Herb Clutter and his family possess it. Dick and Perry want it. It is often associated with the ideal existence. What is “it” exactly? “It” refers to financial stability. This is the state of not having to fret about paying the bills or providing for one’s family and of not having to worry if one will eat on a given day. The concept of financial stability is central in the novel written by Truman Capote and inspired by real events entitled In Cold Blood. This issue is the backbone of the novel and is the chief motive for the murders committed in the story. Additionally, financial stability is an important component in the typical view of the “American dream.” It is fair to say that the Clutters embody this concept, which involves a pattern of social and personal virtue that is accompanied by financial stability. The opposite seems true for those characters of Dick and Perry who fail to exhibit virtuous behaviors and therefore, never attain financial stability. These characters embody the “American nightmare.” Capote argues in his story that tragedy is not confined to the latter category and life is indeed a fragile thing.
It may seem risky to say that a person who has attained financial stability has done so by exhibiting virtue. While in the real world this statement might not hold true, it is supported within the context of Capote’s story. He introduces the Clutters as a financially stable family and as the embodiment of the “American dream.” He illustrates the virtues of Herb Clutter by stating “his name was everywhere respectfully recognized” (6) and “he was known for his equanimity, his charitableness, and the fact that he paid good wages” (10). Capote, when speaking of what Herb wanted to obtain in the world, says he “had in large measure obtained it” (6). Herb was a successful father, husband, businessman, and politician according to Capote’s account. The success of his farmland was a direct result of his hard work (11-12). In addition, Herb was very prudent with his money. He never carried cash (46) and he was excellent at storing his assets (11). Herb Clutter obtained financial stability for his family through virtuous means. Thus his family, with respect to financial stability, embodied the “American dream.”
Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, however, were not known for their virtue and respectability. While it is true...
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...ch as the ones above. It was tragic that Dick and Perry lost their lives, but such an occurrence coincides with the idea of the “American nightmare.” Society expects that people like Dick and Perry will be brought to justice and that people like the Clutters will live in peace and fulfillment. Capote argues that while we want things to work out this way it is inevitable that tragedy will strike some of those who embody the “American dream.”
Herb Clutter, a man of described virtue, was blessed with respect from his peers and financial stability. Within the concept of the “American dream” virtuous people are always rewarded with financial stability. Conversely, Dick and Perry, who Capote depicts as the embodiment of the “American nightmare,” do not exhibit virtuous behavior and therefore, never experience the stability and respect that the Clutter’s experience. The distinction between the “American nightmare” and the “American dream” is easy to see. Capote argues, however, that these concepts do not hold true all of the time and that tragedy strikes even those who are the most virtuous. Thus, we must understand that life is fragile and no one is impregnable to tragedy.
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