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“But afterward the townspeople, theretofore sufficiently unfearful of each other to seldom trouble to lock their doors, found fantasy re-creating them over and over again—those somber explosions that stimulated fires of mistrust in the glare of which many old neighbors viewed each other strangely, and as strangers.”
I found this quote to be a sad truth. It is disappointing to know that in this small town wherein everyone was on a friendly basis with one another, they would all turn their backs on neighbors they’ve known forever, due to the dangers of their own imagination.
Once someone has my trust, I don’t think twice about helping them or confiding in them. And in return, anyone who puts their trust in me should feel safe telling me their deepest, darkest secrets. However, when that trust is broken, so is the image of that person. Then I wonder: if they would lie about something that meant a great deal to our friendship, who knows what other lies they must’ve spread? I begin to question who they are, and if they were ever my friend in the first place.
It’s as if I am seeing them in a whole new light. The worst part is, no matter how hard I may try, I just can’t bring myself to talk to that person as comfortably as I had before.
Now I have to think: do they have an ulterior motive, or are they honestly trying to regain the lost closeness of our friendship? I am also reminded of the power our imagination has.
Giving our minds the ability roam free can plant unnecessary fear in our hearts, which, in turn, makes it harder to trust one another. Just because a friend made an honest mistake, doesn’t mean they’re going to do it again. But, in my mind I see him/her telling everybody personal aspects of my life. It can be rather hard to regain our friendship with such a terrifying image in the back of my mind. I imagine that must be how the citizens of Holcomb, Kansas must have felt. They must have been questioning the integrity of each of their friends, wondering, who could’ve killed a well-respected family?
“Mrs. Kidwell sat down on the bed; she wanted to hold Bonnie in her arms, and eventually Bonnie let herself be held. ‘Wilma,’ she said, ‘I’ve been listening to you, Wilma. All of you. Laughing. Having a good time. I’m missing out on everything. The best years, the children—everything. A little while, and even Kenyon will be grown up—a man. And how will he remember me? As a kind of ghost, Wilma.’”
After reading this passage, I could not help but feel so incredibly sorry for Bonnie Clutter. Bonnie did want to be a part of her children’s lives, but due to her illness, she spent the majority of their lives in her bedroom or in a treatment facility. I think Capote included this scene with Bonnie in the novel because as a child, his parents neglected him. They often traveled for lengths of time, leaving Capote in the care of his mother’s relatives. Perhaps Capote related to the Clutter children (mostly Kenyon, seeing as how Bonnie spent the least amount of time with him) due to a feeling of abandonment caused by their absent mothers. I couldn’t imagine the guilt poor Bonnie must’ve felt for not playing an active role in the lives of her children. I know for a fact that my mother plays an important part in my life. She has taught me right from wrong, how to take care of myself, and that I should always treat people with respect. No matter what, I know my mother is always here for me, ready to take me in with open arms. Sadly, Capote never learned such things from either of his parents, which may explain why he was so intent on gaining fame and recognition, so that he may finally be praised and have a feeling of accomplishment. The Clutter kids were luckier than Capote because they had a father, Herb, who instilled wonderful morals into his four children and taught them the things Bonnie could not.
“But as in every manifestation, she continued to tinker with her handwriting, slanting it to the right or to the left, shaping it roundly or steeply, loosely or stingily—as though she were asking, ‘Is this Nancy? Or that? Or that? Which is me?’ (Once Mrs. Riggs, her English teacher, had returned a theme with a scribbled comment: ‘Good. But why written in three styles of script?’ To which Nancy had replied: ‘Because I’m not grown-up enough to be one person with one kind of signature.’)”
Nancy, I believe, perfectly represents teenagers, past and present. Nancy shows that we don’t have the slightest clue who we truly are. That is why our teenage years are so important. These are the years in which we begin to find ourselves, beginning with our signatures (heart or no heart?). There are so many people who expect us to know what we will do with our future when, in actuality, we are only beginning to discover our likes and dislikes, nowhere near deciding what we will be doing for the rest of our lives. So many of us teenagers (and some adults) are trying out different handwritings, or ideas of what we want to do with our lives, before we settle on the one type of calligraphy that we will carry with us forever. Throughout my life, my handwriting has changed drastically, as have my aspirations. As a child, I would write in big loopy letters, which perhaps represented the loopiness of who I wanted to be at the time (a princess). Over the years, as my letters became more refined and smaller, so did my aspirations. It’s almost as if my handwriting shows how much reality had sunk in. I went from wanting to become a princess, to President, to a spy, to a marine biologist, to a wildlife photographer, to a business executive, and now to a doctor. Nancy is just using her handwriting as another step in finding who she is.
“‘Deep down,’ Perry continued, ‘way, way rock-bottom, I never thought I could do it. A thing like that.’”
