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Name: Andrew Foley

Major Works Data Sheet:


Title: In Cold Blood
Author: Truman Capote
Date of Publication: 1966
Genre: Nonfiction Novel
Historical information about the setting:

The setting of In Cold Blood takes place mostly in


Holcomb, Kansas. There were no violent crimes or
murders before the murders of the Clutters, as this
book was based on, in Holcomb, Kansas. The town
is mainly a small, agrarian community and has
been so since the mid 19tth century.

Biographical information about the author:


Truman Capotes life was one of dizzying highs and
devastating lows. Born in New Orleans to a teenage
mother, Capote was sent at a very young age to live
with his aunts and cousins in Monroeville, Alabama.
There, he became friends with Harper Lee (author
of To Kill a Mockingbird), and their friendship lasted for
the remainder of Capotes life. Openly homosexual at
a time when essentially no one else was, and a
theatrical person to boot, Capote cut quite a figure
with the publication of his first book, Other Voices,
Other Rooms(1948). 1966s In Cold Blood is
considered by many to be his crowning achievement.
After the towering success of In Cold Blood, Truman
spent the rest of his life working on an
autobiographical tell-all book called Answered
Prayers, which was never completed. Capote died of
liver cancer (a complication of alcoholism) in 1984.
Characteristics of the genre:

As the genre was apparently invented by Truman Capote, he


used a lot of detailed, accurate accounts of the perspectives of
the 2 killers, the clutters and all the people involved in the
story. Lots of accurate descriptions, encounters, details, and
other similar methods to create the first ever genre of
nonfiction novel.

Plot summary:

Herbert Clutter inspects his ranch on the morning of November 14, 1959. That same morning, on the
other side of Kansas, Perry Smith meets up with Dick Hickock. While the Clutters go about their daily
business, running errands and baking cherry pies, Hickock and Smith are tuning their car. After a long
drive, they pull up to the Clutter home with a shotgun and knife in hand. That morning, the bodies are
discovered by Susan Kidwell and another of Nancy's friends. Initially, the police are baffled. Bobby Rupp
is a suspect until he passes a lie detector test. Alvin Dewey, the KBI agent in charge of the investigation,
thinks that the killer must be someone close to the family. Rumor sets the small town of Holcomb on fire.
Hartman's Cafe is the center of numerous theories. Meanwhile, Perry and Dick have returned to Dick's
hometown of Olathe. Dick passes some hot checks, and the two flee to Mexico. Perry has always
dreamed of finding sunken treasure in Mexico. While the investigation in Kansas begins to methodically
follow up dead end leads, Perry and Dick spend some time entertaining a rich German tourist before they
run out of money in Mexico City. While packing to return to the states, Perry goes through his personal
belongings and remembers his childhood. His mother and father rode the rodeo circuit until they had a
falling out. Perry was passed from home to home as a child. Now, two of his three siblings have killed
themselves.

Major Works Data Sheet

Page 2

Describe the authors style:

Truman Capote, throughout creating this new


Nonfiction Novel, employed the use of lots of
rhetorical techniques and descriptive words. Some of
these consisted of the using syntax that consists of
short sentences, but with properly fitting descriptive
words that make the sentences flow and draw
attention. Not only thatbut it seems as if they go
together so well as if hed spent hours coming up
with the right words and orders in which to employ
them.

An example that demonstrates the style:

The village of Holcomb stands on the high


wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome
area that other Kansans call out there.
(pg. 1)

Memorable Quotes
Quote
This hitherto peaceful congregation of
neighbors and old friends had suddenly
to endure the unique experience of
distrusting each other; understandably,
they believed that the murderer was
among themselves.

They shared a doom against which


virtue was no defense.

I didnt want to harm the man. I


thought he was a very nice gentleman.
Soft-spoken. I thought so right up to the
moment I cut his throat.

I did make some advances towards the


Clutter girl when I was there. But Perry
never gave me a chance.

Nothing is more usual than to feel that


others have shared in our failures, just as
it is an ordinary reaction to forget those
who have shared in our achievements.

Significance
Holcomb was a small village where everyone knew everyone else
and trusted their neighbors, or so it appeared. After the murders,
when there was no one arrested, the townspeople had no idea who
to trust. There was no definite motive for the murders, and for such
a small out there town it was strange for someone to just come in
and commit a brutal murder.
Perry has a harsh childhood and he ends up abandoned by his sister
because she fears that she will end up like him and like the rest of
their family. She ends up married and with a comfortable lifestyle,
but her brother and his constant struggles increase her fear that her
current happiness is only temporary.
This quote from Perry is one of the defining pieces of evidence for
those who believe that Perry was insane when he committed the
murders. He commits the murders not because he wants to hurt
anyone but because he takes out his own frustration at his situation
upon them.
Once again Perry is presented in a more favorable light than Dick.
Granted Perry killed the Clutters but at least he spared Nancy from
being raped by Dick. It is not much but it does show that Perry has
some sort of morality whereas Dick seems to have very little.
This quote is in response to Barbaras letter to Perry in which she
tells him that he is responsible for his good deeds and his failures,
and that he cannot credit them to anyone else. Yet for Barbara it is
easy for her to move forward and forget those that had an impact on
her life, because she is currently in a happy, stable home with a
family. For Perry, who has to struggle to survive and has no home,
it is not as easy to forgive those who may have had a negative
impact on his future. Perry feels that his family is responsible for
his failures because of how he was raised and yet Barbara feels as if
she alone is responsible for her good fortune despite how she was
raised. Just as Perry refuses to take responsibility for his failures
Barbara refuses to admit that she had help in her success.

