The Effects of Ones Environment in In Cold Blood On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, a family of four was brutally murdered by shotgun blasts only a few inches from their faces. The protagonist of the story, Perry Smith, a man with a troubled past, is the one responsible for committing these murders. In framing the question nature versus nurture, Capote’s powerfully written account of the Clutter family killings asks whether a man alone can be held responsible for his actions when his environment has relentlessly neglected him; Perry Smith is a prime example. He is an intelligent, talented, and sensitive human being, who has been warped and rejected by society and his environment, and therefore cannot be held accountable for his actions. Throughout his life Perry suffers through many circumstances including abuse, having a limited education, and family difficulties. It is through these circumstances, which are beyond his control, that send him down a path of crime. Throughout his childhood Perry is beaten and abused on many occasions by numerous individuals. He spends most of his childhood living in orphanages, children’s shelters, and detention homes where he is beaten not only for being half – Indian, but for wetting the bed as well. While spending time in a California orphanage run by nuns Perry is beaten ruthlessly for wetting his bed: “She woke me up. She had a flashlight, and she hit me with it. Hit me and hit me, and when the flashlight broke, she went on hitting me in the dark” (Capote 93). After a couple of months, Perry is tossed out of the orphanage and his mother places him in a children’s shelter operated by the Salvation Army. Here he is once again beaten brutally by the nurses:
There was this one nurse, she used to call me ‘nigger’ and say there wasn’t any difference between niggers and Indians…What she used to do, she’d fill a tub with ice-cold water, put me in it and hold me under till I was blue. Nearly drowned…I
Cited: Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood. New York: Random House, 1965.
Merrill, David. Schizophrenia. February 7, 2010. National Centre for Biotechnology Information. June 19, 2010. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001925/>.