Truman Capote In Cold Blood Powerpoint

His Life and His works.
Truman Capote, best known for his works
Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood,
reached a pinnacle that many writer's dream of
but few ever ascend. And no one climbed to
that summit like Capote. Truman pioneered a
new literary genre, the Nonfiction Novel, with
what many claim as his ultimate work, In Cold
Blood, the story of a rural Kansas murder
recounting journalistic facts with the flair of
Born in New Orleans and spending most of his
early childhood with his aunts and distant
cousins in Alabama, Truman Capote would
always maintain a deep connection with the
south, even after becoming the center of
attention in Manhattan high society.
Capote was born Truman Streckfus Persons on
September 30, 1924 to Lillie Mae Faulk and Arch
Persons. Lillie Mae (who would later abandon
her southern roots and change her name to
Nina) was always looking for a way to climb the
social ladder.
The fact that Truman Capote was born at all is a bit
of a miracle, and he owes this to his stern and
dedicated cousin, Jennie Faulk, Jennie had raised
Lillie Mae and the two often battled over the life
Lillie Maw was living. Lillie Mae's pregnancy was
one of those battles and would become the most
important for Truman. On finding out that she was
pregnant, Lillie Mae returned to her southern
home and sought an abortion. Adamantly
opposed, Jennie finally won and Lillie Mae
accepted her responsibility as a mother.
Lillie Mae's early rejection of Truman was to be a sign of how
her relationship with her son would remain throughout his
life. Abandoned by his mother with his cousins, Lillie Mae
was free to begin separating herself from her husband Arch.
Arch was not any more of a father to Truman than Lillie Mae
was a mother. After he and Lillie Mae separated and divorced
in 1931, Arch agreed to spend the summer's with Truman, but
instead traveled the country in search of his next big deal.
Lillie Mae, now free to try again to reach social elevation,
found what she was looking for in Joseph Capote. She and
Capote married and she moved to New York City with Joe to
begin her new life, a life that rarely included her son.
Truman also had the good fortune of meeting a
friend in his southern neighbor, Harper Lee (To
Kill a Mockingbird). Truman was the basis for
Lee's character, Dill, in her famous book and
Truman is rumored to have helped Lee write
the novel. The two remained friends
throughout and Lee would later accompany
Truman in his research about the Kansas
murders that would become In Cold Blood.
As smart and as sharp as Truman was, he was not very
interested in school. He was, however, consumed with
writing. He would practice writing the way other children
would practice football or piano. Truman didn't so much
dream about being a writer as he already considered
himself one. Instead, he envisioned himself writing for the
elite magazine, The New Yorker.
 In 1941, while repeating his senior year of high school,
Truman got a job as a copy boy for the magazine he
idolized. The New Yorker's working environment was quite
the opposite of the high society image the magazine
portrayed. Truman, a flamboyant, eccentric, and very
noticeable boy, stood out like a neon light in a dark alley.
Truman always maintained a high, lispy voice and
boyish looks. Combined with his short stature, this
led many to assume that he was much younger
than he was. His appearance often led to his
advantage as many of the important figures that
would help his career took on a motherly or
fatherly role with him. The fact that Truman was
easy to like and often befriended people that were
not helped him in many situations and soon
Truman was invited to social parties and was the
talk of the town.
Truman had joined The New Yorker in hopes that he would learn
more about his craft and that they would eventually hire him as a
writer. The New Yorker, however, was not interested in hiring a
copy boy and the work the Truman was writing was not well suited
for the publication. In 1944 he left the magazine, (either resigned
or was fired) for offending Robert Frost. Sick with a cold, Truman
left in the middle of Frost's reading. Outraged, Frost, knowing that
Capote worked for the New Yorker, immediately took the matter
up with the magazine.
 Leaving the New Yorker was one of the best things to happen to
Capote. Soon he began submitting his stories (Miriam, Tree of
Night, My Side of the Matter) to more suitable magazines
including Mademoiselle and Harper's Bizarre. The immediate
acceptance of his work and fame that followed launched Truman
into the social and literary world he had been seeking.