This quote expresses my fear of our humanity. We are not perfect beings. We make mistakes. We have limits. But how do you know how far you can go before you spread yourself too thin? That is why we must push ourselves to find our limits. Sometimes it’s good to push ourselves, like in athletics and academics. But, Perry pushed himself to the breaking point. Perry thought he knew his limits. He never intended to murder a family in cold blood; he just needed money. If anything, he was trying to help them in any way he could, including making them as comfortable as he possibly could. But he got caught up in the moment, and he murdered the Clutter family point-blank. And what’s even scarier is that so many people could have buckled under the same circumstances, just as Perry did. We would all like to believe we will always stand by our morals and always do the right thing, but when push comes to shove, will you? Our natural instinct is to say “Of course I will.”
However, imagine you’re poor, you have no family (that would help you), and you are desperate for a way to change your life for the better. Now, would you commit a robbery? My job as a big sister is to protect my younger siblings, no matter what. Late one night, I was struggling to finish my homework, I was tired, and I had a major headache. As I was rushing to finish up and go to bed, my little brother, the baby of the family, would not leave me alone. I reached a point where I couldn’t handle it anymore, and I tried to push him away from me, but instead he fell on the ground and began to cry. I immediately felt terrible. I tried to help him up, but he ran away to our mother. I imagined he thought of me as some kind of a monster. My reasons for agitation in no way justified my actions. But the worst part was, I never thought I could ever hurt my baby brother. It made me sick to know that I did.
“‘You live until you die, and it doesn’t matter how you go; dead’s dead. So why carry on like a sackful of sick cats just because Herb Clutter got his throat cut?’”
It’s important that we don’t let anything stop us in life, including death. Yes, death does change things, but it isn’t meant to be the end of the world. The world will continue to spin on, and people will continue their daily basis. While it is vital that we deal with a death through mourning, there is no point in worrying ourselves sick over the death of a loved one. If all we ever did was sit around and worry whenever someone died, we would never have the chance to actually live. Our deceased loved ones would actually want us to live our lives to the fullest, so when our time ultimately comes, we’ll know we made the most of our time here on Earth. We can die in the most heroic way possible, or in the most tragic way. That doesn’t mean our deaths should be held in a higher regard than someone who had died a “normal” death. No one’s death is more important than another’s. It doesn’t matter who we were when we were alive. Your accomplishments over others, the amount of money you had, how big your house was, the car you drove…. You won’t keep those material things once you die. They couldn’t mean less because in the end, we all end up the same way: dead.
“Perry O’Parsons had died without having ever lived. What was there to look forward to?”
Perry O’Parsons was Perry’s alter ego. He had planned to use the name as his stage name for when his music career kicked off. Unfortunately for Perry, he never got the chance to perform his music on a stage, so he never got the chance to reveal Perry O’Parsons. Maybe if Perry’s music career had launched, then maybe he wouldn’t have murdered the Clutter family. What upsets me the most about Perry’s alter ego is when he asks, “What was there to look forward to?” When he realizes he will never be able to start his life all over as Perry O’Parsons, I feel as if he truly gives up on his dreams. Perhaps this is Capote’s way of saying that we don’t always get what we want, but that doesn’t mean we should give up like Perry did. Not everything is easily attainable. For example, I have the hopes of becoming a doctor, but the work and training is very rigorous. But I can’t just give up. Even if I find I don’t have the work ethic to become a doctor, life still goes on. I can’t throw a little fit because something didn’t work out in my favor. No matter what, I will have to work hard to do well in whatever it is I choose. If I decide that I actually don’t want to be a doctor, then it just means that I’ve narrowed down my career choices by one. It may not sound like much, but that means I have more time to figure out what career does interest me and I am one step further from ending up like Perry.
“‘Dick stood guard outside the bathroom door while I reconnoitered. I frisked the girl’s room, and I found a little purse—like a doll’s purse. Inside it was a silver dollar. I dropped it somehow, and it rolled across the floor. Rolled under a chair. I had to get down on my knees. And just then it was like I was outside myself. Watching myself in some nutty movie. It made me sick. I was just disgusted. Dick, and all his talk about a rich man’s safe, and here I am crawling on my belly to steal a child’s silver dollar. One dollar. And I’m crawling on my belly to get it.’”
