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Narrative Style of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood

In Cold Blood – Narrative Style

Capote’s structure in In Cold Blood is a subject that deserves discussion. The book is told from two alternating perspectives, that of the Clutter family who are the victims, and that of the two murderers, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. The different perspectives allow the reader to relive both sides of the story; Capote presents them without bias. Capote masterfully utilizes the third person omniscient point of view to express the two perspectives. The non-chronological sequencing of some events emphasizes key scenes.

The victims, the murderers, the victims, the murderers,…– this is the pattern throughout the first two of the three parts of In Cold Blood. During these first two parts of the novel, the reader is gathering pieces of the puzzle leading up to the slaughtering of the Clutter family. Ultimately, the paths of the murderers and their victims come together and climax in the multiple shotgun murders.

The alternating perspective enables the reader to assimilate both sides of the story. For example, in part one, ” Nancy and her musi…

A Chilling Perspective in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood

A Chilling Perspective in Capote’s In Cold Blood

Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” is the story of Perry and Dick and the night of November 15, 1959. This investigative, fast-paced and straightforward documentary provides a commentary on the nature of American violence and examines the details of the motiveless murders of four members of the Clutter family and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers.

While reading Truman Capote’s novel,”In Cold Blood “, I spent more than one night lying awake in my bed, frightened by Capote’s presentation of the facts surrounding the murder of an obscure Kansas farmer and three of his family members. Several times, I caught myself wondering why this book was having such an effect on me and why it seemed so realistic to me. Initially, I thought the answer to be that the book was a true account–these things had actually happened, and they were not simply a fictional story produced by some author’s imagination. As I progressed farther into the novel, however, I realized it wasn’t just the horrific story of these murders that was bothering me, but an aspect of how Capote told the story that made me uneasy.

Unlike many other murder stories, Capote not only discusses the criminals and their role in the crime, but their childhoods, their lives right before the crime, and their lives after the conviction until the executions. In an interview with “Playboy” magazine in 1968, Capote has been quoted as saying that the night of April 14, 1965, the night both Dick Hickock and Perry Smith were executed, was “the worst night of my life.” Capote referred to these two men as very good friends of his and went as far as to say that they may have been the best…

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…th’s soul, “the prisoner spat his chewing gum into the chaplain’s outstretched palm” (340). Furthermore, Hickock sees it as another day when one of the inmates whom he had become friendly with while on Death Row hung. Hickock remarks, “Old Andy, he danced a long time. They must have had a real mess to clean up” (331).

Truman Capote is definitely convinced that these two men were products of the anger, rage, and isolation they felt from a very early age. This was one of the main contributors to their low emphasis on human life, including their own, and therefore what enabled them to take the lives of four innocent people. Capote’s emphasis on the lives of the criminals and how their lives related to their actions is what makes the novel, “In Cold Blood” disturbing to the reader.

Works Cited:

Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood. New York: Random House, 1965.

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