Truman was never one to hide his homosexuality. In
fact, many gay and lesbian groups today praise
Truman for his bravery both in social life and in his
writings. While his mother never accepted his choice
and often tried to change her son, Truman owned his
sexuality at an early age and lived it to his fullest.
 Like many in the social elite, Truman had many
relationships. Most notably perhaps is his long time
affair with Jack Dunphy whom he met in 1948.
Though not an exclusive relationship, the two of them
would remain together in one way or another
throughout their lives and shared separate houses on
the same property.
The contrast of southern life and big city society, along
with Truman's sexual themes in many of his stories, helped
define Capote as a writer. But that was only part of what
made his stories successful. Truman also had a sensitivity
and a flare for being able to capture the truth of real life.
This great ability lead to what would become one of his
greatest works, Breakfast at Tiffany's.
 Through all his successful writings, Truman still felt that he
was lacking something. He was looking to create
something new, not just a new story, but a new way of
telling a story. When Truman read about the 1959 killings
of the Clutter Family in rural Holcomb Kansas, Truman had
found his muse.
1959: Clutter Family found "In Cold Blood”
Four members of the Clutter family were found
murdered today on their farm in Holcomb,
Kansas. The killers had no apparent motive, as
Finley County Attorney General Duane West,
quoted in The Daily Independent, stated that
"Clutter was a prominent man and it was a fine
family— so fine that it's difficult to envisage a
possible motive.”
Herbert Clutter was a devout Methodist and a
widely respected self made man who had
established himself as a very successful and
prosperous farm owner from modest beginnings.
Morally strict and conservative, he employed as
many as 18 farm hands and former employees
reportedly admired and respected him for his fair
treatment and good wages. His wife and four
children were also respected within the
Two ex-convicts on parole from Kansas State
Penitentiary, Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry
Edward Smith entered their family home and
committed the acts of robbery and murder on
November 15, 1959.
While in jail, a fellow inmate had told Hickock
of a safe that was kept on the premises and
often contained large sums of money.
Hickock became obsessed with the idea of
obtaining the money, and with no witnesses to
his crime, planned on fleeing to Mexico to start
a new life.
The information Hickock was provided about
the safe proved to be incorrect as Herb Cutter
conducted all his business by cheque and no
money was ever kept on site.
On the day of the murder, Hickock and Smith
drove across Kansas, located the Clutter
household and entered the premises while the
family lay sleeping. After they roused the
family and discovered there was no money to
be found, Smith – who was notoriously prone
to violent outbursts – slit Herb’s throat and
then shot him in the head.
The rest of the family members were killed by a
single gun shot to the head.
In his confession, Smith claimed that Hickock
murdered the two women but Hickock maintained
that Smith was responsible for all four deaths.
Both mean pleaded temporary insanity at the trial,
but after evaluation it was determined that both
men were in fact sane.
After 5 years on death row, both men were
executed in April of 1965.
In Cold Blood was originally published in The
New Yorker as a four-part series, beginning on
September 25, 1965. It sold out immediately.
It was published by Random House for the first
time as a novel in 1966.
1950s American society was marked by an
expanding middle class, confident consumer
spending, and the early development of
American suburbia. Having emerged from its
involvement in World War II, America was eager
to focus on the proliferation of an affluent
middle class at home. The popularization of the
automobile and new product advertising
through television and magazines
revolutionized American households.
Most middle class homes quickly came to be
equipped with television sets, microwave ovens,
and washing machines. A booming construction
industry helped develop the earliest American
suburbs, and the first enclosed shopping malls
appeared and soon drastically changed the
American landscape. As Americans migrated to
comfortable communities on the outskirts of
cities, those cities entered a period of
deterioration and social and economic decline
that, in many instances, has lasted well into the
twenty-first century.
