In Cold Blood
The Corner: 2 of 2
The high society of Garden City comes to the courtroom to hear the summations of the case. Judge Tate is famous for his addresses to the jury. He calls for the death penalty, and they return it. He had asked the jury not to be "chicken-hearted," and as the two prisoners leave the courtroom, Perry says to Dick, "No chicken-hearted jurors, they," and they both laugh out loud.
In the corner of Lansing Penitentiary is a small enclosure, Death Row. It is known as "the Corner." Along with Dick and Perry, there are three prisoners. One is the famous Lowell Lee Andrews, a young biology student who slaughtered his family and then confessed. He is certifiably schizophrenic, and a book arguing against the M'Naghten Rule was based on him.
Dick passes the time smoking and reading erotic novels and law books. He constantly writes to various organizations requesting help with appeals. Meanwhile Perry tries to starve himself to death. Then--upon receiving a letter from his father--decides he wants to live. Two years of postponed execution dates fly by.
The prisoners are eventually joined by George York and James Latham, two AWOL (absent without leave) soldiers--teenagers who went on a killing spree across the country having decided that they hated life.
One of Dick's letters works. A representative of the Kansas bar association, a man named Shultz, takes up the case. A hearing is held, claiming that the jury was prejudiced, that the state-appointed defense did not try hard enough, and that Judge Tate was biased. But Tate, the lawyers, and the jury quickly and fiercely dispel any doubt that Dick and Perry had a fair trial.
Talking to a journalist who is periodically allowed to visit, Dick describes the night Andrews is executed. Dick liked Andrews, but Andrews annoyed Perry because he was very educated and was constantly correcting Perry's speech, as Perry once corrected Dick's. Dick speaks about how he likes the other prisoners and about how he has tried to get along with Perry, whom he thinks is always jealous and two-faced. Dick says that he is not against the death penalty, for he understands the impulse for revenge.
After a total of five years--the case has been to the Supreme Court twice--Perry and Dick are hanged on April 15, 1965. Dewey attends the execution. He is surprised by how casual everyone is. Dick enters, says that he holds no hard feelings against the state, shakes hands with the four KBI officers, and is hanged. Perry enters and winks "mischievously" at Dewey. When asked for his last words, he sobers up. He says that he is against the death penalty and that he is sorry, and he is hanged. As he exits, Dewey does not feel relief; instead, he remembers a recent trip to the graveyard. There, he ran into Susan Kidwell, who was visiting the grave of Nancy Clutter. Susan told him about how well she was doing and how Bobby Rupp had just been married. The wind blows over the grass.
As the novel labors to its close, Capote again plays with narrative time at the execution. First, it is reported in the papers, then Dewey's experience at the execution is described. This removes the reader from the criminals. Dick was speaking intimately to a journalist, and then suddenly the reader learns about the macroscopic details of the court case and of the executions. Then the reader actually sees the executions, through Dewey's eyes.
Among other techniques employed to bring to the novel a tone of closure, Capote increasingly refers to Perry and Dick as Smith and Hickock. Using last names is a mannerism native to official uses--Capote is symbolically representing the distancing effect the trial has on the characters. The trial refers to them by their last names, and the "Dick and Perry" of the rest of the novel fade into courtroom entities. In many ways, this difference in name usage represents the fact that the trial and the book are otherwise similar. Although the trial is official, Capote's book is in many way a second trial, an attempt to make the average reader sympathize with Dick and Perry, or at least to make the reader understand the "tragedy" of their deaths.
If anything about In Cold Blood is more significant than the extent to which it "retries" Dick and Perry, it is its experimental nature. Is the "nonfiction novel" successful? Capote himself brings up this question as he begins to introduce himself as a character. Throughout the novel, he has painted detailed emotional portraits of many of his characters, making it obvious that he has interviewed them at length. But when, in the last section before the execution, Dick talks with "a journalist who was allowed to visit," that journalist's identity is as clear as daylight. Capote in a sense acknowledges the fact that he was a part of the events of the novel, too, because he was in communication with all the characters. Earlier, he writes that Perry's only friend was Don Cullivan, and one thinks that surely Capote was also becoming a friend. Throughout the novel, one is curious about the questions Capote asked. Now, finally, he makes a concession and admits that Dick was talking to a journalist who is surely Capote. It is a gracious gesture.
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