Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is a true crime story that follows the 1959 murders of Herb and Bonnie Clutter and the subsequent investigation and trial of the killers, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock. The book is told from the perspective of both the victims and the killers, providing a unique and chilling look at what motivated two men to commit such a brutal crime.
The following is a dialectical journal for In Cold Blood. I have included quotes from both the victim’s and killer’s perspectives in order to explore the different motivations behind the murders.
Herb Clutter: “I don’t like guns. Never have, never will.” (p. 22)
Perry Smith: “I hate a gun. I don’t care how it’s used.” (p. 97)
Herb and Perry both dislike guns, but for different reasons. Herb is a peaceful man who believes that guns are unnecessary and dangerous, while Perry hates guns because they remind him of the violence he experienced in his childhood. This difference in opinion may have played a role in the events that unfolded on the night of the murders. If Perry had not been carrying a gun, would he have been able to go through with the crime? Would Herb have been able to defend himself and his family if he had been armed? We’ll never know for sure, but it’s interesting to think about.
Bonnie Clutter: “I keep telling myself there must be some good in everybody.” (p. 28)
Dick Hickock: “I’m not too good, and I know it.” (p. 100)
Bonnie is a optimist who believes that everyone has some good in them, even Dick Hickock, who he knows is not a good person. This naïve belief may have led to her downfall, as she was unaware of the danger she was in when she let Dick and Perry into her home. Dick himself is aware of his own evil nature and knows that he is not a good person. This self-awareness does not stop him from committing murder, however, which shows that Bonnie’s optimistic view of human nature is not always accurate.
This statement from Onno reminded me of this sad reality. It’s disheartening to discover that, in a small town where everyone knew one another and was on good terms, they would all abandon neighbors for the same reason: their own fears. I don’t think twice about assisting or confiding in someone who has my confidence. And anyone who places their faith in me should feel secure in telling me their most guarded secrets…
I think this is the key to any strong relationships. “The neighborhood, once so neighborly, had become like a city under siege: People who had known one another all their lives spoke across yards in guarded voices, and no one felt safe outside after dark.” (Capote, 66)
However, when that trust is destroyed, the reputation of the individual involved also takes a hit. Then I wonder: if they were capable of lying about anything significant to our friendship, who knows what other untruths they may have spread? I begin to doubt who they are and whether or not they were ever really my friend in the first place. It’s as if I’m viewing them through fresh eyes. The worst part is that no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to talk to them as easily as before.
There’s something about the act of lying that taints a person in my eyes. I don’t know if it’s the fact that they weren’t honest with me, or if it’s because I can never fully trust them again. Either way, once somebody has lied to me, it’s hard for me to see them in the same way as before. It almost feels like the friendship is over before it even had a chance to truly begin.
I think the reason why lies bother me so much is because they go against everything I stand for. I pride myself on being an honest person, and I hate it when other people aren’t. It just seems like such a simple thing, to tell the truth, and yet so many people can’t seem to do it.
I guess in the end, all I can really do is try to forgive and forget. But it’s not always that easy. Sometimes, the damage has been done and there’s just no going back.
I have to ask myself: are they doing this because they want to get back the intimacy that was lost, or do they genuinely want to reconnect? I’m also reminded of the power of our imaginations. It’s possible to instill unwarranted anxiety in your heart with just giving your head free range of movement. It doesn’t matter how trustworthy a friend is if he/she makes an honest error; they won’t repeat it. But, in my mind, I see him/her informing everyone about my personal life details.
I feel embarrassed, exposed and betrayed all over again. I have to keep reminding myself that my friend made a mistake, and that I need to forgive him/her. This is easier said than done, but it’s something I need to work on if I want to maintain our friendship. Cold blooded animals kill for food or self-preservation; however, humans are different.
We are supposed to be the more intelligent species, so why do we harm one another? Is it because we can’t control our emotions? Or is there something deeper lurking inside of us, waiting to come out? Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood examines the brutal 1959 murders of the Clutter family in Kansas, and the hunt for the killers. While reading, I found myself wondering about the nature of humanity, and what could drive a person to commit such a heinous act.
The Clutter family seemed to be the perfect All-American family, so why were they targeted? The killers, Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, didn’t seem to have a clear motive other than robbery. However, as the story unfolded, it became apparent that there was more to it than that. Perry Smith and Richard Hickock were two lost souls, searching for something they could never find. They were looking for a sense of belonging, and when they couldn’t find it in the world around them, they took matters into their own hands.
In Cold Blood made me question the nature of humanity, and whether or not we are truly in control of our own fate. Truman Capote does an excellent job of humanizing the killers, which makes the story all the more chilling. It’s easy to distance ourselves from cold-blooded murderers, but In Cold Blood shows that anybody has the potential to snap. We may never know what drove Perry Smith and Richard Hickock to commit such a senseless act, but their story is a reminder that we should never take life for granted.