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Perry Edward Smith - Along with Dick_ one of the two murderers of


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Date: _____________
                                           In Cold Blood Notes
Purposeful Questions: Can man alone be held responsible for his actions when his environment has relentlessly
neglected him? How does a town react to murder?
Merit Worthy
     Published in 1965 and serialized in four installments in the New Yorker
     Capote claimed to have invented a new genre, the “nonfiction novel” – a combination of journalism and
     Wanted to merge the two—enlivening what he saw as stagnant prose conforming to stale, rigid
         standards—and he wished to experiment with documentary methods.
     “New Journalism” – response to sensationalized tabloid news that was the norm – “interpretive
     Capote was born on September 30, 1924 in New Orleans, Louisiana and died in Los Angeles, CA on August
         25, 1984 at age of 59 – the victim of alcoholism and drug addiction
     Lifelong friend was Harper Lee who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird

Historical Context
     1950’s – Korean War – Sen. McCarthy’s purging of Communists from all areas of American life (national
        panic and hysteria caused by infiltration by “the other”)
     Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of espionage and executed in a symbolic gesture of alleviating
        this anxiety and purging the nation of its intruders and traitors

Anti-Establishment and Counterculture Movements
     Spawned by blind conformity and false American values (On The Road – Jack Kerouac)
     Assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy, entrance into Vietnam Conflict
     Space emerged as the final frontier
     Women and different racial and socioeconomic groups protested for equal rights and protection from
        discrimination, sparking a backlash
     Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965 by African American who disagreed with him

ICB Themes

       Loss on Individualism                                   WWII
       Loss of Innocence                                       Disillusionment
       Communism – threats to democracy                        Nature vs. Nurture
       East vs. West                                           Abuse
       Masking society‘s flaws                                 Neglect
       Religion                                                Humiliation
       Conformity                                              Rebellion
       American morality                                       Fate
       Violence                                                Isolation / Nonconformity
       Fear of the Unknown – Cold War,                         Homosexuality
        Space Age                                               Escapism / Aimlessness
       Evolution of the family unit                            Idealism vs. Reality
       Reality vs. Perception                                  Racism
       Immigration
                      In Cold Blood Optional Character Analysis Sheet
                       PQ: How does murder impact the hoi polloi?
Perry Edward Smith-                                                       Richard Eugene Hickock-

Herbert Clutter-                                             Bonnie Clutter-

Nancy Clutter-                                               Kenyon Clutter-

Bobby Rupp-                                                  Alvin Dewey-

Harold Nye-                                                  Roy Church-

Clarence Duntz-                                              Tex John Smith-

Susan Kidwell-                                               Willie-Jay

Floyd Wells-                                                 Lowell Lee Andrews-

Mr. Helms-                                                   Alfred Stoecklein-

Bess Hartman-                                                Barbara Johnson-

Don Cullivan
For each of the words or phrases below, explain how the word/phrase fits into In Cold Blood.
1. bed wetting—

2. suicide—

3. The ―Jones Theory‖—

4. ―a lean Cherokee girl rode a wild horse‖—

5. Alaska—

6. Bobo—

7. Floyd Wells—

8. ―hanging lots of paper‖—

9. ―Thanatoid=Deathlike; Omnilingual=versed in languages; Amerce=punishment, amount fixed by

