Use of Characterization in Truman Capote's In Cold Blood

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In Cold Blood: Effective Use of Characterization Capote's extensive characterization is a key element of In Cold Blood. The characters can be divided into three groups: the Clutter family, the two murderers, and the characters who were emotionally attached to the murder. Each killer's psyche is researched by Capote, and each is individualized by his specific psyche. Capote goes to great lengths to show that the townspeople viewed the Clutter family as an ideal American family. Mr. Herbert Clutter was the most successful farmer in Holcomb: "He was, however, the community's most widely known citizen, prominent both there and in Garden City, the close dash by county seat..." (6). Capote details his numerous activities, including filling a position in the Federal Farm Credit Board during the Eisenhower administration. He was also "chairman of the Kansas Conference of Farm Organizations and his name is everywhere respectfully recognized among Midwestern agriculturalists" (6). Capoteselects important details in characterizing each family member. The strongly admired Clutter family had four children, three girls and one boy. Daughter Nancy and son Kenyon lived at home, while the older two daughters had married and left home. Nancy Clutter, an attractive sixteen year old girl 'had been the town darling,' having distinguished herself as a straight-A student, the president of her class, a leader in the 4-H program and the Young Methodists League, a skillful rider, an excellent musician..." (Reed 104). Capote's details show that Kenyon Clutter was also well-liked. His "crew-cut hair is hemp colored: he was six feet tall and lanky, though hefty enough to have once rescued a pair of full grown sheep" (38). A y... ... middle of paper ... ..., praises Herb Clutter: "He was a modest man, but a proud man... He raised a fine family. He made something of his life" (79). The residents of Holcomb were described as being shocked yet inquisitive--the utmost respect for this family was the cause of this curiosity. To sum up, the residents of Holcomb, or the people emotionally attached to the murder, were characterized as being, respectful, gracious, and caring individuals. When considering In Cold Blood, the reader must take into account that Capote is not inventing people, he is conveying the lessons and experiences of real people. This style is not the norm because it is not the standard challenge of a novelist. However, by carefully selecting detail in describing the various personalities involved in the crime, Capote passes facts of all the characters to the reader in an easily understood fashion.

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