In Cold Blood In Cold Blood discussion


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Perry Edward Smith and Richard Dick Hickrock

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Ladonna Based on these two men past, do this make you feel sorry for them?


Casey There is, for me at least, some level of sympathy and understanding for these men. However, it does not excuse what they did. I think that getting their background helps to see how people like this are molded and how their mind may work.


Joanne Not a bit.


message 4: by One (new) - rated it 5 stars

One Flew No, both men seemed unrepentant. Their crime was horrific, they showed their victims no mercy, they deserved the death penalty.


message 5: by Dee (last edited Jun 02, 2013 08:07AM) (new)

Dee The look into their past gave me an understanding of them. I can see them as human instead of monsters. Yet, I do not feel sorry for either.


Linda Kelly Well many people have pretty horrendous upbringings...know a few myself but not all turn into murderers, thieves, rapists etc so don't feel sorry for them.


message 7: by Stephen (last edited Jun 03, 2013 12:40AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Stephen I've NOT read the book yet (though it is on my must acquire list) I have seen both movie versions of this and the scenes from Tru which deal with this and I can say that I do empathize with the two men.

Their crime was senseless and stupid and they should be made to pay for what they did but if they'd had better upbringings and been socialized differently the tragedy would probably never have happened.

They really were not equipped to be treated as adults.

I do wonder if guns had been less accessible,if the killings would have happened.


Kathy Cohen Perry Smith illicits a wee modicum of sympathy--Richard H. none. I still have nightmares about their awful crime. Imagine yourself as one of their victims.


Kressel Housman Capote obviously had more sympathy for Perry Smith, so most readers do, too. I certainly did. That's why the assessment of him at the end surprised me. He was the one labeled "psychotic" and not Hickhock.


Kathy Cohen Well, being psychotic is not something you can help, I don't think??? It's a disease, like cancer. (Correct me if I'm wrong).


Kressel Housman Yes, but being psychotic means having no sympathy whatsoever and enjoying the kill for its own sake. Like Voldemort or Bellatrix. "You've got to ENJOY the pain." And that's not the way Capote portrayed Perry.


Kressel Housman Excuse me. I meant psychopathic, not psychotic. One is a subset of the other.


Kathy Cohen I see where you're coming from now. I remember that Capote said somewhere that Perry Smith and he were a lot alike--that they had similar abusive childhoods (something like that)--and he, Capote, went one way (toward creativity) while Smith went the other (evilness, presumably).


Talyah I had absolutely no sympathy for the killers. A bad childhood doesn't excuse murder, in my opinion.

it's been awhile since I've read it, but I remember getting the feeling that Capote wanted me to sympathize with Perry specifically. Then I found out later, Capote was in love with him and it made more sense.

This is off topic, but since you all have read the book I have a question. Like I said, it's been years since I've read this, so forgive me if I'm rusty or misspeaking. Does anyone remember the girl saying she smelled cigarette smoke (while in the house, a few days before the murder)? Were Perry and Richard hiding in the house before the actual attack?


Kathy Cohen It's been quite a while since I read the book. I definitely remember the girl saying she smelled cigarette smoke. It was never explained.

Perry and Richard were not in the house hiding. That I'm sure about. (At least according to the book).


message 16: by Jon (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jon Often, people who end up doing monstrous things have had monstrous thing done to them. I've seen studies that show that at least 35% of child molestors were victims of sexual abuse themselves when they were children. I'm sorry for the child that was abused, not for the adult that perpetuates the abuse. So if they had awful childhoods, I feel sorry for the innocense lost, but not for the adults who slaughtered an entire family.


Kathy Cohen I agree, John. Well said.


Elise One of my favorite things about this book (and I have many favorite things) is that it presents to us events and people and situations that are not black and white. Life is so rarely, if ever, black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. I'm not excusing the crimes in any way, but I believe it is important to understand that the killers as well as the victims - everyone - are human beings with pasts, with painful memories, with problems, with dreams, etc. I did feel some sympathy towards the killers (Perry in particular), but I do not believe that this makes their crimes any less horrific. I just believe that it is an important and valuable piece of literature that can make the reader feel empathy towards someone who is severely flawed. It illuminates the fact that there is so much evil ad pain in this world, and that it is passed on through generations. It forces us to examine why we feel empathy for the killers (or don't), to think, to try to understand. I have no real answers, nor do I fully comprehend my own feelings towards the killers, but the book had a profound effect on me.


Stephen Talyah wrote: "... I found out later, Capote was in love with him and it made more sense. "

I'm not sure that Capote was in love with anyone but himself. He was the product of a damaged childhood as well and I'm convinced that he was basically incapable of love. I do think he was fascinated with Perry and perhaps saw some of himself in him. I think that you might describe Capote as being enthralled by Perry.


Kathy Cohen This book had a profound effect on me as well. It was masterful storytelling--Capote was one of the best--and it was told in a way that compelled you to keep reading. You knew what was going to happen--you'd already been told--but the details kept coming into ever more horrific focus and you had to know everything. Somewhat like a horror movie--you keep putting your hands over your eyes but peeking through them. That tells me something about myself. And it's disquieting at best.