I think this revelation of Perry’s is a crucial part of the book. This is where Perry looks at who he’s become, and he’s not happy about it. Perry not only knows he’s trying to steal money from a family that has never done one single thing to bring that upon themselves, but now he sees just how desperate he is as he searches for a dollar coin that belongs to Herb’s daughter. He realizes that he has turned into a repulsive and pitiful man. I began to pity Perry, mostly because he had hopes and dreams, unlike Dick, yet there he was, scrounging for a measly dollar. I felt sorry for him because he really did reach “rock-bottom” (page 109). There he was, ready to rob the Clutters, possibly getting ready to kill them, and he was only in this situation because he chose to follow Dick in the pursuit of some money. Even though Perry is committing a senseless, violent act and I should despise him for doing these savage acts to such a kind family, I can’t help but feel sorry for him. No matter what happens to me in life, I would never want to end up in Perry’s position where I’m questioning how I got to be at such a low point in my life. This quote actually reminds me of Capote as he turned to alcoholism and he began to alienate his friends because he couldn’t give up the drug that is fame.
“‘And I was right!—that’s just what he wanted to do: admit that Hickock had been telling the truth, and that it was he, Perry Smith, who had shot and killed the whole family. He said he’d lied about it because, in his words, ‘I wanted to fix Dick for being such a coward. Dropping his guts all over the goddam floor.’ And the reason he’d decided to set the record straight wasn’t that he suddenly felt any kinder toward Hickock. According to him he was doing it out of consideration for Hickock’s parents—said he was sorry for Dick’s mother. Said, ‘She’s a real sweet person. It might be some comfort to her to know Dick never pulled the trigger. None of it would have happened without him, in a way it was mostly his fault, but the fact remains I’m the one who killed them.’”
After reading this passage, I was in shock. I honestly believed that Dick was the true murderer of the Clutter family. Well, it turns out that Dick is a chicken who can only talk up a big game, but he can’t do much else. I am just even further confused by Perry’s actions. It is hard to believe that he did in fact kill the Clutters. Perry doesn’t seem like he could be such a cold-hearted killer. After all he did to try to get Dick to turn around and ditch their plan, when he stopped Dick from attempting to rape Nancy, all he did to make the Clutters more comfortable, how nice he was to them…. And he was the one who ended up killing them all. Not only that, he only decided to tell the truth about Dick killing no one because he was thinking of Dick’s mother. Even though it was because of Dick that he was even in Kansas, he still tries to look out for his mother by taking the full credit for the murders. It’s almost as if Perry is actually two different people. I don’t know how I should feel toward Perry anymore. My immediate feelings toward him are pity, fear, and compassion. I can see why Capote was so interested in their case. It’s because nothing is as you would have believed they were.
“As is customary, the warden, having finished his recitation, asked the condemned man whether he had any last statement to make. Hickock nodded. ‘I just want to say I hold no hard feelings. You people are sending me to a better world than this ever was’; then, as if to emphasize the point, he shook hands with the four men mainly responsible for his capture and conviction, all of whom had requested permission to attend the executions: K.B.I. Agents Roy Church, Clarence Duntz, Harold Nye, and Dewey himself. ‘Nice to see you,’ Hickock said with his most charming smile; it was as if he were greeting guests at his own funeral.”
I did not expect Dick to be so polite in his last moments. Throughout the book, majority of what he has said was crude, sarcastic, or humorous. Not only was Dick polite, he even thanked Church, Duntz, Nye, and Dewey for capturing him and, ultimately, sending him to his death. It’s interesting that Dick says he is going to a “better world,” but earlier in the book, he mentioned to one of the prison inmates, Andy, who was also on Death Row, to find them a shady spot in Hell. So he either believes Hell is better than Earth, or he thinks he is going to Heaven. Or maybe, he believes in the vast darkness of death, and he can’t wait for the void of nothing. I also thought it was interesting that he smiled until the very end. I don’t know if he smiles because he’s come to terms with his debt, or if he just wants to unnerve the group attending his execution. I personally think that he is accepting his fate, and he’s somewhat at peace with it. However, him being Dick, he wants to go out with a fanfare, give the audience a show, so he makes sure he seems as effervescent as ever.
“But Smith, though he was the true murderer, aroused another response, for Perry possessed a quality, the aura of an exiled animal, a creature walking wounded, that the detective could not disregard.”
I can understand why no one ever felt any sympathy for Dick as he was walking up to die because Dick was a rough and tough guy who never let anyone see his true emotions. However, with Perry, I believe that most of the audience has begun to feel sorry for him. Unlike Dick, he doesn’t hide his feelings. He is afraid of what will come next, and that has evoked a response from Detective Dewey. But, how do we know his feelings are real? Earlier in the book when Detective Nye goes to San Francisco to visit Perry’s only living sibling, Barbara, she mentions that Perry can easily fake his emotions to make people feel sorry for him. Maybe he was trying to get everyone there to pity him so much that they would stop his hanging and give him a life sentence. Well the crowd did pity him, but they wanted him to hang for his atrocities. Right before he was hung, Perry apologized for his actions, even though he could never make up for murdering the Clutters. I think the reason why Dewey refused to see Perry hanging is because he did feel sorry for him.
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