Mar 21, 2013

In Cold Blood

Truman Capote
Truman Capote, famed author of Breakfast at Tiffanys, also wrote a less popular, but equally acclaimed novel based upon the brutal murder of the Clutter family in 1959 in Holcomb, Kansas. In Cold Blood, catchily named after the maddeningly shocking quality of the preemptive murders, chronicles the movements of the family and their robber-turned-killers before, during, and after the awful occurrence. Herbert Clutter, a family man and devout Christian, lived with his wife, Bonnie, suffering under prolonged postpartum depression, and two younger children, Kenyon (male, 15) and Nancy (female, 16). One of their previous farmhands, Floyd Wells, was in the county jail when he met two men named Perry and Dick. He told Dick that Clutter kept loads of cash in a safe on his farm, sparking an interest in Dick. After Dick gets out of jail, he formulates a plan to take this cash and escape to Mexico, and recruits his old jail buddy, Perry, to aide in his plot. The plan goes on without a hitch, the robbers entered the house while the family slept and roused the family to discover where this money-laden safe is, but when they discover that there is no money to be found, and they'd been lied to, Perry erupts in a fit of rage, slicing Clutter's throat and killing him with a shot to the head.

In Cold Blood
The robbers engage in a shooting spree; each of the children were murdered, then Clutter's wife, leaving the house a bloody and gruesome mess. The robber-turned-murders flee the scene, heading to Mexico, and are eventually arrested in Las Vegas, Nevada after an extensive investigation by the police who got a tip-off from Floyd Wells. Both Dick and Perry confessed to their crimes, then pleaded temporary insanity to their crimes, which was denied by the doctors in charge of them. Perry, in his confession, stated that he though that Clutter was a nice guy "up to the moment I cut his throat" (Perry, 244). He also, when questioned, said "Am I sorry? If that's what you mean - I'm not. I don't feel anything about it. I wish I did. But nothing about it bothers me a bit. Half an hour after it happened, Dick was making jokes and I was laughing at them. Maybe we're not human. I'm human enough to feel sorry for myself." (Perry, 282) The murderers felt no real sorrow for the brutal murders, showing their  loss of human emotion, and hardening to the brutality of what they'd done.

Throughout the book, readers are offered a glimpse into the past and present thoughts of the two murders, which serves as a sort of connection between the actions of the murders and the understanding of the reader. Despite this connection, I did not feel any form of sympathy for them, which surprised me since I'm typically very empathetic toward people with as rough of a background as Perry or Dick. The book concludes with the hanging of the two men, committed after 5 years of them sitting in a jail cell on death row. The gallows are still held in the Kansas Historical Society, and various movies have bee created based upon the murders and Truman Capote's fascination with them, the most recent being Infamous with Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig and Toby Jones, with two other movies being nominated for multiple awards for their portrayal of the murders. The 1967 movie, bearing the name of the book,  was nominated for multiple Academy Awards.  I wouldn't say that the book is particularly entertaining, though it is gripping in the suspenseful sense of knowing that something awful will happen at the end and wanting the killers to get caught and punished for their crimes against humanity. I'd rate it at a 8 on the ADDICTING SCALE, for you blood-thirsty crime-lovers out there. While I didn't particularly enjoy the book to it's fullest, I feel that it was a worthy academic pursuit and also that it displayed the entirety of humankind's occasional lack of discretion and ability to be truly evil to one another.


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