While the American economy was prosperous and
progressive throughout the 1950s, American
society was marked by social conservatism and
conformity. America’s ongoing involvement in the
Cold War, which lasted from 1945 through 1991,
presented an ideological clash between the
capitalist consumer culture of the United States
and the Western world on the one hand and the
Communist regime of the Soviet Union and its
allies on the other hand.
Cold War tensions brought about a widespread
fear of Communism and even escalated into
irrational and unfounded persecution of
individuals suspected to be Communist allies.
The proliferation of anti-Communist
propaganda that accompanied US Senator
Joseph McCarthy’s “Communist Witch Hunts”
created an atmosphere of social compliance,
fear, and intolerance.
In Cold Blood presents a conflicted image of the
notion of the American Dream. The text portrays a prosperous, homogenous, middle-class
community, Holcomb, Kansas, that is forced to
question its values and its sense of safety and
security when the Clutter family is murdered.
Capote’s text was among a growing number of
novels and plays written in the early part of the
twentieth century that questioned the validity
of the promises made by the American Dream.
Texts such as Arthur Miller’s Death of a
Salesman, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of
Wrath, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great
Gatsby, among many others, simultaneously
celebrate and criti- cize the concept of an
American Dream.
These texts warn Americans not to take the
Dream for granted and encourage readers to
recognize that the American Dream is available
only to a small group of individuals while
excluding a vast majority of people from its
In In Cold Blood, the city of Holcomb and
surrounding Finney County are portrayed as a
prosperous community:
“The last seven years have been years of doubtless
beneficence. The farm ranchers in Finney County, of
which Holcomb is a part, have done well; money has
been made not from farming alone but also from the
exploitation of plentiful natural- gas resources, and
its acquisition is reflected in the new school, the
comfortable interiors of the farmhouses, the steep
and swollen grain elevators.”
The Clutter family in particular is among the most
affluent citizens in the Holcomb community. Herb
Clutter is considered to be “the community’s most
widely known citizen, prominent both there and in
Garden City.” Having expanded his River Valley Farm
into a lucrative operation with several employees, Herb
Clutter is able to provide a comfortable life for his
family, providing a modern lifestyle that includes
automobiles and televisions: “Always certain of what he
wanted from the world, Mr. Clutter had in large measure
obtained it.” For families like the Clutters, the American
Dream has been realized.
But In Cold Blood also portrays the failure of
the American Dream. For Richard Hickock and
Perry Smith, a modern, comfortable middleclass lifestyle is unattainable. Raised in a
dysfunctional family, Perry Smith considers
himself to be misunderstood and, like Richard
Hickock, falls into a life of petty crime. Unable
to create a stable existence, the two ex-cons
accept their roles as society outsiders and
survive by stealing and writing false checks.
Perry Smith dreams of a better life in Mexico,
where he hopes to find a hidden treasure
buried deep in the ocean. The attack on the
Clutter family is designed to provide the two
men with the financial means to relocate.
Capote outlines their dreams of a better life:
“Still no sign of Dick. But he was sure to show
up; after all, the purpose of their meeting was
Dick’s idea, his ‘score’. And when it was settled
But the American Dream not only fails Dick
Hickock and Perry Smith because they come
from lower-class families and drift into a life of
crime. The two men, particularly Perry Smith,
are also haunted by psychological challenges.
Richard Hickock chases women, but is secretly
struggling with his sexual attraction to children.
Perry Smith is physically handicapped as a
result of a car accident. He is depressed and
feels misunderstood.
He suffers from feelings of shame due to his physical
deformity. Considering himself to be a creative and
artistic genius, Perry cannot fit into a world that does
not share or recognize his vision. Perry’s wish of
becoming an artist remains confined to his daydreams:
“Singing, and the thought of doing so in front of an
audience, was another mesmeric way of whittling hours.
He always used the same mental scenery—a night club in
Las Vegas, which happened to be his home town. It was
an elegant room filled with celebrities excitedly focused on
the sensational new star.”
