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Thesis and Central Argument of "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote

Paper type: Thesis
Pages: 10 (2460 words)
Categories: Book Review, Death, In Cold Blood
Downloads: 25
Views: 414

The thesis, central argument of In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, is that people are neither good nor bad, but a mixture of both. He also explains how it depends on how much good and bad you do that will make others perceive you as either evil or benevolent. This is especially shown with the characters Dick and Perry. Perry’s father wrote a letter to the Kansas State Penitentiary, explaining how Perry was born a good boy, but until his mom “turned out to be a disgraceful drunkard… [and] his mother told him to find a new home” (Capote 126).

This shows how Perry’s background helped shape him into the criminal he grew up to be. It started that feeling of not being wanted and having to fend for himself. Dick, on the other hand, had a nice loving home. His dad explained how Dick had good grades and how, “nothing was wrong with my boy” (Capote 165).

This explains how Dick had a good childhood, but he grew to hate the hand that the world gave him; so he chose to become a criminal. Capote wanted the audience to understand the background of every character, and their point of view on why they have to do the things they do. Therefore, the thesis of the book, is that people are not good nor bad, but are recognized as good or bad, by the quantity of evil they do.

What is the overall tone of the text? What specific words contribute to that tone? 

In Cold Blood, has an empathetic tone, that makes the audience feel for every character. Capote shows the soft side of each character, by explain each perspective. He even has the characters show empathy for each other, once they know their childhoods and mindset. Alvin Dewey was a friend of the Clutter family, but still, “he found it possible to look at the man beside him without anger—with, rather, a measure of sympathy—for Perry Smith’s life had been no bed of roses but pitiful, an ugly and lonely progress toward one mirage and then another” (Capote 246). This shows that even the detective, who lost his friend could still show empathy. Capote did this, to explain to the audience that people need to forgive, even when it hurts the most; because you never know why something happened. This also shows how humans do not need to be so quick to judge. Henceforth, there is an empathetic tone throughout the book, because Capote wants the audience to understand forgiveness, even when it is difficult.

What is the writer’s purpose? (To explain? To inform? To persuade? To motivate? To amuse?) Is there more than one purpose? Does the purpose shift at all throughout the text? 

Throughout the book, the author’s purpose is to explain, but the author is also persuading the audience to forgive and that people are both good and bad. The author both persuades and explains in part three and four of the book. Capote explains the story of the Clutter murder throughout the book. This is because in order for his argument to get across, he has to explain the story of the murdered family. When the detectives first got to the clutter home, they saw how, “Kenyon was over in a corner, lying in a couch. He was gagged with adhesive tape and bound had and foot, like the mother—the same intricate process of the cord leading from the hands to the feet, and finally tied to an arm of the couch” (Capote 64). This shows how Capote explained what happened at the scene of the crime. He told the audience what the detectives saw, in detail. The imagery put into the book, is the imagery from statements, and police paper work. Therefore, Capote has a explanatory and persuasive purpose throughout the book, because he had to tell the story while getting is point across.

How does the writer arrange his/her ideas? (What are the patterns of arrangement? General to specific? Specific to general? Spatial? Chronological?)
Capote arranges his ideas in a spatial order and a chronological order. He groups the ideas/events with the people they pertain to. Capote also makes sure that those perspectives go in line with the overall story of the Clutter murders. To explain, when Capote wrote about the detectives trying to find who killed the family, he would switch perspectives to show what each character was doing at that exact point in the timeline. Capote shows what Dick and Perry were doing, while the detectives were in house at the crime scene. When they were in the hotel, “Perry had sung himself into a happier humor” (Capote 48). Capote does this, because the reader needs to understand every little thing that happens. This also shows Capote’s credibility, because he explains the whole story. Henceforth, Capote uses spatial and chronological organization, to show every point of view, and every event that occurred.

What is the sentence structure like in the text? Does the writer use fragments or run-ons? Declarative? Imperative? Interrogative? Exclamatory? Are they simple? Compound? Complex? Compound-complex? Short? Long? Loose? Periodic? Parallel? Are there any patterns in the sentence structure? Can you make any connections between the patterns and the writer’s purpose? 

