Truman Capote's In Cold Blood

Truman Capote's In Cold Blood

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Truman Capote’s non-fiction novel, In Cold Blood, was a breakthrough in literacy in that it was accredited as the first non-fiction novel. There was a lot of controversy when the book was first published because of the incredibility of the work. This could be expected in that time, because people where not familiar with the concept of non-fiction novels yet, but this is where the beauty of this style of writing lies, the recreation of the truth. It would have been impossible for Capote to have documented the occurrence fully, because he only read about the murder after it had happen, after all, this was not what he wanted to do. Capote got a lot of criticism for the book, because of him bending the truth, putting in scenes that never happened and his ways of gathering information, but people still saw the talent that went into creating the non-fiction novel. Truman Capote will forever be recognized for this novel and the contribution he made to literacy. In this essay we will be discussing the strengths and weaknesses of In Cold Blood when it delivers facts and the credibility of the work. We will also be discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the novel when Capote bends reality and ad some parts of fiction.

Capote never intended for In Cold Blood to be a documentary of the multiple murder that happened in the small town of Holcomb. When Capote published his novel, people where not familiar with non-fiction novels. People knew of the murders that had happened and started criticizing the book for not being truthful to what had really happened. This novel can not be looked at as journalism, which is often the mistake people made and still make today. Although there are many facts within the novel, the story that is being told is not always credible. Capote has also been criticized for his method of gathering information, because he did not take notes or record his interviews. Capote said that he had tested himself and that he had a 95% memory recall, but this was not always trusted by critics.Capote had made a mistake by telling the public that every word in the novel was true, this just opened him up for critics and journalists to challenge his bold statement.

A big issue with In Cold Blood is also the ethical aspect of the novel. Capote was not always truthful with Dick and Perry and even blatantly lied to them to get more information for his book.

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Upon discovering by Dick and Perry that the book would be called In Cold Blood, Capote lied to them telling them that they were wrong and that the book was far from finished and that he might not even finish it. Another big issue that the critics had with the novel, was how much Capote had changed Perry’s character to make people feel sorry for him. Capote watched Dick being hanged, but could not bare to watch Perry hang, this also made people think that he had feelings for Perry, and that the character in the book was not represented truthful. The priest that was at the execution also said that Capote had lied in his novel about Dick wanting to rape Nancy before they killed her, and told this to dick’s son to not make him think his father was a rapist. Capote even asked someone if he could use his name in the book instead of using his own, to refer to a conversation that Capote had with Perry. Something Capote was also criticized for was that the book had an ending that never even happened and this was confirmed by Detective Dewey who was, according to Capote, in the scene at the clutters grave talking with Nancy Clutter’s friend Susan Kidwell.

In Cold Blood could not be seen as documented journalism. It is true that the novel is based on true accounts, but not with enough precision to be labeled as such. There are also too many ethical violations for it to be a documentary. Capote knew that he was not writing a documentary but made a mistake by advertising that every word of his book was true, because it was not. He was not objective enough for it all to be true. His dislike in small towns was reflective in his description of Holcomb, the same as his liking in Perry was reflective of his description in the book.Although his novel is based on true events, real people and real places, it is just not credible enough to be seen as journalism.

The true art of the non-fiction novel is the missing information that is filled in by the author. Capote does a good job of recreating what had happened before the murders took place. He had a subjective view of Holcomb in the introduction, but he describes it skillfully, trying to bring out the contrast of the quiet small town and the events that were going to take place there. With the extensive research that was done by Capote, he could formulate a good picture of what had happened before the murder. He uses a technique where he splits the story in two, and then moving from one scene with the Clutter family, too the murderers, Dick and Perry and then later between the murderers and the investigating detectives. This allows the reader to constantly be aware of what was taking place and when it had happened. Capote also uses it to create more suspense in the story, leaving you after every scene wanting to know more.

Capote used a third person, omniscient point of view in writing the non-fiction novel. This allowed him to convey the thoughts of some of the characters, allowing the reader to be inside the characters mind, experiencing the emotional reality of each scene. This is what makes it a non-fiction novel, the story that was formed by adding little bits of information created by the author. In Cold Blood is much more effective when it modifies the truth, because those little pieces of added information are what really change this tragic occurrence into a gripping story. The added information is what turns an occurrence into a story. It is the creativity of the author that determines weather these added pieces are in correspondence to the facts of the story.

Capote’s In Cold Blood, should not be seen as a documentary of true facts, but as what it is, a non-fiction novel. The book received a lot criticism through the years for not representing what happened completely truthful, but this is not what Capote wanted to do. There are too many inaccuracy’s, added information, added scenes and to much of the authors feelings involved for it to be journalism. Many people feel that Capote used a tragic occurrence to make money out of, but this was not the case. He wanted to write a non-fiction novel. In Cold Blood is about real people, places and events, but some parts of it are changed and put in the story to make it a more exciting story, because that is what it is, a story.

Jensen, V. “Writing History: Capote’s Novel has lasting Effect on Journalism”
In LJ, Archive for Sunday, April 3 2005.

Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood. London: Penguin Books
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