Truman Capote's In Cold Blood

Truman Capote's In Cold Blood

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"In cold blood" by Truman Capote is a griping, true story about the mass murder of (on)? a respectful and beloved family in Northern Kansas. The lives of four people were taken on September 15th 1959 when two young men broke into their home with the intention of robbing their safe which was supposed to contain 10,000 dollars. But the source that had given them the information about the safe had been incorrect and they walked out the house with only 40 dollars and a radio, but with the responsibility of (have taken four lives). The death of the four family members was an unnecessary and brutal action by the two criminals. Capote describes in detail the persons and places involved in the murder. He also creates an intimacy between the reader and the murderers, the victims, the townspeople, and the investigators. Since this intimacy is created between the murderers and the reader, sympathy arises for the two young killers, which at times can be disturbing as you don't want to feel sorry for someone who has committed such an awful crime. Even if you have compassion for the killers Capotes still writes objectivity which allows the reader to form its own opinion of the characters. Sometimes it is hard to follow the novel since Capote doesn't write the story in complete chronological order and since he mention many names which at times may not have a big part or an important part to the story.

The Clutter family lives in a small town called Holcomb. Herbert Clutter is a successful farmer and a natural born leader. He is among other things chairman of Kansas Conference of Organizations and he is a widely known citizen, prominent in both Holcomb and Garden City.
His wife is invalid and has been a psychiatric patient for the last half dozen years. Even though, Mr. Clutter's loyalty to his wife will never cease.
Mr. and Mrs. Clutter have four children, three daughters and one son. Eveanna is the eldest one and lives in northern Illinois with her baby boy and her husband. Beverly, the second eldest, is engaged and is scheduled for wedding by Christmas. Their two youngest children still lives at home, Kenyon and his one year older sister Nancy. Both Kenyon and Nancy are honour-roll, straight-A students. Nancy is president of her class, a leader in the 4-h programme and the young Methodist League, a skilled rider and an excellent musician.

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The Clutters being very religious goes to church regular every Sundays. The Clutters lives the perfect American life with no flaws. When they were murdered the residents of Holcomb were frightened and confused since there was no one who didn't like the Clutters. The death of the family was uncomprehending and without motivation. Everyone knew that Mr. Clutter never kept a safe, and therefore robbery was excluded.

The Clutters killers, Perry Edward Smith and Richard Eugene Hickock (also known as Dick), comes from two very different worlds. Perry Smith's history was violent and broken. He grew up without love and lack of concern from both his parents.
He was half Cherokee (from his mother's side) and half Irish (his fathers side naturally). He had inherited his dark skin and hair and moist eyes from his mother; you couldn't see much trace from his father though. He was short but with broad shoulders. He had injured his legs in a motorcycle accident which had left him with disfigured legs and an aspirin addiction. When his mother left his father she took all the children with her. But Perry missed his dad and he had on several occasions during three years run of to find his lost father. He despised his mother since she was an alcoholic and had lost her self-respect by bringing home strange men. His mother couldn't control Perry and sent him to a Catholic orphanage where they abused him every time he wet his bed, and therefore he had an aversion to nuns, God, and religion. Perry only got to finish third grade because when his father came and found him Perry moved in with him, and he wasn't allowed to go further in school. He loved to read, to extend his vocabulary, and write poems and lyrics to play on his guitar. He often daydreamed of playing the guitar in a bar in Las Vegas where many celebrities would be and watch. Perry always travelled with his worldly belongings; one cardboard suitcase, a guitar, and two big boxes of books and maps and songs, poems and old letters. Perry also daydreamed about finding the Treasure of the Sierra Madre and that aim convinced him to go with Dick to the Clutters place. If he only could get to Mexico he was certain he would find his treasure.
Perry was a small and quiet. If you'd meet him in a store you would never suspect he was responsible for killing a whole family. He chooses his word carefully and has a good vocabulary even though he never attended upper school. But inside him lies an enormous amount of anger which he at times can not control. He has his always been "bossed" around by his father, and when he held the gun towards Herbert Clutter he felt the power inside him, he was in control, the boss. That pushed him till pull the trigger.

Dick Hickock had a normal home life. Financially, they survived, even though they were many time on the erg to bankruptcy. His mother and father were well liked in their community even if Dick at times got into trouble. He finished high school with good grades and wanted to continue on to college but his parents couldn't afford it. Instead he got a job and got married (they later divorced). Hickock had also experienced an accident, it was a car accident which had scarred his face and put an unnerving asymmetry into his face. So why did such a normal boy commit such a horrifying crime? I believe that the answer to that question was money, as it always is. Dick was obsessed with money and when he was working he spent more than he made. That drove into starting writing bad checks. But another important answer was also because he had paedophiliac tendencies. He wrote in a letter: "I think the main reason I went there (the Clutters house) was not to rob them but to rape the girl. Because I thought a lot about it. That is one reason why I never wanted to turn back when we started to. Even when I saw there was no safe. I did make some advances to the Clutter girl when I was there. But Perry never gave me a chance." (Page 229)

When the story of Perry Smith's childhood is told it is obvious why he in his adult life was able to commit such a terrible crime. He was abused as a child; he never learned the moral values and grew up without directions. When asked if he regretted his actions he said: "Am I sorry? If that's what you mean – I'm not. I don't feel anything about it. I wish I did. But nothing about it bothers me a bit. Half an hour after I happened, Dick was making jokes and I was laughing at them. Maybe we're not human. I'm human enough to feel sorry for myself."
That concludes the fact that Perry had no moral values and never been told what was right and wrong. Although he didn't regret his deeds, he was aware of that his behaviours weren't "human".

To come to conclusion I find the novel rather depressing and sad. It is not sad simply because four innocent people were slaughtered, but also because you pity the two killers and want to help them. Perry, abused his whole childhood and never gotten the chance to get an education, dreaming of singing at a nightclub and finding a treasure. Dick wanted a glamorous and rich life, and he was jealous of those people who were wealthy. He repeatedly said: "I am no goddam killer". And though he never pulled the trigger, he was still responsible of what occurred in the house.

Perry and Dick were hanged April 14th 1965 guilty of slaughtering a family of four in cold blood.
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