Childhood Trauma in Cold Blood by Truman Capote

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During the introduction into the novel, Capote sets the scene of the murder, and introduces some of the main characters that will be part of the story later on. An interesting thing about this section is that Capote renders this picture of Holcomb as being a town where nothing ever happens, until the murders that shocked the residents of the town. We go on to meet Nancy, their daughter, as well as Alfred, who is Herb’s only employee on his farm he owns. Then the scene shifts to the soon to be murderers, who previously had already committed crimes. We are shown that Perry and Dick are planning a robbery, but they do not actually complete it. Back to the farm, Nancy begins worrying about her father’s peculiar behavior, due to a smell of cigarettes. This is essentially the end of the major characterization part of the novel.

Major events essentially culminate in Dick and Perry’s preparation for their robbery. During the beginning of the novel, Truman Capote uses a rule of 3 when describing various things. For example, when describing the views, he states: “horses, herds of cattle, a white cluster of grain,” “the streets, unnamed, unshaded, unpaved.” This pattern when describing things is evident throughout the book. When describing the events, he sounds very detached, just like if he was witnessing it and the just relaying what he saw without bias. This style of his also contributes to the underlying theme of this section. Because he is not involving emotion, or at the very least, limiting his use of it, he brings to light the sensation that a person’s life is short. Usually, when reading about such murders, authors always imbue some emotion to their text be it anger against the foolish actions of the murderer, or sympathy and sadness for the actual victims of the crime. This brings the sensation that a person’s life has value, that it is worth some degree of remembrance. This is directly opposite to what Capote is trying to say through his writing style. In his version, because he lacks emotion when relaying the events, he implies that it doesn’t mean much because everyone dies.

Recurring themes and conflicts include the residents of Holcomb’s loss of innocence. Before the murders were completed, Holcomb was a sleepy town where the residents trusted one another and crime really didn’t happen so there was no sense of danger that the residents had. Because the town is so small, it is plausible that everyone knew each other quite well, so there would be no mistrust between the people living in the town. However, after those murders, it is very likely that this attitude that life was completely safe changed for good. This is the loss of innocence. They realized that they were still susceptible to criminals coming from elsewhere outside the town. The people that lived in Holcomb were examples of the American Dream with their perfect, safe, happy lives that were then shattered into pieces.

There are 2 separate storylines in this section before they converged; we have the storyline of the Clutters and then the storyline of Dick and Perry. The way this organization of the text works is that it shows the leadup to the actual event from both perspectives, while simultaneously maintaining the perennial style of being detached from the events. The main characters would be Dick and Perry because the majority of this section is all about their exploits and then the immediate aftermath of the murders. Those 2 are the driving force behind the evolution of the plot line of the book. Their actions are what dictates how the rest of the book goes. However, if someone from the Clutter family, for example, changed one major thing about their actions, it would have nearly no difference in the plot of the book as a whole. Meanwhile, if Dick and Perry had done something different because they survived the rest of the book, it is more likely that the changed action would affect the rest of the plot. Then, supporting characters would be the Clutter family, along with anyone they and the murderers had any contact with. The supporting characters all help drive the plot along in the sense that their actions caused other things to happen. For example, when Dick was talking to the nuns about gaining black stockings, the nuns were not able to lend him any. The reason they wanted those stockings was to protect their identities so that they wouldn’t have to kill anyone. However, their inability to get some made it so Dick and Perry had to kill the Clutters.

Works Cited

  1. Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences.
  2. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
  3. Pranay Gosar
  4. Mrs. Otto
  5. GT/PAP English II
  6. 1 February 2019

ICB Part 2: Questioner

Dick and Perry both show rather weird behaviors when they write the bad checks, in their remorse. Why do you think this change in behavior happened?

This change in behavior likely happened because after Dick and Perry got drunk, they were able to show off their inner feelings towards their life. Even though on the surface they were still criminals, after being drunk, they were able to show their inner motives where they were still good people underneath. This also raises an interesting question of whether Dick and Perry were born with the mindset of a common criminal, or whether changes in their environment forced them into their profession( this makes lots of sense based on Perry’s childhood).

