Objectivity and Sympathy in Capote's in Cold Blood

Topics: Truman Capote, Death Penalty, In Cold Blood Pages: 2 (641 words) Published: August 21, 2013
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is 1966 nonfiction novel that follows the Clutter killings of 1959; specifically, it is a novel that follows the killers of the Clutter family, Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Edward Smith. In writing In Cold Blood, Capote intended the novel to be both objective and sympathetic. To write a nonfiction novel in an objective and sympathetic manner, especially one concerning a topic such as murder and the death penalty, is no easy task. In Cold Blood was true to Capote’s intent as it was very much a sympathetic novel, but some objectivity was sacrificed in order to make the novel both sympathetic and interesting.

Overall, In Cold Blood was a very sympathetic novel. Capote manages to capture Perry Edward Smith as a whole person rather than a one sided killer. Though throughout the novel, the reader is completely aware of the fact that Smith is a murderer, Capote intertwines the novel with moments from Smith’s childhood - moments that are so terrible they almost justify Smith’s crime as an outlet for emotions built up from his childhood. As a child, Smith had been through his parents’ divorce, and had lived with his mother, who was a heavy alcoholic and eventually sent Smith to a Catholic orphanage, where the nuns were “always at [him]. Hitting [him]” (132). Smith had two sisters and a brother, but by the time of the Clutter killings, only one sister was still living; his other siblings had taken their own lives. Smith represents everything it means to come from a broken family, and Capote’s recount of Smith’s childhood causes the reader to only feel sympathy for Smith. Capote does not portray Smith as a killer, whose crime has elevated him to an inhuman status, nor as a monster, but portrays Smith as normal human being. As a reader, discovering Smith’s horrible childhood made me feel something I never thought I would feel: sympathy for a killer.

Whereas Capote excelled in making In Cold Blood completely sympathetic, some of the...
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