In Cold Blood: the Reliability of Truman Capote

A Non-fiction Novel

Truman Capote wrote In Cold Blood as a literary experiment, his reliability to the book, and made it a “non-fiction novel.” He feels that he is one of the rare creative people serious about dealing with journalism. However, the debate between writers, scholars, and artists is still a question: whether the book is journalism, a creative work, or a novel. First of all, the readers can point out the artistic aspects of the book. Capote must make choices about the book’s structure, choose a starting and ending point, and choose the subject and order of each chapter between them.

In the first chapter, the chapter discusses the activities of the Clutter family alternately with a chapter about the preparations for the assassination that Hickock and Smith did. The readers have also seen Nancy Clutter baking a cake, reading about a montage-style murder tattoo, and the contrast of the following images creates a specific impression. At the time, the book is unique because no newspaper article has such a creative structure.

The Clutter Murder

Herbert Clutter inspected his ranch on the morning of November 14, 1959. That same morning, Perry Smith met up with Dick Hickock on the other side of Kansas. The two of them were setting up their car while the Clutters went about their daily business, running errands and baking cherry cakes. After a long journey, Hickock and Smith stopped at Clutter’s house with knives and rifles in hand. Susan Kidwell and another of Nancy’s friends found the body that morning. At first, the police were confused about where Bobby Rupp was the suspect until he passed the lie detector test. In charge of the investigation, a KBI agent, Alvin Dewey, thought that the murder must have been someone close to the family.

Rumors set the small town of Holcomb on fire, and Hartman’s Cafe became the center of many theories. On the other hand, Perry and Dick have returned to Dick’s hometown of Olathe. Dick went through several hot checks until the two fled to Mexico. Perry had always dreamed of finding treasure in Mexico. However, while the Kansas investigation follows up on dead-end leads methodically, Perry and Dick spend time entertaining wealthy German tourists before they run out of money in Mexico City. Perry checks his personal belongings and remembers his childhood while packing to return to the United States. His mom and dad rode the rodeo circuit until they fell. Perry was relegated from house to house as a child until two of his three siblings had committed suicide.

Dick and Perry

The Clutter murder investigation does not seem to be going anywhere. However, a man at the Kansas state prison in Lansing, Floyd Wells, heard of the murder case. Convinced that Dick Hickock was responsible, he began talking to the authorities. On the other hand, Dick and Perry are hitchhiking in the American desert, trying to steal a car, but failing. By this time, Floyd had confessed, and Dewey and his team began an elaborate hunt. Dick and Perry steal a car, drive back to Kansas City, pass more hot chicks, and high up in Miami before they get caught.

They eventually retreated to Las Vegas, where a policewoman recognized their license plates. Dick confesses after intense interrogation, and Perry follows him. The trial went smoothly until both were sentenced to death. Dick and Perry languished on Death Row during a five-year appeals process. Perry tries to starve himself while Dick writes letters to various appeals organizations. Various terrible criminals accompanied them. When death comes, Perry feels sorry, and Dick feels awkward.

The Capote Hidden Meanings

Hickock and Smith had died less than a year when Truman Capote and his reliability published In Cold Blood in 1966. The trial and murder are major issues, and many readers may know the novel’s details before reading it. Capote, therefore, should make it attractive even to people who know the results. The book must be good literature as well as accurate and informative. The novel has been meticulously detailed, knowing that Capote amassed more than 8,000 pages of research.

The book is a selection of descriptions and facts, edited with great care. For example, Capote further suggests that the facts of the Clutter case are the building blocks for what is ultimately a creative work. In compiling the facts of the Clutter case into a novel, he gives hidden meanings. Not only the author’s opinion, but the novel has major themes such as the American Dream and America’s fragility.

The Neutral Montage

The use of the “electoral” phrase in In Cold Blood by Truman Capote may be related to its difficulty and reliability in writing fiction. According to critics, the book demonstrates how fictional techniques journalists can adapt in creating new forms, using alternating montages in time, interior monologues, the flow of consciousness, composite characterization, and the use of type in producing individuals. In addition, the book syncs events, where Capote uses the method effectively, such as the murderer and the victim is a balanced narrative, in supporting the filler. However, one of the essential elements of contemporary journalism is that writers offer themselves as neutral subjects. They have to take on a usual persona. Simply put, the book brings death and destruction together, whereas Capote provides a double reciprocal convergence.

The Clutters’ descriptions of their daily lives are very successful, with the writer bothering to tell the readers that it is their last day. Followed by a description of the assassins preparing to embark on a journey that will result in the Clutters’ death, the family moves towards the end of the day. The assassins raced with their cars to make it happen. Once the murders occur, the next convergence deals with the killers escaping to other states while the police pick up clues. The readers know a prisoner who knows the killers and why they seek Clutter as part of the convergence. Part of such convergence involves three or more elements in which Hickcock and Smith move away, the police inching toward them, and the third party with important information initially hidden.

The Perversion of In Cold Blood

Truman Capote has tried to destroy such voices, ruining In Cold Blood and its reliability. Critics as well say that he is not trying to be neutral. While personally believing that he is trying to mock the victims and normalcy while showing sympathy for Perry Smith and his perversion, the Clutters come through with a touching sequence. The Clutter’s basic courtesy and generosity emerge despite the stiffness in other aspects. If they represent the American Dream, Capote better gives them as well. He may not like them, but he respects how they manage their lives, apart from liking Nancy, whose death is very sad.

On the other hand, he also likes Perry Smith, a muscular man with tiny but stunted legs and always taking aspirin for headaches. Perry is an uneducated craving for knowledge but remains a raging killer. On the other hand, In Cold Blood being novelistic, the representation of the Clutter family needs a bit of a fictional treat. Amid all such stability and regularity, it seems to indicate that other factors are at work in family life. In a sense, Mrs. Clutter is one example of a form of sacrifice of a family. When Hickock and Smith move her to an upstairs room, which she keeps when people visit, Bonnie Clutter becomes a mystery that haunts the common household.

The Fictional Dimension

Analogously, Hickcock’s education and childhood were not the norms. However, he turned into a ruthless villain. Not only is he a potential killer, but he is also a rapist and chaser of young girls. He married two sixteen-year-olds, but his appetite was only for girls half that age. However, he remains a mystery. Perry Smith, whom Capote liked, provided more detail, potentially becoming a character with broadly novelistic qualities. The parallel story is a picture of two criminals and another story depicting a healthy Clutter family they killed.

By creating the impression that the criminal and the victim are from two very different worlds, America’s other contrasts are stripped down, riddled with parasites, and feeling hopeless. The fields that provide a fictional dimension people always ignore. Capote wrote In Cold Blood as a pretty big achievement and is high. For critics, it is not novelistic but something else. Capote cannot have it all, realizing that he cannot do it all.


About the author

Salman Al Farisi is the owner of Calxylian and is an elitist who has enjoyed and studied various mediums. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in 2020 from the Haluoleo University, Indonesia, where he studied English Literature, Film Criticism, Cultural Studies, Literary Theory, and Literary Criticism. He lives in Kendari in his mom's basement, now unemployed and ghostwriter, life with his cats, and is looking for the future.

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