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In Cold Blood

Truman Capote

The Corner: 1 of 2

The Answer: 2 of 2

The Corner: 2 of 2

Summary

The Garden City jail is on the fourth floor of the county courthouse. That floor is also the home of Wendle Meier, the assistant sheriff, and his wife, Josephine. The "ladies' cell" is part of their apartment, and so Perry becomes a part of it. Josephine finds him gentle, but her husband, who was at the scene of the crime, corrects her.

Perry keeps a journal in his cell. He corrects his earlier confession, saying that in fact he personally shot all four victims. He hears on the radio that the district attorney will seek the death penalty. Neither Perry's sister nor father come to visit him. He receives a letter from an old army friend, Don Cullivan, who read about the case in the papers. Don wants to be Perry's friend and tell him about Catholicism. Perry crafts an enthusiastic response, explaining how he doesn't believe in religion but would love to be Don's friend.

Meanwhile, Dick seems very relaxed, smoking and reading, but he is working on an icepick-like "shiv" crafted from a brush he stole, and planning escape.

Perry's diary continues. He notes that the sheriff searched the rooms and found Dick's "shiv." He fantasizes that some men he sees outside plan to rescue him, but nothing comes of it. He dreams of the big, yellow parrot that will rescue him.

The trial begins. The state-appointed counsel suggests a change of venue, but it is denied. A psychologist is called in. There is a request to delay the trial, because the Clutter estate sale will take place the day before the trial, but it is denied.

On the first day of the trial, the jury is selected. Perry pays little attention, focusing on the "autobiography" that the psychologist asked him to write. He writes disjointedly, but intensely, mentioning some of the more traumatic events of his life. Dick does the same, but is more casual, and pays some attention to the jury selection.

The next day, the state begins to present its case. Routine witnesses are called, such as those who were at the scene of the crime. Floyd Wells testifies. The trial progresses through the week; Dewey is the last to testify. His testimony is very important, because it is the first time the public has heard a description of what actually took place on the night of the murders. The fact that Dick wanted to rape Nancy Clutter shocks the courtroom.

Don Cullivan visits Perry in his jail cell. Attempts to convert Perry fail, but the two share a dinner Mrs. Meier has prepared.

On Monday, the defense makes its case. The only witness of substance is the psychologist. According to Kansas' M'Naghten Rule all a psychologist can do is testify whether or not a defendant could tell right from wrong at the time of the crime. In regards to Perry, the psychologist says that he is not sure, but the judge does not let him say anything further. Capote includes what the psychologist would have said, carefully diagnosing Perry as a potential paranoid schizophrenic.

Commentary

In these and the concluding chapters, Capote's opinion on the death penalty comes to the fore. It is obvious that Capote wants to make a political statement. First, he clearly opposes the M'Naghten Rule, or he would not have transcribed the psychologist's would-be statement. He wants to tell the reader what the court did not allow. Also, after this section, he quotes at length from a study done regarding insanity and the death penalty.

Much has been written about the way society regards insanity and punishes or addresses insanity, but here it is enough to say that Capote feels as much information should be made available to the jury as possible before the accused are condemned to death.

It is important to remember that the psychologist is not sure whether Perry is a paranoid schizophrenic or not. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges the reader faces is deciding for him- or herself whether Perry is crazy and whether his actions merit death.

As issues of insanity and sympathy circle Perry, Dick remains a simple character. He is the straight man; Perry is the complex figure. Dick tries to escape but fails; he curses at Floyd Wells as the snitch leaves the witness stand. Dick is the classic criminal. It is in Perry that Capote makes his case against the death penalty, and gives the novel a general sense of ambiguity.

More Help

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the confession

by Kyliecaye17, August 16, 2013

dick blamed the killing on perry. they said it was a robbery gone totally wrong the safe isn't there and then they end up killing the clutter family. perry killed keyon and herb while dick murdered bonnie and nancey they had no motive they came in the house with items to kill the family with but they were only going to kill the family if they got in the way of the robbery and when they came to find the safe was not there they decided to murder the witnesses.

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Question?

by TR1GG3R_D3M0N, August 22, 2013

How was In Cold Blood Related to the book Columbine by Dave Cullen?

Hey now

by boonabear, April 28, 2014

Well if this doesn't help much you can always go to Youtube and watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkCFb3Csg-4 she has several videos telling you a short summary plus more on the novel. Hope I helped
- queen slacker

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