Both criminals eventually undergo psychiatric
evaluations as they await their trial, and
although the court system finds both of them
to be mentally stable, Capote leaves his readers
with the suggestion that the system at large
has failed these two young men, ignored their
psychiatric needs, and ultimately turned them
into social outcasts and criminals.
The Clutter killings are a turning point for the
citizens of Holcomb and Garden City: for the
first time, the dangerous wider world seems to
threaten their peaceful existence, and their
former naïveté gives way to feelings of doubt,
fear and suspicion. According to Capote, it is
the first time the citizens of this part of Kansas
have had to endure the “unique experience of
distrusting each other”
Their version of the American dream – of
safety, security, and the ability to determine
their own fate – becomes undermined, if not
entirely thwarted, by the victimization of the
Clutters. Their view of the world must suddenly
include another kind of person, a poor,
embittered, “rootless” person, for whom this
dream was never an option in the first place.
When the murders are first discovered, Perry and
Dick, as “persons unknown,” are elevated to an
inhuman, almost mythic stature, the essence of a
pure and motiveless evil that has come to destroy
the peaceful lifestyle of the Holcomb residents.
Capote, however, replaces this simplistic view with
a more nuanced and sensitive interpretation, by
exploring the material, psychological,
environmental circumstances that cause two
otherwise ordinary human beings to commit such
an atrocious act.
Throughout the novel, Perry and Dick are transformed
from heartless, cold-blooded menaces, whose actions
seem to defy human logic, into the fraught, pitiful,
completely humanized individuals they are at the end of
the book, and the crime itself is boiled down to a very
basic and fairly understandable set of emotional
responses. Although he does not attempt to excuse their
actions, Capote shows how ordinary feelings of
frustration and despair accidentally erupt into such an
extraordinary crime. The book seems to contend that
criminality and “evil” are not things apart, as we tend to
define them, but normal human responses that merely
become amplified and find a destructive outlet.
Family life is a key determinant of individual
character in the context of the book. The
Clutters, who symbolize the utmost integrity of
family life, are obliterated by Perry, who
represents everything it means to come from a
broken home.
The Clutters’ uprightness is related to the
strength of their family, as Perry’s criminality is
connected to the dissolution of his own kinship
ties. In spirit, Dick is still wedded to his first
wife, and his dreams of becoming selfsufficient are linked to the ability to support her
and their three sons. The strength of a person’s
family ties has the larger implication of whether
that person can live happily, well-off, and in a
self-determined fashion.
The Clutter killings are symbolic of a class conflict,
highlighting the discrepancy between the affluent,
middle-class, predominantly white citizens of
Holcomb and the underprivileged, working-class,
mixed-race (in the case of Perry) killers. Theft is the
only form of economic mobility that Perry and
Dick have ever known, as neither of them have
had a chance at a proper education or a solid
career (Dick, we learn, could not afford to attend
college, and Perry was forced to help his father
earn their basic subsistence in Alaska).
Economic insecurity is at the root of the
murders on every level: it forms the initial
motive for the break-in (to steal the contents of
Herb Clutter’s safe), and later on causes Perry
to feel ashamed, for “crawling on my belly to
steal a child’s silver dollar”, a sentiment which is
ultimately to blame for the fatal turn the
robbery takes.
The theme of self- or ego-image is crucial to
understanding the interpersonal dynamics of Perry
and Dick, especially those that lead to the eventual
murder spree. Both men, Perry especially, are
highly image-conscious and attuned to how others
perceive them. Towards the end of the book, we
learn from Perry’s psychiatric evaluation that he is
“overly sensitive to criticisms that others make of
him, and cannot tolerate being made fun of. He is
quick to sense slight or insult in things others say”.
In some sense, the rivalry between Dick and Perry is a
mutual struggle for self-recognition, with each
wishing the other man would validate his own selfimage (this may be fueled, as some critics have
suggested, by homoerotic desire). Self-image
represents, in a larger sense, social status and selfdetermination, neither of which is available to these
men. For Perry, the botched robbery at the Clutters is
a painful reminder of his own lack of means or social
mobility, and his feelings of shame and self-loathing
at this realization are ultimately at the root of his
homicidal rampage.
