dollars, a clock
radio, and a pair of binoculars. It was not necessary to take the lives of: a
chairman for of the Kansas Conference of Farm Organizations, a skilled
craftsman, an experienced rider, and a heartwarming mother (Capote 7). Herb
Clutter was possibly the model man. He didn’t tolerate alcohol or drugs, never
lied, and was very strict with religion. What reason would anybody have to kill
such an important and contributing family? The Clutter family was always taught
to do their best, and not cheat anybody out of something that they deserved. The
whole family was honest and cared about others. We are shown in the book that
Perry has feelings when talking about Nancy: “…she [Nancy] was trying to
act friendly and casual. She was a very pretty girl, not spoiled or anything, I
really liked her” (Capote 243). To this day, nobody ever proved why it was
necessary for the Clutter family to die, and they probably never will. This was
a murder that was definitely done without motivation. Perry and Dick picked this
family because they heard that they were wealthy and they had a safe. Many
people are killed because of broken promises or even jealousy, but very few are
killed because somebody heard they have a safe. Perry even said himself “I
only knew the man [Mr. Clutter] for about an hour, and he seemed like a nice
man” (Matuz 103). Also, what would motivate a person to go through with the
murders when they discovered that their was no money, and that was what they
came there for? We know that this crime is definitly without motivation because
we know that Floyd Wells told Perry and Dick of the Clutter’s land because he
use to work there. After telling Dick of the land and wealth he believed the
Clutter’s to have, Dick got obsessed with the fact that the Clutter’s had money.


Floyd Wells said about the encounter that “Next thing I knew, Dick was
talking about killing Mr.Clutter” (Capote 151). Floyd didn’t take him
seriously because he said everybody talked about what they were going to do
after they got out of jail, and nobody ever acted on what they wanted to do. But
this time, Floyd couldn’t of been more wrong. This murder was without motivation
because the killer’s had no concrete evidence or proof of the Clutter family’s
wealth. Truman Capote has made a significant contribution to American
Literature. He has written many plays, short stories, novels and has had 2 books
turned into movies. For In Cold Blood alone, he has won an Emmy award and the
Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allen Poe award (Reed 31). George Frazier said
that Capote is “One of the last of the great American Contemporary
authors” (about the author 2). Out of all of the literary criticism that
has been written about In Cold Blood, most of it has been positive. But the
negative criticism has all had the same undertone and is very well put as said
by Mr. Matuz “Capote HAS manipulated the facts to produce a particular kind
of frisson” (Matuz 103). A few examples of this ‘manipulation’ is the fact
that Capote made Bobby out to be a big basketball star, when in real life he was
only an aspiring player. Also Capote said before he was hung, Dick apologized,
which in fact he didn’t. We know he didn’t because of a live broadcast prior to
the hanging. How ever, on the positive side, it has been said that “In Cold
Blood is the best documentary account of an American crime that has ever been
written” (Reed 118). His unique form of setting the book up with 86
unnumbered chapters has also been looked into: The book is by any standards a
monumental job of editing and a most seductive writing: the first section
cutting back and forth between the unsuspecting Clutter’s and the approaching
killers is agonizingly well constructed (Matuz 100). As agreed by most, if not
all critics, Capote has definitely created a masterpiece and has spared no
emotion while writing the book. In conclusion, the Clutter family murder clearly
did not have to happen. This was one of the most savage murders of that time
period. Perry and Dick have paid the ultimate price for the inhumane,
unnessacary, and motivationless crime they committed. Dick and Perry were sick
individuals to commit the crimes in the seriousness that they had been carried
out. The Clutter’s were a well rounded family with love and respect from all.


They did not need to have their lives taken away at such an early stage in life.


We will never know if Bobby and Nancy would have married, or if one day Mr.


Clutter would become a millionaire. These lives were taken for no concrete
reason, just the greed for the Clutter’s wealth. “In the book In Cold
Blood, the murderers Richard Hickock and Perry Smith are prisoners of their
pathological childhood. As a consequence, there crimes are rendered
understandable, but not forgivable” (Reed 68). Truman Capote excelled in
portraying the murder case as a downfall of society with the death of the
American Dream.

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