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Summary of in Cold Blood by Truman Capote

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Truman Capote’s novel In Cold Blood, published in 1966, is one of the most prominent examples of the “new journalism” literary genre. It tells the story of the murder of Gregory Clutter and his family, committed by two former convicts: Perry Smith and Richard Hickock

Truman Capote based his story on real life events, and thus all characters in his novel were non-fictional. Capote managed to uncover the psychology of the two mass murderers through interviews with them and with other figures of this grim case, and depicted complex motives that pushed Smith and Hickock towards committing the crime.

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Nearly 150 years separate Shelley and Capote from writing their novels, and this is apparent from their lexis and semantic choice. Shelley uses very archaic language, whereas Capote uses a more modern approach to novel writing; where the contemporary audience would understand his lexis choice more. Both novels have the recurring theme of ‘wasted lives’ throughout the novel: Some of the characters lives are wasted purely because they are murdered, whereas others are wasted because they didn’t fulfil their full potential. Mr Clutter in In Cold Blood can be seen as a wasted life as he was well respected by his colleagues, family and community, and the fact he was murdered ‘In Cold Blood’ creates pathos for him

The story of Justine in Frankenstein also creates pathos for Justine in the same way as she didn’t deserve to be killed; she was wrongly accused of the murder of William and this creates sympathy because she was a beloved part of the Frankenstein family. Both Mr Clutter and the story of Justine portray a strong sense of a wasted life for the reader; their stories and the way they die has a strong theme which correlates to the theme of wasted lives. The first descriptions of Mr Clutter portray him to be strong and bold. In the first sentence by Capote, he is characterised as the ‘master’ of River Valley Farm; this makes Mr Clutter seem like he isn’t just the owner, but someone who his workers respect and idolise. Before this initial introduction to Mr Clutter, Capote starts with a description of Holcomb, where Mr Clutter lives. Capote describes it very idyllically and luscious; and as the reader progresses they start to realise Capote is describing what people at the time thought of as the American dream. Capote starts with this description of the American dream because in Mr Clutter’s description, the reader starts to know that Mr Clutter is living what all American’s at the time idealised and wanted; to achieve prosperity, by having his own land and being happy with his family life. Capote also describes Mr Clutter in the first paragraph of description how he has a ‘man’s-man figure’. Further on Capote describes how Mr Clutter’s physical appearance makes him seem strong and able and how his teeth are ‘strong enough to shatter walnuts’. This very admired initial physical appearance of Mr Clutter after he has been epitomized as someone who is very successful in the world of work creates a man which people reading the novel at the time is was written, would want to be like. Mr Clutter’s family life is something to be admired by the reader and especially people at the time In Cold Blood was written. Having a strong family relationship which the reader can associate with, creates a big large sense of pathos for Mr Clutter, and his death can be seen as a wasted life. Capote describes how Mr Clutter has been married to his wife for a ‘quarter century’ and how he is proud of this by wearing a ‘plain gold band’ ‘on his left hand’. The fact that Capote portrays Mr Clutter to be someone to be epitomized creates even more sympathy for him when he is murdered by Dick and Perry, and seen to be by the audience a big wasted life. Capote illustrates how Mr Clutter ‘had wished to marry’ Bonnie, and the fact that 25 years later they are still married, creates this illusion that Mr Clutter got his “High School Sweetheart”; and this is something which the audience at the time In Cold Blood was written, even today’s contemporary audience, would admire and associate with.

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In my opinion, the family is a good example to the American family because it was a disciplined one. For instance, the time the girls got home was by ten during weekdays, and by twelve on Saturdays (Capote 7). In addition, Clutter is known by the neighbors in the surroundings to be a kind boss who ensured that his employees were responsible; hence, they served a good example to the Americans (Capote 10). The initial idea of robbing the Clutters came from Dick (Capote15). Despite Smith wanting to back off when they failed to find the safe they had gone for, Dick urged him to hang about and pursue through. He lied to him that there were no witnesses, making him to commit the murders (Capote15). Smith did not intend to commit the crime

However, due to the hardships and frustrations he had come across in life, he found himself seeking for revenge. To my mind, Dick was more responsible than Smith was; hence, he deserved a harsher punishment. This would surely lead to justice. The Clutter family is a symbol of the uppermost honesty of family life. Their decency is associated with the strength of their relations. They lead a thriving and admirable life. They are also famous and valued by neighborhood members (Capote 4). Moreover, they lead a regimented, but enjoyable and well-provided life.

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After all, the book In Cold Blood relates to our criminal justice system and its flaws. The author uses many terms and ideas of criminal justice throughout the text

Some of the main points have to deal with what caused the crime, how the community reacted, how the police tracked Dick and Perry down, and the court room process. Although Capote sees the death penalty as wrong in this case, Dick and Perry deserved to die because of what they did to the Clutter family and town of Holocomb.

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Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences. New York: Random House, 1966. Print.

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