The following is an essay on Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and analyzes the stylistic devices used in the novel. Hope this helps!
Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood can be questioned on whether it is a fictional or journalistic literary work. Capote carefully outlines the structure of his book in order to express an appealing impression towards the reader and to make it seem more journalistic. However, Capote uses devices – such as alternative chapters and dialogue – in order to present ways in which his novel could be considered fictional. Although Capote portrays historical accuracy using journalistic techniques, he also uses fictional devices to produce a creative tone throughout the story.
Consider how Capote depicts the scenes of the Clutter family and the murder through the use of montage, which replaces historical narrative with alternating chapters. Capote basically generates this montage to portray a suspenseful tone. For example, while the Clutters are in their homes carrying out their daily routines, Dick and Perry are on the other side of Kansas preparing to murder them. Capote brings in this literary device to basically provide both facts and fictional scenes to display an unbiased view of the crime so that the readers can have original opinions on the matter. For instance Capote writes, “Then touching the brim of his cap, he headed for home and the day’s work, unaware that it would be his last” (Capote 13). In almost every chapter, Capote states that the Clutters will die in order to remind the readers of the upcoming murder. However, this fictional device stops at the end of the part “The Last to See Them Alive”, and Capote leaves us perplexed without any descriptions of the murder scene.
Another fictional device Capote uses is dialogue. Throughout the novel, the dialogue between the two characters, Dick and Perry, help the reader better understand them. Perry says to Dick, “For this killer or killers. Anyway, I don’t believe it. Neither do you. Own up, Dick. Be honest. You don’t believe this no-clue stuff” (Capote 89). Then Dick carelessly replies, “O.K. Maybe I had some wrong information” (Capote 91). From just these two examples of the dialogue between Dick and Perry the reader can already assume that Dick is less guilty of the murder. This statement can be supported with the scenes when they are about to be hanged. Dick says these last words, “’I just want to say I had no hard feelings. You people are sending me to a better world than this ever was; […] Nice to see you’, Hickock said with his most charming smile; as if he were greeting guests at his own funeral” (339).Therefore, Dick is definitely considered the classic criminal, one who feels no remorse for his actions and what he gets in return – death. On the other hand, Perry states, “It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize” (340). Perry is characterized very differently from Dick and apologizes at the peak of his death, even though it was meaningless to. Therefore, the use of dialogue in the novel characterizes his main characters in a fictional way.
Besides the use of fictional devices, Capote utilizes a very unique structure to provide as much historical content as possible and to construct a more attractive story. Capote structures his novel into four parts. In the first part of In Cold Blood , Capote displays the four Clutters doing their daily activities without knowing that this day would be their last. Basically, this has a stimulating effect upon the reader’s mind, as it is obvious that the killing would take place. The next part, Persons Unknown, proceeds with the discovery of the bodies. In addition, Capote continues to characterize Dick and Perry with dialogue and then introduces secondary characters such as Al Dewey and Harold Nye who try to find the murderers. By introducing these secondary characters, we can predict that a chase is on the way. In other words, the detectives will surely enough take action that will result in Dick and Perry’s arrest. When hope is almost lost, Capote displays another character by the name of Floyd Wells, who is a shining light that guides the detectives to the murderers. Subsequently, Dick and Perry are caught in the third part of the novel, while driving through Las Vegas. Then they are then interrogated by the investigators. Dick finally gives in and commits that he has done the crime, but accuses Perry of killing all the Clutters. After much effect and investigation, the true murderers have finally admitted their wrongdoing. Even after this climax, Capote reveals the most interesting part of the novel – the murder scene – through the thoughts of Perry. The final part of the novel ultimately provides the trial and execution. Ultimately, the two despicable killers have now been under death sentence for five years and are going to be hanged. However, Capote illustrates a more sympathetic feeling at the end through Al Dewey, who didn’t enjoy watching the death of the two vile men who killed four of Holcomb’s most respected citizens. Capote finishes the novel with a tribute to Nancy through the dialogue between Al Dewey and Susan.
Clearly, Capote achieves his goal in combining journalism and fictional devices to mimic the crime in a pleasurable way without lessening the historical accuracy of his novel. By using fictional devices, Capote could easily set up the structure of his novel in a way so that he could permeate fascinating events throughout the novel. Therefore, Capote’s astonishingly unbiased narrative leaves his readers with their own devices – opinions.