As Capote recreates the murder, the investigation that led to the capture, the trial and the execution of the killers, he generates compelling suspense and empathy. The narrative embodies a twisted plot that grips you and forestalls you from putting it down. This book has more than one main character essentially because these two characters are the reason for the entire plot. Throughout the first half of the book, the reader basically chases after the murderers, Richard Eugene (Dick) Hickock and Perry Edward Smith.
Perry and Dick were familiar with each other since they had celled together at Kansas State Penitentiary. Dick is your average guy, young (28 years old), arrogant, practical, and fastidious. Dick grew up with loving parents on a small farm near Olathe. He had a fond childhood and was married twice with two sons. Adversely, he was jailed for passing bad checks. Nonetheless, Dicks character is not as ruthless and confident as he makes it seem in the first half of the novel. Perry, on the other hand, is someone people would look at curiously. Hes short with a very muscular torso and stubby legs.
His legs were damaged due to a motorcycle accident in 1952. Perrys only living relatives are his father, Tex John Smith and his sister, Barbara Johnson. Perrys other two siblings, were victims of suicide. In contrast to Dicks childhood, Perrys was lonely and disorganized since his mother had abandoned him and he was left to grow up in a brutal Catholic orphanage. Perrys goal in life was to dig up treasure in Mexico. He retained a wide collection of maps and souvenirs from different countries along with letters from his father and sister.
Dicks aspiration in life was to be a football player, but these were crushed by an atrocious car accident that left his long-jawed and narrow face tilted. Both Perry and Dick have similar surface traits, such as a high awareness of hygiene, especially with their fingernails. However, their inner personalities were miles apart. Except for the murder they committed that brought them together, they had nothing in common and, they disliked each other deeply. The main conflict or challenge that Perry has to face is Dicks acceptance.
Perry presented himself as a macho guy who is capable of murder and mayhem in order to stick with Dick. By presenting this image of himself, Perry believes he has acquired Dicks trust and partnership. However, Dick does not think so. Dick was sick of him his harmonica, his aches and ills, his superstitions, the weepy, womanly eyes, the nagging, whispering voice. Suspicious, self-righteous, he was like a wife that must be got rid of. (215). Dicks opinion of Perry is quite apparent from this quote; he clearly intends on getting rid of Perry.
By trying to be something he is not, Perry allows himself to be mistreated by Dick. He literally does everything Dick does and trails behind him ignorantly. Planning the murder was all Dicks idea, and initially, he intended Perry to be his silent partner. Due to this conflict between Dick and Perry, Perry committed the murders, predominantly to impress Dick. The murders themselves become another conflict that Perry has to face. In the months after the slayings, he is haunted by the voices of the victims. Perry has to confine himself to a life of regret and unfulfilled dreams.
Dicks main conflict is facing up to his parents expectations. His parents raised him to be a fine law-abiding individual. However, Dicks character betrays his parents hopes and trust. Through the work of four critically scrutinizing investigators, the cold heartless murder of the four members of the Clutter family is finally resolved and the culprits are caught. On December 30, 1959, Perry & Dick were arrested out in Las Vegas by two regular patrol officers. At the time, they were not told the exact reason why they were being arrested, only that they were on parole violation.
In the midst of one-on-one interviews with the murderers, Detective Alvin Dewey (head investigator of the KBI) finally induced Perry and Dick to confess to the murder. They did so because they had no other choice; the evidence against them was unmistakable and Dick had turned against Perry. Dick confessed to the investigators that Perry was the one who shot all four members of the Clutter family, as Dick remained his silent partner. Between Dick and Perry, theres an immense fissure surrounding trust. Once their crime is confessed, they turn against each other and blame one another for different parts of the crime.
This shows how selfish human nature can be. By writing this book, Capote wanted readers to have a better understanding of human nature and the circumstances that induce us to behave the way we do. Overall, this book was a great read. It made me aware about something that actually happened long before I was born and it gave me a glimpse of what the world was like before our generation. Considering that this narrative is a true story, the style in which Capote wrote this book made it feel like a regular, yet captivating novel. The author fabricated some of the conversations to highlight the storys novel-ish state. Never mind, he [Mr.Clutter] said, responding to Nancys problem.
Skip the 4-H. Ill take Kenyon instead. (19). Near the beginning of the novel, there are a lot of conversations that never took place in actual fact. Capote added these conversations to fill in the missing pieces of the story and to give the reader a sense of the victims lives before they were murdered. The book is divided up into four sections each linked through highly important events. Capote varies the length of the chapters to emphasize its level of importance. The chapters before the actual murder are short and shift back and forth between Perry, Dick and the Clutter household.
This technique builds up the excitement and thrill of the events. The chapter in which Perry confesses is lengthy and is written in present tense thus emphasizing its importance. As I researched the background of this book, I found out that Capote started writing this novel because he got deeply attached to the story. At the time that the murder took place, Capote was a news reporter for Timelife and was given the job of writing a piece on how the killings had devastated a happy, tight-knit little community. He was in the town writing his piece when the suspects were actually caught, at which point the story takes off.
During the chapter consisting of the trial, Capote writes as if he were watching from afar and does not entirely engage the reader in the scene, but rather, he presents it as if it were being seen thorough glass. This style of writing credits to Capotes journalism skills. It allows the reader to be the audience and analyze the situation as they see it; the reader is basically the judge in the trial. This book really makes you think about the issue; murder is something that society constantly faces. This narrative basically allows you to understand and reflect on the different aspects of human nature.