’s “In Cold Blood” Essay, Research Paper
Truman Capote s In Cold Blood was an easy to read; yet well written work. While I realize it is based on actual events, I agree with the term non-fiction literature because of, what I believe are obvious biases that Capote brings to the work. Unlike a historical work, In Cold Blood is filled with emotion and very descriptive detail instead of just the facts. In the opening paragraph of the book we read about Kansas, but from behind the eyes of Capote. He writes, …hard blue skies and desert-clean air, has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West . This is clearly Capote s take on the scenery and a novelistic use of description for the setting of the book. Along with the descriptive detail from the author s point of view are the author s feelings about the characters . I felt as though Capote had clearly written about the Clutters as if they were the all-American perfect family. It appeared as though they were put up on a pedestal possibly for the simple reason of making the murders seem all that more horrific. Capote may have wanted to leave the reader asking, Why would anyone ever want to hurt these people ? With less than a quarter of the book devoted to getting to know the Clutter family it seemed as though Capote needed to suck the reader in quickly, and not leave any questions as to why the family may have brought on what happened to them. Along those same lines, Capote clearly had an added sense of compassion and sympathy for Nancy, which he showed through his excessive amounts of attention in regards to her character . Again, he was getting away from the facts and inserting feelings and emotion to create literature, not just an historical account of what actually happened.
One obvious reason this is characterized as literature rather than just history would be the dialogue that Capote includes. On page 46 and 47, Capote shows the reader a friendly exchange of dialogue between the insurance salesman and Mr. Clutter. This is an example of embellishment by the author for the sake of readability because it would be nearly impossible for a salesman to precisely recite a conversation that he had with a client. Through his extensive research Capote knew of the meeting between Clutter and Johnson and probably had a general idea of their conversation, but to make it read more like a novel and be more personal to the reader he added detailed dialogue.
Another aspect that I felt characterized In Cold Blood as literature rather than just history was the way the book skipped from viewpoint to viewpoint and was told from various perspectives. It did appear to be told from Perry s point of view more often than Dick s and the reader has to wonder if Capote actually liked Perry and not Dick. This again is bringing the concept of the author s personal opinion to light. Perry was shown in a more positive perspective and was portrayed as a man who had been so mistreated that it was inevitable that his life should come to this point. Yet with Dick, Capote wrote of him as though he had a good life and he just chose to become greedy and screwed it all up, with no regard for his family. Dick comes across as a pathetic sex crazed pedophile while Perry seems like a good guy who had a few bad breaks and became unglued. This is an excellent representation of the author effectively imposing his opinions and instincts on to the reader.
In most historical works there is a clear time line with the facts laid out for the reader. Capote does not do that and therefore again breaks away from the typical historical work. On page 57, the last paragraph, we read that Perry and Dick arrive at the Clutter ranch and the next few pages jump to the finding of the bodies. This is an effective way to capture the attention of the reader and keep them wondering and reading on to see what happened and how it happened, which is literature not strictly history.