Major Works Data Sheet


Name

Role in the story

Page 3
Characters
Significance
One of the 2 murders in the story, he
had a rough childhood which is
entailed throughout the story.

Perry Edward
Smith

One of the murderers

Richard Eugene
Hickock

The second murderer

He didnt have the soul to kill people,


as Perry testified to killing all 4 of the
clutters.

Herbert Clutter

Father of the clutters

Bonnie Clutter

Wife to Herbert

He bought a life insurance policy


right before he died. He was one of 1st
to die.
Wife to Herbert Clutter, one of last to
die.

Nancy Clutter

Daughter of Herbert
and bonnie.

Daughter to Herbert and bonny, she


suffered from mental problems.

Kenyon Clutter

Son of Herbert and


bonnie

Awkward 15 year old, loves


machines.

Bobby Rupp

Nancys stready
boyfriend

Nancy's steady boyfriend, Bobby


lives nearby.

Alvin Dewey

An investigator for the


Kansas Bureau of
Investigation

Dewey is the agent responsible for


much of western Kansas. He becomes
very involved in the case, to the
distress of his wife, Marie, and his
two small boys.

Harold Nye

KBI assistant

youngest of the group. During the


capture and interrogation of Smith
and Hickock, he has the flu.

Roy Church

The oldest of the KBI


assistants

Church is nicknamed "Curly" and is


supposedly the fastest draw in
Kansas.

Clarence Duntz

Another kbi assistant

Duntz is a burly man with a broad


face.

Tex John Smith

Floyd Wells
Lowell Lee
Andrews

Perrys father

Inmate at Lansing
prison.
young college student who
murdered his family.

Major Works Data Sheet

Adjectives

Perry's father, Tex is a kindly backwoodsman


who taught Perry to bake bread, but who never
comes to see his son in jail. Perry's mother is Flo
Buckskin, who Tex met and married on the rodeo
circuit.
After Perry leaves on parole, he became Dick's cellmate.
He is a former employee of Herbert Clutter, and he tells
Dick about the ranch and the layout of the house.
Andrews was a young college student who murdered his family.
He is a schizophrenic. Several of his years on death row overlap
with those of Dick and Perry. Perry resents the fact that Andrews
is highly educated.

Page 4

Setting

Significance of the opening scene

Holcomb is a small community in southwest


Kansas. Holcomb was a tiny community at the
time the Clutter family lived there, a place that
had been untouched by such tragedy until the
night of the Clutter family murders. After the
murders, people moved away or began locking
their doors, something they had never done
before. The Clutter murders forever altered this
small community.
River Valley Farm was the farm/ranch the Clutter
family owned. This farm/ranch was where Mr.
Clutter raised both cattle and wheat. Nancy
Clutter also had a horse, Babe, that she loved
very much that was stabled there. The farm was
a large, successful one, due in large part to the
new and innovative techniques Herb Clutter
learned in college. Clutter was also a kind
employer who would often give his employees
bonuses.

The book opens with Capote's description


of western Kansas, where the story takes
place, emphasizing particularly the
openness of the landscape, where horses,
herds of cattle, a white cluster of grain
elevators rising as gracefully as Greek
temples are visible long before a traveler
reaches them. This is the kind of
landscape where one could never hide, so
open and empty that not a soul sleeping
in Holcomb heard themfour shotgun blasts
that, all told, ended six human lives.

Symbols
During his stint in the Garden City county
jail, Perry Smith notices two gray cats prowling
around the town square. The cats come out
every night and pick dead birds from the
grilles of automobiles. Perry realizes that his
life is a lot like theirs, given that he lives on
the outskirts of society and picks at whatever
scraps he can find. The two cats could be seen
as being analogous to Dick Hickok and Perry.
Kansas State Penitentiary death row is housed
in a coffin-shaped building, which clearly (and
somewhat ham-handedly) symbolizes the end
of the line forPerry Smith and Dick Hickok. The
cells in Death Row look out on the shed that
houses that gallows, known by the inmates as
The Corner.

Significance of the ending/closing scene

This ending, which even Capote


finally admitted never actually took
place, is open to a lot of
interpretations. One of them would
be that time passes and tragedies
recede into the past. Bobby grew
up and married somebody else;
Susan went on to college anyway.
The problem with this kind of
interpretation of the ending is that
it's hopeless and fatalistic. Perry
and Dick were right: rules are
meaningless, do whatever you
want, nothing matters.

Possible Themes

First, it is a commentary on the American Dream. Herb Clutter has made a wonderful life for
himself--his daughter, after all, bakes pies. But Herb Clutter's American idyll is abruptly and
arbitrarily shattered by two petty criminals. The American dream is fragile, and it only functions
if marginal people (ex-cons) are not present.
nature vs. nurture. For example, did the killers become this way because of the environment in
which they were raised, or is there some innate evil about these men that propelled their henious
crimes? Through his extensive interviews, Capote tries to get to the bottom of this question. In
the end, it seems that nurture may have played a larger role, but nature may also have played a
significant part. Many people who have similiar background (alcoholic parents, suicide, abuse)
do not go on to become killers.