In Cold Blood. Question 2 “Nature vs Nurture”
Truman Capote’s acclaimed “non-fiction” novel, In Cold Blood explores the concept as to whether killers are born or made, following the brutal murders of the Clutter family in rural Kansas. Capote develops Perry Smith’s horrid, unfortunate upbringing as a key narrative device which serves to illustrate the effect of childhood experiences on adult behaviour. Capote manipulates the reader’s idea of morality, controversially portraying Perry Smith in a sympathetic fashion despite his crimes, in an attempt to explain, if not justify, his actions. Capote juxtaposes two different perspectives on the crime, emphasising the difference between the victims’ background and that of the crime’s perpetrators. By cataloguing Smith's earlier misfortunes, to reinforce the negative influences of his past, the novel attempts to explain the complexities of human behaviour, and highlights the pivotal influence of an individual's upbringing on their adult decisions.
At the commencement of the novel, Capote presents the Clutters as the perfect family and Holcomb as the archetypal example of "Small Town America". The Clutters are seen to be living the "American Dream" and Capote vividly outlines their comfortable lifestyle and upstanding reputation. Capote positions the audience to see the Clutters as hard working and decent by nature. He consciously introduces the fact that Herb Clutter’s income had increased “four-thousand-per-cent…since the year he married Bonnie Fox” and that in the years following, laboured “eighteen hours a day”. (pg 9 – 10) Capote positions the reader to make a clear link between Herb Clutter’s financial success and the honest, hard work that he applied to achieve this. This paints a ‘well rounded’ picture of Herb Clutter, describing his persistence and intelligence while using words such as "handsome” and “well-mannered". The reader sees a person without a flaw, regulated by his own high moral