Psychosis Leads to Murder Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 10 January 2017

Psychosis Leads to Murder

Throughout In Cold Blood, Truman Capote writes on the events directly before, during, and the happenings after the brutal murdering of the Clutter family in the quaint town of Holcomb, Kansas. The actions Dick Hickock and Perry Smith attracted Capote and led him to ultimately report on the entire ordeal. Throughout Capote’s masterpiece, In Cold Blood, Hickock and Smith’s deranged and psychotic actions directly correlate to a deep psychosis they both suffered for multiple years. Throughout the novel, In Cold Blood, the two murderers, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, show instances of unwarranted anger and aggression that leads readers into believing that a serious issue with their psyches have occurred. Early in, the novel Hickock states, “I didn’t want to harm the man. I thought he was a very nice gentleman. Soft-spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat” (Capote 88).

Here, the reader can clearly see Hickock contradicting himself but in in a rather frightening way. Smith also shows an instance of this as well later in the novel when he says, “I wish she’d been in that house that night. What a sweet scene!” (Capote 259). When Smith says ‘she’ in the previous, quote he is referring to his own sister. He vocalizes that he wishes his sister was among the Clutters in their house the night he and Dick killed them. This allows the reader to truly gage the depth of his psychosis by not even allowing himself to show any compassion to his own family. In Brian Conniff’s article “Psychological Accidents: In Cold Blood and Ritual Sacrifice,” he agrees with the previous thought by stating, “Hickock was the one with the ‘sexual intrest in female children’ who wants to stop, in the middle of the burglary, to rape Nancy Clutter,” a direct quote from Smith (5). Furnished from Capote’s personal accounts, it allows the reader to see further into the extreme violence of the convicted felons.

Aside from unwarranted anger and aggression, both, Hickock and Smith show a magnitude of signs that allow outsiders to infer that they, themselves, know of their mental condition and knowingly choose to ignore it. In many instances they vocalize this to each other and even to complete strangers. Shortly after the murders Smith said, “…The kind of psychotic rage it took to commit such a crime” (Capote 83). And Hickock mentioned, “I think there must be something seriously wrong with us to do what we did” (Capote 108).

The context of these two quotes makes it quite easy to understand why readers believe that Hickock and Smith knew of their mental issues prior to the murders but both decided to ignore them. In Conniff’s article “Psychological Accidents: In Cold Blood and Ritual Sacrifice,” he agrees with the idea above by stating a written portion of an interview with Hickock done by Capote that reads, “Like all of the rest of the ‘normals,’ as Perry calls them—‘respectable people, safe and smug people’” (3). This is yet another solid acknowledgement of his insanity, which he chooses to blatantly ignore.

Throughout the entire novel, Hickock and Smith both suffer seriously from psychotic delusions and emotional rants, which forces readers to perceive Hickock and Smith as mentally insane men. During one of these rants Smith exclaims, “I WANT TO CONESS!” (Capote 100). Hickock also shows multiple instances of emotional rants also. One of many comes when his sister says she will not contact him and he, overrun by emotion, states, “I wish she’d been in that house that night. What a sweet scene!” (Capote 259).

And also, “I wouldn’t give a damn if this car caught fire and burned me alive” (Capote 188). Both these quotes appear while suffering severe shifts in emotions, which he could not control, thus proving his mental instability. After authorities caught the two, and while being questioned Smith stated, “It was part passion- a passion that was pathological,” meaning that he could not control himself (Capote 186). Small indications, such as these, allow readers to see deep into the psyche of Hickock and Smith, displaying disturbing images.

Throughout unwarranted acts of anger and aggression, Hickock and Smith’s acknowledgement of their insanity, and the delusions and rants they experience directly correlation between their acts of horror and the deep psychosis they became trapped in late in their lives. This psychosis directly relates to why they did the terrible things they did, and why they didn’t think anything of it. This correlation becomes easily seen by allowing the reader to glance deep within the psyche of these two ruthless killers.

Works Cited

Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood. New York: Random House, 1966. Print. Conniff, Brian. “‘Psychological Accidents’: In Cold Blood and Ritual Sacrifice.” The Midwest Quarterly: A Journal of Contemporary Thought 35.1 (Autumn 1993): 77-94. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau. Vol. 164. Detroit: Gale, 2005. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.

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