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In Cold Blood
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In Cold Blood > Final Thoughts *Spoilers*

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message 1: by Michael, Mod Prometheus (new) - rated it 4 stars

Michael (knowledgelost) | 1255 comments Mod
Final thoughts


Laurie This book was interesting but also somewhat different than I expected. It is clear that what interested Truman Capote was the psychological backgrounds of the two murderers. And of course anytime the public hears of mass murders, we always wonder why the murderers resort to killing so many people. In the case of the Clutter murder, the why is simply that Dick planned from day one that there would be no witnesses to the robbery. Unlike Capote, I wondered more about the victims before beginning this book and found the large sections describing the backgrounds of the murderers to be too long, especially Perry's background. I would have preferred less description at the end about the psychological mind-set of murderers. When Capote branched off to tell about other murders and the state of mind of those murderers, it seemed beside the point since this was a book about one murder, not about murderers in general.

The Clutter family and who they were is practically incidental to Capote's version of the story. He almost seemed to include the background information on all of them only to show that they were wonderful people and were the last family that this should have happened to. I guess there wasn't more to say about them, but I still felt sort of cheated about the aftermath of the victims. I want to know a little about the two older daughters and how they coped with the tragedy. I felt like the Clutters got lost in the analysis of the murderers and became almost unimportant.

Capote called this a "non-fiction novel" which using traditional definitions is a contradiction in terms. But I think he was right. Large parts of this story have dialogue and internal thoughts which were not common in non-fiction books at the time. Some occurrences as depicted in this novel don't necessarily match up to reality if one believes claims made in subsequent interviews with several of the people involved in the story. It is interesting to search those interviews on the internet and see what is different. It appears Capote got the main points correct and didn't worry so much about some of the smaller details. But I think it important to know that probably not everything in the book is the way it actually happened.


message 3: by Sam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sam (aramsamsam) I read this book last year in January, so my memory is not too reliable. I remember the strong athmosphere of the novel and its factual tone. I think this is what made me enjoy it, made it more realistic. What I remember disliking though is how the opening of the book was different in tone, focussed on letting the reader know that the Clutters were the victims and "good American citizens". While this is obviously true, I didn't find it necessary to emphasize it in this way.
But maybe it's just that I was, as a reader, more interested in the psychology of the murderers.

As promised over on the "First impressions" thread, I'm adding a link to a WSJ article about new found inaccuracies in In cold blood. What do you think about this? Would it make any difference to you if the novel was only that, a fiction?


Laurie It makes a difference to me if it is portrayed as true. It is kind of like going to the movies and seeing something that is "based on true events" as they put it, and then discovering that almost nothing in reality was as seen in the movie. When I read true crime, I want true. But in ICB I think Capote was telling us that some events were not quite accurate by calling it a novel. So reader beware.


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

Sam (aramsamsam) True. Although it sounds like a report of the events, it is narration. What made you rate it 3 stars, Laurie?


Laurie Iselin wrote: "True. Although it sounds like a report of the events, it is narration. What made you rate it 3 stars, Laurie?"

Even though I have some issues with the fictional aspects, it was interesting. I had to deduct a star for the psychological parts that bored me. It probably is really a 3.5 star book. Wish we could do half stars. I will definitely check out some more of Capote's work though.



message 7: by Sam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sam (aramsamsam) I really enjoyed Breakfast At Tiffany's. Maybe it could be for you, too.


message 8: by Franky (new) - added it

Franky Iselin, thanks for the link to that article. It was interesting and shed so much light on the controversy of possible inaccuracies in the novel. According to the article, Capote only spend a "small portion" of time in Kansas, whereas I got the impression that he practically was living there during this whole thing. I also thought it raised many other questions and issues too.

On a side note, I can see why the surviving Clutter relatives are just trying to move on, and how they wouldn't want everything reopened and made public. It would be painful to relive.


Breanne It's been a year or so since I read this, but I kind of got the impression that Capote had a lot of sympathy for the criminals and a bit of apathy toward the victims. I really enjoyed the book though, but I'm really thankful that you posted that article about the things he changed! It's really interesting to read in light of how the book made me feel.

I also thought Capote must've been living there during the trial. In the book he seemed so involved with the murderers.


message 10: by Sam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sam (aramsamsam) I think Capote got a bit too involved with the whole affair, but I don't blame him for it. He realized that these men were men after all, not monsters. It must have been the most shocking experience. It is so easy to judge someone from afar, but holding on to that judgement as you get closer is maybe impossible. -- Wasn't that what Hannah Arendt experienced (Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil)?


message 11: by M.L. (new) - rated it 3 stars

M.L. | 309 comments I read it awhile go and thought it a good journalistic type recounting of the events. I didn't see how Capote could stand to be anywhere near the killers much less have relationships.


message 12: by Franky (new) - added it

Franky I finished this book last night. I have put this book off for years because 1) true crime really isn't my thing and 2) I kept hearing how sympathetic Capote was to the killers.

It was much more neutral writing than I expected. In fact, quite often I forgot who the author was and got more invested in the story. It comes across as a series of articles and journals, rather than an author's voice, which in this case is good. Capote does do a good job of presenting everything and letting the reader make their own judgments.

I also thought he gave a voice to the town and the friends and surviving family members and how they handled such a tragedy.