How does Perry’s dream about the snake connect to Perry’s worldly conflicts?

The snake connects because the snake represents all the adversity he has faced and all the problems he has faced. Due to his childhood, and being taken away from his father who he loved, he had a rough childhood, and it felt like his life was not his anymore. His mother was a drunkard, and he eventually ended up in the orphanage system, where he was ignored, and his life was not his to live. After a car accident that badly damaged his legs, Perry got sensitive to that fact, which is another obstacle the snake represents. The tree with the diamonds represents the hope Perry still has with his relationship with Dick and other factors.

Why does Perry still work with Dick even though Dick treats him like a subservient little kid?

Because he has not had someone to care about him, and Dick does. Due to his childhood, being put into the orphanage and being effectively ignored after his parents separated, he never had anyone that gave him any attention. Finally, after being starved of love for so long, when he met Dick who actually acknowledged his existence, he essentially latched straight on. Even though Dick ends up treating him badly, because he actually acknowledges him, it is a better situation than what he had to deal with as a child in the orphanage system.

Why does Perry continue to keep all his belongings even when they may end up getting in the way?

Due to not having anyone to love and no one to project any affection to, he ended up getting attached to physical objects very easily. Due to this, he doesn’t want to give any of them away. Even though most people will have something that they never will get rid of due to emotional attachment, with Perry, that attachment goes to the extreme.

Why does Perry regard Dick as an all-powerful figure?

Due to past experiences, Perry is essentially incapable of taking care of himself, especially with his emotional trauma and his deformed legs. However, at least in Perry’s point of view, Dick has it all in life. He has kids, he had a wife, he fell in love, he is strong, and Perry regards him as someone who has everything he needs and has no flaws.

Works Cited

  1. Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences.
  2. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
  3. Pranay Gosar
  4. Otto
  5. GT English II
  6. 7 February 2019

ICB Part 3: Connector

During this section of Capote’s book, I noticed some parallels between the events of the book and other things I have experienced, witnessed, or read about. One such parallel is between when Dick and Perry get arrested. Dick ends up essentially betraying Perry through ratting him out to the investigators and pinning the entire murder on him in order to make an attempt at freeing himself at the expense of his former friend and companion. This abrupt change is reminiscent of a similar happening in a book named “Eldest,” by Christopher Paolini. In that book, the protagonist, Eragon, is betrayed by a close friend of his. His friend, Murtagh, pledged himself over to the tyrannical king Eragon has devoted his life to overthrowing in exchange for clemency. This act of his proves to be a great obstacle in Eragon’s path, as he has not one, but now 2 extremely powerful enemies he must face. In this scenario, Dick does to Perry what Murtagh did to Eragon. However, one distinction is that for Murtagh, it worked out for the short few months that followed before eventually failing. A major theme at play here is betrayal, which is also a recurring theme throughout “In Cold Blood.”

In this part of the book especially, Dick is characterized as extremely selfish, while Perry is left to be the victim of Dick. Dick evidently thinks that killing the Clutter’s was no big deal, and when faced with a harsh sentence in jail, he decides the last thing he wants to do is to save himself while also condemning Perry to the same sentence. It is very likely that Dick only has Perry around to use him. This is reminiscent of the happenings in nearly every book that contains a tyrannical antagonist. In a book of the same series named “Eragon,” by Christopher Paolini, one character we are introduced to is a powerful dark magic user named Durza. In this scenario, Durza is under the control of the tyrannical king, who uses him to do tasks he sees as unfit for him to undertake. Galbatorix, the king, cares nothing for Durza, which is a parallel to how Dick treats Perry. While some things are different (Galbatorix does not try to blame Durza for something to get himself out of trouble), Galbatorix does treat him with obvious derision. The striking parallels go deeper than plot and surface level themes, and 

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Childhood Trauma in Cold Blood by Truman Capote. (2022, Sep 11). Retrieved June 18, 2024 , from

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