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In Cold Blood

Truman Capote

Study Questions

Analysis

Review Quiz

Analyze the relationship between Dick and Perry.

Dick controls Perry. Perry, on the other hand, is much braver. The best example of this is the night of the murders. Dick masterminded the crime, and even when Perry wanted to leave, he insisted that they stay and look again for the safe. Of course, it is Perry who prevents Dick from raping Nancy, but the fact remains that Perry was reacting emotionally, on a case by case basis, to Dick's actions. Dick, on the other hand, was operating according to a plan, convincing Perry to go along with him. While Dick is more controlling, he grows attached to Perry and never manages to get rid of him, whatever he may say to himself.

While Dick may have usually been in control, Perry did most of the work. He was able to murder, and during interrogations, Dick cracked first. In many ways, Perry is the more romantic of the two; he is more interesting as a literary character. Dr. Jones, the psychologist brought in by the defense, calls Perry a paranoid schizophrenic. He is crazy; Dick is sane. Perry dreams of a giant parrot; when he tells Dick about the dream, Dick does not listen. Perry catches a huge blue fin fish, but Dick does not fish because he has a headache. While Perry worries about getting caught and wants to talk about it, Dick tells him to shut up. While Dick may be the controlling mastermind, he is a shallow character beside Perry.

How does Capote color the opening section with a sense of impending murder and doom?

First and most obviously, he titles the opening section "The Last to See Them Alive." Additionally, he describes the last day of Clutter family in great detail, always mentioning that it is their last. For example, he writes that Clutter "headed for home and the day's work, unaware that it would be his last." This counterbalances the fact that the reader knows the outcome of the story from the beginning. Because the Clutter murder and the subsequent trial actually happened, they were public knowledge, and so his contemporary readers knew the details of the case before they started the novel. Therefore, Capote emphasizes the coming deaths instead of making them surprises.

Does Capote take a stand on the death penalty?

Not explicitly. However, he does select details and construct his narrative in a way that let the reader become frustrated with the legal system. For example, although he makes sure the reader knows that Dewey believes Dick is ultimately responsible for the crime, this is not backed up by the rest of the book. The rest of the book is ultimately irresolute about whether or not Dick is responsible. So, when Dick complains that he shouldn't be executed because he hasn't killed anyone, Capote has invited us to sympathize with him. Capote also makes the reader sympathetic to Perry's case. Because Kansas law takes a very strict view of pleading insanity, the jury never learns that Dr. Jones has diagnosed Perry as a paranoid schizophrenic. Yet Capote writes a verbatim account of what the psychologist would have said had he been able to speak openly. Thus, Kansas and Judge Tate are implicitly blamed for not letting the jury know the truth about Perry's mental instability.

By poking holes in the condemnation of Dick and Perry, Capote implicitly argues that the death penalty is being used inappropriately, as a means to quell the fears and anger of Kansas citizens. After all, he includes the detail that the Kansas governor does not pardon them because he doesn't feel it would be "in the interest" of Kansas citizens.

What does the crime reveal about the town of Holcomb? How does the gossip surrounding the murders reflect underlying truths about the town?

Does In Cold Blood have a protagonist? Is it Herb Clutter? Dewey? Perry? Explain.

Why did Capote leave out descriptions of the two older Clutter sisters? Did the narrative benefit from this exlusion?

What role does "dreaming" play in the novel, both figuratively and literally? Think of Perry's dream of the parrot and of finding gold in Mexico, and of Dewey's nightmares. How reliable is what Capote tells us about these dreams?

How is montage used in In Cold Blood? In other words, how does the back- and-forth description of events in Holcomb and events surrounding Dick and Perry make the novel more vivid?

In what ways does Capote reveal the nature of his research through the construction of the book? Is it important that Capote himself is never named? Does his absence endanger the credibility of the narrative? Think of the Heisenberg Principle.

Is In Cold Blood a creative work? Is it more than journalism? Why or why not?

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.

2 Comments

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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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