Kathy Cohen Stephen wrote: I do think he was fascinated with Perry and perhaps saw some of himself in him. I think that you might describe Capote as being enthralled by Perry.


Enthralled is a good description, Stephen. I think you're right.


Talyah I still think it's possible Capote could have been in love with him. But no one will ever know. I don't think I was the only one to think that. I've had many a conversation on the matter.

A good writer (as Capote obviously was) can make you feel what they feel or how they want you to feel. Regardless, if he was enthralled or in love there was still some biased sympathy felt for Perry based on Capote's writing.


Ladonna Casey wrote: "There is, for me at least, some level of sympathy and understanding for these men. However, it does not excuse what they did. I think that getting their background helps to see how people like this..."

I agree. Even though these men had a rough childhood, their heinous was inexcusable.


Cathy Jon wrote: "Often, people who end up doing monstrous things have had monstrous thing done to them. I've seen studies that show that at least 35% of child molestors were victims of sexual abuse themselves when..."

The most recent studies I have seen put the percentage at 11% instead of 35%.


message 25: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric Andrews-Katz Whatever may/maynot have happened in their past it doesn't excuse the heinous crime they committed. I was abused yet never abused anyone. I know people who were raped and never raped anyone back. Stop excusing their past and they should have accepted responsibility. If you can be responsible enough to drive a car or buy a gun, you are responsible for the actions accordingly.
So no, no sympathy.


message 26: by One (new) - rated it 5 stars

One Flew I agree Eric. Upbringing does play a big part in people's character, but doesn't remove responsibility for your actions.

And for those who said they felt more sympathy for Perry than they did Hickrock, remember that it was Perry who actually shot them.


message 27: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric Andrews-Katz I think the level of involvement between Perry and Capote is interesting onto itself. Whether or not they were lovers (rumors do circulate)is irrelevant as the level of friendship they connected with, and Capote's understanding that if Perry didn't die, Capote had no ending for his book.


message 28: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Howlett There are some who thought Capote basically used Perry to get closer to him and to use whatever he might gain in order to produce a better book. I've always thought this more likely than Capote actually being in love with Perry Smith. Smith was certainly an easier target for Capote than Hickock would have been.


message 29: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric Andrews-Katz I think it's more complex than that. Capote would have done whatever he needed to (and more so)to get what needed from Perry. But I think it backfired on him. I think there was a sincere affection (to whatever degree) shared between them. They had similar backgrounds, similar childhoods and similar lost feelings of desperately craving affection from SOMEONE.
Smith left everything in his possession to "My good friend, Truman". Drawings, letters, diaries, everything. Truman never failed to speak about the horrors (his opinions)of Capital Punishment afterwards. It changed him.
Would he let anything come between himself and a NY Times bestseller? Not on your life, or anyone elses. WHo knows.
Eric


Holly Fairall (birdbrainbooks) I think what's so amazingly powerful about the book is how Capote is able to evoke sympathy for both the victims and, what's more difficult, for the guilty. I loved the book because it shows the complicated nature of crime, right and wrong, and humanity--clearly what these men did was horrific and wrong; but that doesn't mean that you can't still feel sympathy for them. It is exactly their dark, loveless lives that pushed them down the wrong path, and because they consciously made those horrible decisions, they must be held accountable. However that doesn't mean that we as readers and fellow humans can't still feel the pain of the entire situation, for all parties involved. I don't think the two feelings--sympathy for them and anger at what they did/belief that they should be punished--have to be mutually exclusive.


Holly Fairall (birdbrainbooks) Eric wrote: "Whatever may/maynot have happened in their past it doesn't excuse the heinous crime they committed. I was abused yet never abused anyone. I know people who were raped and never raped anyone back. S..."

I agree overall with your comment, but as I mentioned in my own comment above, I don't think these things have to be mutually exclusive (feeling the pain of the circumstances for all parties while still acknowledging that the guilty parties should be punished for making those horrific decisions).


message 32: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Howlett Officials in a small town in Florida are working to have the bodies of Hickok and Perry exhumed because they believe they may have been responsible for a similar killing that occurred in Osprey, FL in 1959. I live in Florida and when this came out in the newspaper late last year, I asked some people who are old enough to have been aware of the murders and they remembered them well. Here's the link to the newspaper article in The Tampa Bay Times if anyone is interested. http://www.tampabay.com/incoming/in-c...


Stephen It is sort of raised as a possibility in the book. It's never really clear one way or the other. Were they flattered by a copycat killing or were they both pretending they hadn't done it.


message 34: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Howlett It's been so many years since I read the book that I had forgotten that a similar killing in Florida was mentioned. It would be interesting after all these years to definitively link Hickock and Perry to the murders in Osprey.