10. ―The law is boss, he knows that. He loves his Freedom.‖—

         Rhetorical Devices/Strategies



Nature vs. Nurture



Character Information

Perry Edward Smith - Along with Dick, one of the two murderers of the Clutter family. He is a short man, with a
large torso but small legs. His legs were badly injured in a motorcycle accident. He wants very much to be educated,
and he considers himself quite intelligent and artistic. His childhood was lonely and disorganized. His criminal
record seems to be a natural extension of the strange environments in which he grew up.
Richard Eugene Hickock - Along with Perry, one of the two murderers of the Clutter family. Also a small man,
Dick grew up in Kansas, was married twice, and is jailed for passing bad checks. He is a practical man who exudes
confidence and cruelty, but in reality he is not as ruthless or brave as he seems.
Herbert Clutter - The father of the Clutter family. His wife is Bonnie. He has four children: two older daughters
who have moved out, and Nancy and Kenyon. His large property, River Valley Farm, keeps him moderately
wealthy. Starting with little, he has built up a large, successful farm. He is a community leader, involved with many
organizations. He is a gentle man, a strict Methodist. He served on the Federal Farm Credit Board under President
Bonnie Clutter - Herbert's wife, Bonnie, cannot keep up with his public image as a leader, and she withdraws into
the home. Suffering depressive mental disorders, she spends a great deal of time in bed.
Nancy Clutter - Along with Kenyon, one of the two youngest Clutter children. They both still live at home. She is
"the darling" of the town, a class president and future prom queen. Like her father, she is very organized.
Kenyon Clutter - An awkward 15-year-old, Kenyon loves to tinker with carpentry and machines.
Bobby Rupp - Nancy's steady boyfriend, Bobby lives nearby.
Alvin Dewey - An investigator for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), Dewey is the agent responsible for
much of western Kansas. He becomes very involved in the case, to the distress of his wife, Marie, and his two small
Harold Nye - One of Dewey's principal KBI assistants. Nicknamed "Brother Nye," he is the youngest of the group.
During the capture and interrogation of Smith and Hickock, he has the flu.
Roy Church - The oldest of the KBI assistants, Church is nicknamed "Curly" and is supposedly the fastest draw in
Clarence Duntz - Another of the three KBI assistants, Duntz is a burly man with a broad face.
Tex John Smith - Perry's father, Tex is a kindly backwoodsman who taught Perry to bake bread, but who never
comes to see his son in jail. Perry's mother is Flo Buckskin, who Tex met and married on the rodeo circuit.
Susan Kidwell - Nancy's best friend, Susan lives in Holcomb.
Willie-Jay - Assistant to the chaplain of Lansing, the Kansas state prison, Willie-Jay becomes a kind of mentor to
Perry. He tells Perry that he is talented.
Floyd Wells - An inmate at Lansing prison. After Perry leaves on parole, he became Dick's cellmate. He is a former
employee of Herbert Clutter, and he tells Dick about the ranch and the layout of the house.
Lowell Lee Andrews - Andrews was a young college student who murdered his family. He is a schizophrenic.
Several of his years on death row overlap with those of Dick and Perry. Perry resents the fact that Andrews is highly
Mr. Helms - An employee of River Valley Farm.
Alfred Stoecklein - An employee of River Valley Farm. He and his wife live on the property.
Bess Hartman - The proprietor of Hartman's Cafe. She has a thick skin and scolds her customers when they gossip
too much about the Clutter murders.
Barbara Johnson - Perry's only living sister. She lives in San Francisco and is married.
Don Cullivan - An old army friend of Perry's who starts a correspondence with him
In Cold Blood | Themes: Nature versus Nurture
Capote includes, almost in their entirety, long texts written by Smith's sister, his father, the court-
appointed psychiatrist, and his friend Willie Jay, which detail Smith's childhood, motorcycle
accident, prejudices, and mental state. The composite image of Smith derived from these
accounts is one of an innately intelligent, talented, sensitive being warped and eroded by neglect,
abuse, humiliation, and unresolved emotional trauma. Smith's mother, an alcoholic, choked on
her own vomit. His brother and sister committed suicide and another sister disowned him. His
father moved him from house to house during childhood, preventing Smith from going to school.
Nonetheless, Smith has taught himself to play the guitar and harmonica, to paint, and to speak
with exacting grammar. He reads constantly and, ‗‗being a bit of a prude,‘‘ avoids vulgar
literature and materials. In prison, he paints a portrait of Jesus for the prison chaplain, which
leads Reverend Post to believe that Smith cannot be "all that bad.‘‘ Capote's recounting of
Smith's childhood and family life begs the question whether Smith's crimes stem from inherent
criminal tendencies, or whether he is pushed onto that path through circumstances beyond his

Retribution The community of Holcomb, Kansas cannot rest until the killers are brought to
justice. "Why don't you arrest somebody?‘‘ a townsperson asks Agent Dewey. "That's what you
get paid for.'' The subsequent mistrust and insecurity that pervade the town can only be alleviated
by the knowledge that someone has been apprehended and punished. Simultaneously, the fact
that the killers are outsiders instigates a hope that the killers are "other'' than the Holcomb norm.
The crowd awaiting Smith and Hickock outside the courthouse is shocked into silence to see that
the killers are human, just like them.

Sexuality Sexuality is at a low but consistent frequency throughout the narrative. Hickock
cannot be satisfied by monogamy and is married twice and divorced twice. He gets himself into
two engagements while the pair is in Mexico and makes love to one of his fiancées while Smith
is in the room. His secret sexual deviance, however, is that he is aroused by young, sometimes
prepubescent girls. Smith must keep Hickock from raping Nancy Clutter in the house, and Smith
later admits that he cannot stand people ‗‗who can't control themselves sexually.‘‘ There are
suggestions that Smith is homosexual, and it may be his need to control and even hide his own
sexuality that provokes his scorn for those who indulge in sex casually. Hickock, openly
homophobic, refers to Smith as "baby," "sugar," and "honey," and arrives at the conclusion that
he needs to part with Smith, as he is tired of Smith's whining. Smith himself had often attracted
the attention of homosexuals in the Army, and had originally been hesitant to approach Willie
Jay as a friend because he seemed to be too delicate. Smith thought that Hickock was a good
complement to him, since Hickock was ‗‗totally masculine.‘‘ While Hickock is forever proving
his heterosexual prowess to Smith, Smith reciprocates by proving his potential for violence to
Hickock; this orbit is driven by each man's insecurity about his sexuality.

Fate Dewey concludes, after hearing the indifference with which Hickock and Smith confess the
crime, that the murders were ‗‗a psychological accident.‘‘ Smith seems to have followed a path
not of his own making entirely, but an unfortunate and fatal series of such accidents, including
events after the murders. Capote is careful to describe the sudden and small twists of fate that, in
his opinion, bring Smith to the Clutter home: he contracts pneumonia as a child, leading to his
reunion with his father, which keeps him out of school from the age of eight; he misses meeting
his friend Willie Jay at the Kansas bus station by just a few hours, when meeting Willie Jay
would have given him reason to part ways with Hickock; he was essentially forced to return to
Kansas after the murders by Hickock's relentless bravado, leading eventually to his capture by
the police.
(Notes are from Spark Notes)

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