Still, although a quick read, I don't think this is a book I'd ever pick up again. The subject matter is just way too heavy.


Montse Terés Laurie wrote: "This book was interesting but also somewhat different than I expected. It is clear that what interested Truman Capote was the psychological backgrounds of the two murderers. And of course anytime..."

I agree with you that the descriptions of the backgrounds of both Perry and Dick are too long at some points, and certainly, the backgrounds on the thoughts of other murderers' stories, like Andrews' story are too long and make the ending of the book drag on and on.
I also agree that I would have liked to know a bit more about the surviving Clutter sisters, but, on the other hand, I found the descriptions of each of the members of the Clutter family who were killed very good. The way Capote shifted from those descriptions to the descriptions of what Dick and Perry were up to at that time worked really well and I was impressed by how the writer could catch my attention for so long with actually very few things happening in the story until part 2. I think that those descriptions make you feel as if you knew the characters, and thus, a lot more shocked by what happened to them.
I,m not so worried about whether Capote invented or changed some of the details in some of the dialogues. I think that is inevitable in any narrative.


Laurie Montse wrote: "Laurie wrote: "This book was interesting but also somewhat different than I expected. It is clear that what interested Truman Capote was the psychological backgrounds of the two murderers. And of..."

It isn't inaccuracy in dialogue that bothers me. I know that it has to be fictional to a degree because no one has perfect recall of what was said in conversations. It is other little things that didn't really need to be changed to still have a good story. Such as Alvin Dewey said that he never visited the graves as he supposedly did at the end of the book. And Bobby Rupp said in an interview that he didn't run down to the Clutter farm after he heard the news, he drove. Additionally the Kansas Bureau of Investigation records show that no one visited the Hickock farm the night that Floyd Wells told the warden at the prison that Dick Hickock had planned this crime. The records show that it was 5 days before Harold Nye visited Dick's parents. And the DA who tried the case said that it took 5 days because Alvin Dewey did not believe the killers were unknown to the Clutters. So I don't think Dewey rushed home the night of Floyd's confession and told his wife that they had found the killers. None of these changes make or break the book, but the changes weren't necessary. The truth was good enough.


Marianne Ericka (thescribbleowl) Hello! This is the first book I'm reading from the group and I find that there are a lot of things to discuss about it.

But going by the flow of conversation, I think of the book as fiction. As already pointed out by Laurie, it felt "based on" than "actual" events. Given my age I didn't know about the Clutter murders, and the I felt that the book delivered a narrative that was more of a story than an actual event. I also did not research before I read the book so I assumed that it was pure-fiction.

The background of the killers were dragging at some points. To me, it felt like the author was trying to draw a tragic background to justify the murders. A success I see for the most part, but the amount of personal investment in Hickock and Smith was contrasted by the less amount for the Clutters.


LyndiLea Hardman (LyndiLeaHardman) | 31 comments After hating the movie I wasn't expecting much from the book so I was more than pleasantly surprised when I found out how well written and told the story of this unfortant family actually was. Once I got started I couldn't put it down. I ended up finishing it in just a few day. I highly recommend it.


message 17: by Franky (last edited Aug 26, 2014 04:47PM) (new) - added it

Franky Lyndi wrote: "After hating the movie I wasn't expecting much from the book so I was more than pleasantly surprised when I found out how well written and told the story of this unfortant family actually was. Once..."

Lyndi, just wondering: are you referring to the recent film "Capote", the film "Infamous" or the film "In Cold Blood" from 1967 with Robert Blake?

Just curious, because I didn't like "Capote" at all, as it just focused primarily on Truman's sympathy with the killers and didn't really delve that much into the actual story of the victims and the investigation to track the killers. "In Cold Blood" with Robert Blake is a much more faithful telling of the novel in my opinion.


LyndiLea Hardman (LyndiLeaHardman) | 31 comments Definitely "Capote" I didn't know about the other 2 movies. Are they any better?


Janet (goodreadscomjanetj) | 86 comments This book was good but not always what I had expected. It bothered me too, like some of the other readers, that Capote had called this a non fiction work but he changed some of the details. Granted, he called it a nonfiction novel, but nonfiction is nonfiction. I did not feel that Capote was trying to justify the murders by describing the background of the murderers but I do think that possibly he was trying to point out that their impoverished backgrounds led to the death penalty judgement and that if they had been able to have paid attorneys present from the beginning the outcome would have been different. He seemed to have more sympathy for Perry than for Dick.

I think that the readers own opinion of the death penalty could color their reading of this book. I, personally, oppose the death penalty and wonder if those who believe in it would read the book differently than I did.

Also, I question why he put so many details in the last section of the book about Lowell Andrews, Ronald York and James Latham. I didn't see that any real point was made by doing so.


message 20: by Franky (new) - added it

Franky Lyndi wrote: "Definitely "Capote" I didn't know about the other 2 movies. Are they any better?"

I watched "In Cold Blood" with Robert Blake (I had to watch on amazon instant because I couldn't find it on Netflix). I think it is a much better representation of the novel, so I thought it was pretty good. It is filmed in black and white and it follows with much more attention to what took place and the town's reactions and the subsequent trial. To me, "Capote" is just really a focus on the author himself, and his relationship to the case. I was, like you, sorely disappointed in that one. I haven't watched "Infamous" though.


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