Modern-day Mythology/Epic Storytelling
In Cold Blood is crafted like a modern-day tragedy, on the scale of one of the Greek dramas from classical antiquity, and deals with many of the same universal themes: murder, vengeance, and the pursuit of justice. This, for Capote, was the power of his new literary genre, the nonfiction novel: to take events from the contemporary world and elevate them to epic storytelling proportions, enabling them to transcend their specific historical moment and reflect on broader truths about humanity. Capote assembles the disparate facts and perspectives about the Clutter case into a narrative that speaks profoundly on the nature of human life and death, criminality, American society and the pursuit of individual happiness -- reinventing in the process many of our modern-day forms of mythology (for example, the myth of the American dream).
Loss of Innocence/Undermining the American Dream
The Clutter killings are a turning point for the citizens of Holcomb and Garden City: for the first time, the dangerous wider world seems to threaten their peaceful existence, and their former naïveté gives way to feelings of doubt, fear and suspicion. According to Capote, it is the first time the citizens of this part of Kansas have had to endure the “unique experience of distrusting each other” (88). Their version of the American dream – of safety, security, and the ability to determine their own fate – becomes undermined, if not entirely thwarted, by the victimization of the Clutters. Their view of the world must suddenly include another kind of person, a poor, embittered, “rootless” person, for whom this dream was never an option in the first place. The Banality of Evil
When the murders are first discovered, Perry and Dick, as “persons unknown,” are elevated to an inhuman, almost mythic stature, the essence of a pure and motiveless evil that has come to destroy the peaceful lifestyle of the Holcomb residents. Capote, however,...
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