In Cold Blood

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Illusiveness of the American Dream
Although the term “American dream” was coined in 1931 by James Truslow Adams in The Epic Of America, the ideology behind the American dream started back in the sixteenth-century when Western European settlers came to this land at great risk to build a better life for themselves. In Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, the American dream is at the heart of the novel as the book is mainly based in Kansas- the heartland of America. As a whole, the American dream consists of the ideals of freedom, equality, and opportunity to be held for every American. Different perspectives from all the characters in the novel show how deceptive the American dream can prove to be.

As “the master of River Valley Farm” (5) and a self-made man, Herb Clutter and his model family of four are a prime example of a stereotypical American family. The Clutter’s simple lifestyle of owning farmland and providing for themselves make them a cliché successful American family in the Midwest. However, Capote has a pessimistic perspective on the American dream, as in his eyes it leads to nowhere except the confines of death. Capote provides a journalistic approach to his writing and a deep analysis of some of the characters. Capote interviews Perry Smith and Dick Hickock endlessly. Readers come to realize that Perry’s lonely and disorganized childhood, in addition to Dick’s loving background but poor decision-making ability, are justified reasons for their criminal behavior.

A version of the American dream- of safety, security, and the ability to determine one’s fate- is undermined and twisted on the day of the Clutter family murder in November 1959. Dick and Perry both strive to provide for themselves in one way or another, just like the Clutter family, but in a more criminal fashion. The American dream becomes twisted whenever criminal ways of living are used to be successful. While Herb Clutter would be busy working at River Valley Farm, “by sundown, when the...
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