Homoerotic desire is just below the surface of the
relationship between Dick and Perry, between
Perry and Willie-Jay, and, more implicitly, in the
meta-textual relationship of Truman Capote to his
two subjects. Whether or not these attractions
were overtly acknowledged or even consciously
realized by their subjects (Capote thought it was
likely that both men had repressed these feelings),
they are a palpable subtext of the narrative and
serve several functions.
On one level, they elucidate the relationship of
Dick and Perry, adding a layer of intensity to their
interactions that helps to explain why, for
example, they might have become so frustrated at
the Clutter home, or why so much of Perry’s selfimage rests on Dick’s opinion of him. But the
theme of homosexuality also functions as a larger
symbol of, and premise for, Dick and Perry’s status
as outsiders, social misfits for whom conventional
society seems to have no place.
At the time that In Cold Blood was penned,
homosexuals were considered a threat to the
social order, so much so that the F.B.I. kept
official watch lists in order to monitor their
activities. This unspoken element of their
relationship heightens the intensity of their
clash with conservative, small-town American
life, and raises the stakes of the murder trial by
a perceptible margin.
Perry and Dick’s criminal tendencies are
revealed to have underlying medical causes
(Perry suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and
Dick has brain damage from a concussion); the
difficulty of the murder trial becomes, to what
extent are they still accountable for their
In a larger sense, the book seems to grapple
with the question of whether the same moral
standards are applicable to all people,
regardless of their upbringing and their life
circumstances; or whether Perry and Dick are in
some measure redeemed (at least morally, if
not legally) by the fact of their mental illness,
and the fact that their own lives have been so
With the publication of In Cold Blood, Truman Capote debuted a
new literary genre: the non- fiction novel. The non-fiction novel
presents real events through the use of literary techniques
generally associated with fiction narratives. In the case of In Cold
Blood, Capote used news- paper accounts, investigative reports,
letters, and interviews to piece together the story of the Clutter
murders and the subsequent hunt for and eventual execution of
Richard Hickock and Perry Smith. Capote traveled to the Holcomb
area just months after the murders, and he spent six years
collecting information, interviewing residents, and observing the
work of the Kansas Bureau of Investigations under the leadership
of Al Dewey. Yet, like a novel, the story is presented in vivid
sentences and filled with evocative descriptions, poignant word
choice, and lyrical images.
As a non-fiction novel, the text does not present the
voice of the author or a specific narrator but, instead,
relates the events and presents details from the points
of view of different charac- ters. The genre is closely
associated with the journalistic novel and is generally
considered to be a forerunner of the True Crime genre.
True Crime has since evolved into one of the most
popular literary genres, often exploiting highly
sensationalized crimes. True Crime most fre- quently
presents real, often well-publicized, murder cases and
focuses on investigative strate- gies and criminal
psychology, including psychological profiling of
perpetrators and victims.
Within each section of the text, the narrative
viewpoint shifts between presenting events and
details from the perspective of the Clutter family,
the citizens of Holcomb, and the Kansas Bureau of
Investigations investigators to the perspectives of
Richard Hickock and Perry Smith. Capote himself
never interjects the narrative with his authorial
voice. Instead, he relies on the voice of his
characters, including letters, interviews,
newspaper accounts, etc., to present the events.
Whenever Capote presents the perspective of the
Clutters and their neighbors, his sentences are welldeveloped, complex, with vivid, descriptive diction.
Whenever the perspective shifts toward the points of
view of Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, the sentence
structure tends to be shorter and frequently interfused
with fragments. Additionally, sections presenting Perry
and Dick’s world often utilize colloquialisms and slang.
The shift in narrative tone helps rein- force the social
discrepancy between the comfortable middle-class
world of the Clutters and the lower-class, povertystricken world of Dick and Perry.

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