Truman Capote's In Cold Blood: A Nonfiction Murder Mystery

Truman Capote's In Cold Blood: A Nonfiction Murder Mystery

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In Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, the author uses a style of writing combining factual, journalistic writing with the mystery and intrigue normally found in traditional fiction novels to develop a new genre that critics found unique from the modernists of his time. In the beginning of this book, the murders and victims seem unrelated, but as the book moves ahead, the relationship becomes clear. The victims, who are the Clutter family of four, are the typical all-American family. The family is murdered in their own home by two ex-convicts named Dick and Perry. The murder takes place in Holcomb, Kansas, but Dick and Perry travel around the U.S. and Mexico cashing bad checks until they are finally caught in Las Vegas.
     Capote’s general style revolves around a family and home destroyed within a context of hidden corruption, alienation, and loneliness (Kazin). His sympathy and compassion towards his characters shows how involved he is in his subjects.
     Capote’s writing style in the book In Cold Blood is very straightforward. He writes from an omniscient point of view. In preparing to write In Cold Blood, Mr. Capote lived in the town for five years. In the course of that time, he interviewed everyone including the two murders Dick and Perry. H had taken over 6,000 pages of notes. Each scene in the book is climatic like a movie (Kazin). They go back and forth the investigation in Kansas to the adventures of the murders. The writing and scenes are visual (Kazin).
     Truman Capote’s writing falls into the modernism period. The Clutter family represents the ideal American family. The father is a successful farmer and a prominent figure in the town. The daughter is the all-American girl “…be a straight-A student, the president of her class, a leader in the 4-H program and the Young Methodists League, a skilled rider, an excellent musician (piano, clarinet), an annual winner at the county fair (pastry, preserves, needlework, flower arrangement)…” (18). Capote is also experimental with his formatting of the book by cutting from scene to scene to make the reader feel as if they are reading two stories at the same time. That reinforces the thought and fact that the two things are happening at the same time.
     This book can be considered both journalism and novelism (Langbaum).

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It sounds like a mixture of a news paper article and a mystery novel. It’s presented as a bundle of letters, a journal, and an autobiography, like life itself (Langbaum). The writing in a way even seems like a documentary (Kazin).
     Using modernist styles, Capote took a different approach to retell a murder mystery. In the process, he contributed towards the establishment of a serious new literary form: the nonfiction novel (Langbaum). This outspoken author has added a new genre to literature and has gained critics’ respect in the process.
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