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In Cold Blood by Truman Capote Essay

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Updated: Jul 2nd, 2020

Non-fiction novel is a story about real people and real events, set forth using the dramatic techniques inherent in the book. The founder of this genre is considered the American writer Truman Capote, who in 1965 wrote the first report in the form of the novel In Cold Blood. The author defined his work as a new genre – the novel non-fiction. The book immediately became a bestseller and is still considered one of the best novels non-fiction in the world. Accordingly, this paper strives to outline the author’s biography, summarize the novel, discuss the main characters, and provide a personal opinion to grasp the essence of the story.

The Author of the novel In Cold Blood

Truman Capote was born in New Orleans, where he lived the first eighteen years of his life. He began to write at the age of eight. When Truman was 19 years old, Mademoiselle Magazine published his story Miriam, which was awarded the O. Henry Prize (Bolling, 2016). In 1949, his collection The Tree of the Night and Other Stories was published, and in 1951 was published the story Voices of Grass. In 1948, his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, was released, which critics greeted with great enthusiasm.

Truman Capote was a childhood friend of the writer Harper Lee and became the prototype of Dill from her novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Capote was an open homosexual and stood out for eccentricity in his manners. He played several roles in the cinema, and in 1977 received a nomination for a film award in the category: Best Acting Debut in a Feature Film (Marsh, 2016). Tumen Capote died on August 25, 1984, from cirrhosis of the liver, which was caused by narcotic toxicosis when he was 59 years old (Caudill, 2016). The body of Kapote was cremated, Joan Carson and Capote’s lover Jack Dunphy shared the ashes. Many of his works were filmed, more than 20 films were shot, and the writer himself often acted in films. In 2005, Bennett Miller made the film Capote, which tells the story of how the novel In Cold Blood was written (Voss, 2015). The premiere of the film coincided with Truman’s birthday.

Summary of the novel

In Cold Blood was based on the stories of real crimes committed 1959 in Kansas, and reveals the nature of violence as a complex social and psychological phenomenon. Once in a calm and picturesque place called Holcomb, there was a terrible murder. Criminals brutally cracked down on a whole family, which enjoyed particular respect among residents, clutters was a sample in every sense. The head of the family, Herbert Clatter, did not drink, smoke, and was an exemplary family man who lives and works only for the sake of the loved ones (Caudill, 2016). Honest farmer, he made a substantial fortune for those places he owned a large estate. The writer did not initially conceal from readers what would happen to the Clatter family and who would commit a heinous crime (Bolling, 2016). However, it remains unknown whether the attackers will be punished. They believe that they have committed the perfect crime.

The New Yorker magazine published a note on the murder of a farmer’s family in the village of Holcomb – a mother, father, and two children (Marsh, 2016). Truman Capote became so interested in this atrocity that he even went to Holcomb, where he studied this matter in detail, talked with those who personally knew the dead. The result of the investigation was 8 thousand pages. However, subsequently, Capote reduced his work, and in 1996 the book was published (Caudill, 2016). This work has become the most significant in the creative biography of the writer.

Discussion of the main characters

Two young men are entirely different, except for prison; in fact, they are not united by anything. One of them, Perry Smith, was deprived of a normal childhood, early learned what orphans with living parents, what bullying is. The injury inflicted in childhood is incurable (Caudill, 2016). He is sensitive, like a predatory beast, and the pain sits like a compressed spring, which all the time due to lack of education, due to debauchery of the mother and many other things, lies in it like a compressed spring.

Nevertheless, another young man is no less dangerous Dick Hickock. He grew up in a family that always teetered on the verge of poverty and misery. However, he had beautiful parents who cared for him, loved him, and always believed in him (Marsh, 2016). His mother until the last day suffered from the fact that she could not understand how he had become such that she had missed. Dick was always interested in women, even more precisely, girls. Unlike Perry, he married early, and even twice (Bolling, 2016). He wanted to live in a big way and hated everyone who lived better than he did.

Personal Opinion

The name of the novel speaks for itself – In Cold Blood very unusual book format. All the time, there was a feeling that you were talking with these people who were reading about now as if they were sharing thoughts. Moreover, the events are narrated quite informatively, as a statement of facts. There is only one colossal minus presentation style (Marsh, 2016). Despite the apparent dramatic nature of the story, extraordinary and charismatic identities of the criminals, the entire text is a straight line, without any emotional ups or downs throughout the story. Even at the beginning, when the daily life and dreams of Nancy, a beautiful girl, the pride of family and her beloved surrounding, are described, and her brother Kenyon, who was promised brilliant success in science, the author’s speech does not lose its smoothness, even monotony, and absolute indifference. In addition, everything would be fine if the book was positioned as a dry documentary summary.


Capote wrote an excellent documentary novel, processing a considerable amount of operational information, studying the fate and characters of both victims and murderers. At the same time, recreating a holistic and convincing picture of the premises and consequences of this crime. The book of Capote testifies: the price of human life has dropped. Even for those who regularly attend church, the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” has lost its literal, indisputable meaning. The determining causes of the crime are the dysfunction of the world and society. Such is the objective, dramatic conclusion of the novel. However, the concept of “conclusion” can be used very conditionally.

Reference List

Bolling, B. (2016) ‘On the Make: Truman Capote, Seriality, and the Performance of Celebrity’. American Literature, 88(3), pp. 569-595.

Caudill, D. S. (2016) Stories about science in law: Literary and historical images of acquired expertise. New York: NY Routledge.

Marsh, L. (2016) ‘Murder, they wrote’. Dissent, 63(2), pp. 6-11.

Voss, R. F. (2015) Truman Capote and the Legacy of In Cold Blood. Alabama: AL University of Alabama Press.

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