In Cold Blood Essay, Research Paper
"In Cold Blood" summary
Many times, people can find themselves thinking that nothing can hurt them. Things such as car accidents and robberies are all too common. Who would think to worry of such things as murder? No one would until something happens to wake everyone up, such as in Truman Capote?s "In Cold Blood". The book describes the almost unthinkable act of murder in a small town setting.
The novel is about the events and people surrounding the brutal slaying of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, a small western town. It covers the events leading up to the murders in both the victims’ and the murderers’ lives, the crime, and the aftermath, including the police investigation, trial,imprisonment, and eventual hanging of the two young murderers, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith.
In Cold Blood both begins and ends with descriptions of the wheat fields around Holcomb, Kansas. Capote has said that part of his reasoning for choosing to write about the Clutter murders was the remoteness of the setting. He wanted to broaden his writing subjects beyond the too-narrow personal world with which most writers concern themselves. The setting of "In Cold Blood" matters very much to the symbolism of the plot.
The novel begins on the day that the murders take place. The Clutter family is going about their daily chores. Nancy, the town sweetheart, is contemplating about how she is to get all of her chores finished. Her father, brother, and mother are carrying on as they usually would on a Saturday morning. They are an extremely happy family that holds grudges with no one. Capote introduces the audience to the family on a personal level.
Just outside of the small town of Holcomb, Kansas awaits a man named Dick. He is waiting for a friend of his named Perry. Perry likes to travel. One of his hobbies is randomly picking a destination on a map and just going there. This is partly the reason that Dick is waiting for him.
Dick?s real name is Richard Eugene Hickock. He was born on June 6th, 1931. He is a stout, blond man with blue eyes. He was imprisoned for many different crimes. He knew that Perry liked to travel. It was because of this that Dick was able to talk Perry into going on the road trip with him.
The well – planned road trip was destined to end up at the Clutter residence. This was by design of Dick. He was the one who wanted to kill the Clutters, and whoever happened to be at the house and in the way at the time of the murders. The motive for the murders was that the Clutters were rich, even though they were extremely modest about their wealth and fame. Dick came upon the knowledge of the family?s wealth by a prisoner who was celled with Dick and had worked for the Clutters. The prisoner meant no harm in telling Dick, as the Clutters had never mistreated him, he was merely conversing.
Years passed from the time that Dick and his fellow prisoner had their discussions about the Clutters. Then, the day came: the final day of the Clutter family?s life. The tragic day of November 14, 1959. The tragedy was discovered on a Sunday morning when a young lady, by the name of Nancy Ewalt, came to the Clutter residence to get a ride to church. When she knocked on the door, no one answered. This was highly unusual, as the Clutters never slept in to miss church.
The sheriff was called out to the Clutters from a near-by teacherage by Mr. Ewalt (Nancy?s father). When the sheriff got to the Clutter residence, he and Mr. Ewalt entered the house. They climbed the stairs to come to Nancy?s bedroom first. When they opened the door, they were more than shocked. They saw Nancy lying on her bed shot in the back of the head. There was blood splattered onto the walls, and her hands and feet were tied together.
Next, came Mrs. Clutter who was in her room and had also been shot. The third person to be found was Kenyon, the Clutter son. He was in the basement, or game room, lying on the couch. He had been shot point – blank in the forehead.
Last, but certainly not least, came Mr. Clutter. He was shot the same way as Kenyon. Mr. Clutter was lying on the floor on a card board box, which seemed to have been placed there by the murderers. His throat had also been cut.
A few days after the incident had occurred, the fellow ranchers and
neighbors took on the job of cleaning the Clutter home. They saw it as the Christian thing to do. The men were equipped with mops and cleaning supplies. They removed all of the blood – soiled furniture and took it to burn, as there was no use for it any longer.
In the same time – frame that the cleanings were taking place, Dick?s old cell mate, Floyd Wells was in jail listening to the radio. He heard that the Clutter family had been brutally slain in their home. He couldn?t believe his ears. Though Dick had talked of killing the family, he had never taken the man seriously. Now Mr. Wells was faced with a grave decision: to tell or not to tell. If he told, he was afraid that someone would find out that it was him who
had told, and he would be hurt. On the other hand, the Clutter family had always been nice to him and never treated him badly.
Floyd confided in a fellow prisoner who was of Christian sorts. The Christian told Floyd not to worry about the situation, he would take care of it for him. A few days later, a guard came to see Floyd about the murder. He was greatly relieve that he wasn?t the one who had told the guards.
While being questioned, Floyd told the officers everything he knew. He told of Dick?s plans and of what they had discussed. This was the best thing that Floyd could?ve done, as no one needs to carry that kind of knowledge around inside of them. This led to the capture and arrest of Dick and Perry.
While imprisoned, Perry and Dick considered Capote a true friend and wanted his help to get a pardon. Capote felt torn by his affections for the two and by the knowledge of the horrific murders they had committed. This is where the novel shows the extremely personal side of the characters. It shows how Capote got inside of the story and was able to evaluate all angles and views.
"In Cold Blood" read like a novel, with a plot line, vivid scenes, great characterization and good dialogue. Most incredible of all, the thoughts of the characters were present. Themes of abandonment, homosexuality, loneliness and reversal of child/adult roles run through this work. Even though Capote is objective, he as the writer influences the reader.
Capote used certain writing techniques to make his work more interresting. He gives us “false clues,” like in a mystery. He uses symbolism, like when he describes Dick’s face and Perry’s legs as “twisted.” Capote did not begin the book with the murder scene. Instead, he gave the reader a view of the Clutters as people, not merely impersonal victims. Capote found those little details about the Clutters, Perry, and Dick that make them real to the reader: Herb crunching an apple for breakfast, Nancy helping a neighbor girl bake her first cherry pie, Perry’s dream of becoming the show-stopping entertainer “Perry O’Parsons,” Nancy’s affection for the fat old horse Babe, Kenyon’s “Coyote Wagon,” Mrs. Clutter’s fascination with miniatures. Perry and Dick are real people, not just abstract villains, and Capote also created conflict there. The reader is
mortified by the murders, and yet there can also be something close to pity felt for the murderers. Capote has brought to light the complexities of human nature by learning and sharing with the reader the motivations of these two murderers.
Switching back and forth between Dick and Perry and the people in
Holcomb creates tension by “teasing” the reader with details and then quickly moving to the other story line.
On the surface, it is distant, factual. But, after literally years of research and interviews, Capote can just as easily take us deep into the minds of the principle players. It is there that you discover the truly disturbing elements of “In Cold Blood”. Readers are allowed to hear the inner thoughts of the Clutters, their neighbors, and the F.B.I. investigators assigned to the case. But none of these are as potent characters as the killers, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. In these two, Capote unearths a kind of easygoing malevolence that is especially sinister for it’s offhandedness. The author’s use of internal voice makes it easy to forget that the story is true. But the plainspoken sentiments of Hickock and Smith — villains too well conceived to be imaginary — repeatedly jerk you out of a safe reading distance and remind you that all this really happened. In the end, it is not the inhumanity of their actions that is so chilling. It is the bland, petty, all too familiar humanity behind those actions. The book follows the story to the trial and execution of the killers, and spares few details throughout.
I believe that by looking back to Holcomb, Kansas is a good reminder that the real world is sufficiently dark and disturbing on its own. This was an excellent book that I would recommend to anyone who likes those ?edge-of-your-seat? thrillers. Though this book was made into a mini-series, I don?t see how the audience could become closer to the characters. This was a highly enjoyable book. This is one of the very few books that I have thoroughly enjoyed as a reader.