Lynsey Holly wrote: "Eric wrote: "Whatever may/maynot have happened in their past it doesn't excuse the heinous crime they committed. I was abused yet never abused anyone. I know people who were raped and never raped a..."

You make a good point here, and I think Capote hit on that tone perfectly with the text. I felt that Perry was much easier to sympathize with than Dick; Dick just seemed like a sociopath to me. Boo hoo, Mommy and Daddy couldn't buy me everything that I wanted, my potential went to waste, boo hoo. While Perry, in contrast...well, it's easy to understand how he ended up on the Clutter property that November night...not that it means that anyone here (myself included) would condone or excuse his actions.


Thomas Paul I don't think Capote tries to make you feel sorry for either man. He simply tells their story. He tries to explain how they ended up in that house but he doesn't try to justify what they did. Capote was abused but he never hurt anyone other than with his comments on the Tonight Show or at one of his fancy parties. And no matter how Capote felt about these men I can guarantee he wouldn't want to be alone in his apartment with either one of them.


Linda Kelly Find it so sad that we all know the murderers and their names so think it would be nice if everyone took a minute to remember the victims of this horrible crime.

Herb Clutter
Bonnie Clutter
Nancy Clutter
Kenyon Clutter
R.I.P


message 38: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric Andrews-Katz Linda wrote: "Find it so sad that we all know the murderers and their names so think it would be nice if everyone took a minute to remember the victims of this horrible crime.

Herb Clutter
Bonnie Clutter
Nancy ..."


You are correct. While discussing the murderers, we should ALWAYS remember the victims (more importantly). Too many times we exaggerate the notoriety of the killers without remembering the victims. Although I NEVER forget those who were killed (especially in this case)while studying these crimes, thank you for the reminder!


Thomas Paul Capote actually covers the victims quite a bit in the book.


message 40: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric Andrews-Katz (I think Linda was referring to remembering the victims on this site - they'd have to be mentioned throughout the book)


Linda Kelly Thanks Eric, that's exactly what I meant.


message 42: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric Andrews-Katz I'm betting most people couldn't name the victims (aside from Sharon Tate) of the Helter Skelter nights - but that's another page and another discussion.
The victims' names are MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than the murderers


message 43: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Howlett I can, Eric. Although that's probably because I've read so much about the Tate murders over the years. I do agree that we should never forget the victims.


Charles Moore I was empathetic to Smith and Hickock but that didn't turn me against the verdict or execution. That's was trials do. They force into the open a question (not 'the' question but only 'a' question) of guilt or innocence in the eyes of Kansas law.

I thought Capote really helped show all the torment and anger and twist and turns associated with a random killing more than a newspaper account could ever do. I also think the book is a good reminder for all the rest of us how fragile life is and not necessarily with regards to the randomness of the killings. These two men's lives could have taken different courses so easily and who knows how those stories might have turned out.


Melanie Jon wrote: "Often, people who end up doing monstrous things have had monstrous thing done to them. I've seen studies that show that at least 35% of child molestors were victims of sexual abuse themselves when..."

My understanding is that if you go to prison do to anything harmful to a child that you will NOT have a good experience or maybe even get killed. Most prisoners had things done to them as children, and that is just something you don't do. It's nice that even prisoners have some kind of a moral code.


Melanie Claire wrote: "There are some who thought Capote basically used Perry to get closer to him and to use whatever he might gain in order to produce a better book. I've always thought this more likely than Capote ac..."

But what I found intersting is that Smith had a hatred for homosexuals. He had talked about being raped in the Merchant Marines and the fact he didn't get promoted in the Army because he wouldn't "roll over."


Melanie Having two murders in my family (one solved the other unsolved), and having my grandfather own land adjoining the Clutter farm (he actually saw Herb on his last living day) I really didn't have any sympathy for either Hickock or Smith.

There are very few people that had the perfect childhood, however, very few people grow up to be serial killers or those kids that shoot up schools. Most murders are an act of passion which is why the significant other is always suspect #1.

I actually liked Smith's sister. She had a very simlar background but went the other directon. She wanted to help her brother, but realized he wasn't going to change and had to cut herself out of his life. Hickock's parents were good people too.

Was it Smith that did the killings, or was Hickock involved too? Both were guilty because of the planning involved. Smith at first said that he killed the men and Hickock killed the women, but then later said he killed them all so Hickock's mother wouldn't think he son was a killer.


Claude Sad and tragic book. So sorry for all the victims,, but no I do not feel sorry for the murderers. They got what they deserved.


Erika Maria ZaBa Not a bit, I feel sorry for the victims. Murderers had to pay.


Matthew Little You feel sad for them only because of their backgrounds, and that's what makes them such interesting "characters" aka people. They had harsh upbringings (especially Perry), Capote showed us how they grew up to show us how they came to be, giving other reasons for why they did what they did rather than just to get a little money. They were both very scarred people, and people who suffer abuse tend (a lot of the time I should say) to act out. Dick and Perry are really meant to be felt sorry for based on why they did it rather after they did it.


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