Capote uses longer compound-complex sentences in the beginning of the book. He does this to help foreshadow what is going to happen. Also, to make the dramatic irony used even greater. After the climax of the story, Capote uses more short, simple sentences, because he wants the reader to not be dragged on with the story. He does this, to get straight to the point of his argument. Capote understands that in in Part one thru three, the reader is anxious on what exactly happened with the murders, and how long are Dick and Perry going to get away with it. The day after the murder, Perry explained how “he hated the Texas plains, the Nevada desert; spaces horizontal and sparsely inhabited had always induced in him a depression accompanied by agoraphobic sensations” (Capote 49). This shows a compound-complex sentence, so Capote can show the intensity behind how much Perry does not like the desert. In Part four, the reader is not anxious/ on the edge of their seat about anything. They are just reading to understand the history of the death penalty. Therefore, Capote uses complex-compound sentences in parts one thru three, to elongate the anxiety of the reader, and short simple sentences in part four, to explain and get straight to the point.

How does the writer use diction? Is it formal? Informal? Technical? Jargon? Slang? Does the language change throughout the piece? How does the language contribute to the writer’s purpose? 

Capote uses formal diction throughout the piece, but when he writes as certain characters, he has a colloquial diction. He does this, to show the language/ accent of people in Kansas and in the country side. When Capote was describing Alfred Stoecklein, he explained how Alfred wished “‘folks would stop yappin’ and try to understand…they lived scarcely a hundred yards from the Clutter home, had heard ‘nary a nothin’” (Capote 78). This shows colloquial diction, because it explains their southern accent. How the people down in Holcomb, Kansas spoke. Capote only did this when illustrating conversations. When he was explaining the story, he would use formal diction. This helps with his purpose, because a person’s accent comes from where they are from/ where they grew up. Knowing people’s backgrounds is what helps people have sympathy for others and not be quick to call people good or bad. Therefore, Capote used formal diction and colloquial to help show the contrasting backgrounds between the characters, so the audience understands when to have sympathy.

Is there anything unusual in the writer’s use of punctuation? What punctuation or other techniques of emphasis (italics, capitals, underlining, ellipses, and parentheses) does the writer use? Is punctuation over- or under used? Which marks does the writer use when, and for what effects? (Dashes to create a hasty breathlessness? Semi-colons for balance or contrast?) 

Capote uses a different font and uses italics the first phrase of every new section, where it talks about another person. He also puts the phrase in all caps. He does this to signal that a new person’s point of view is starting. To illustrate, during the trial, after Dick had just given his perspective of the murders, Capote switched perspectives. He wrote, “THE NEXT DAY, WEDNESDAY, was the proper start of the trial” (Capote 279). This shows Capote’s stylistic choice of writing. He did this to show his spatial writing technique, and so the reader can keep up with each character. This space in between the characters’ point of view, leaves the reader with a want to know more feeling. Capote knows this and wants to continue making the dramatic irony feel greater and greater. Henceforth, Capote uses italics, all caps, and a different font for the each phrase that starts a new perspective, because he wants to increase dramatic irony and let the reader know a new perspective is starting.

Are there any particularly vivid images that stand out? What effect do these images have on the writer’s purpose? 

Two vivid images that stand out are the murder scene, when the detectives first get there, and when Perry was telling what really happened in the Clutter house that night. These two events in the story, stand out the most because they are the most graphic. The detectives described how Mr. Clutter looked, he was shot in the head, but “probably he was dead before he was shot…because his throat had been cut, too. He was wearing stripped pajamas, nothing else. His mouth was taped” (Capote 64-65). This shows how graphic the scene was. That was a main reason why it stays in your brain. Capote painted out the scene, to wear you can see every miniscule detail. Vivid images are also seen, when Perry was explaining what happened that night. He explained hoe Dick had to find the bullet shells and how Nancy was “listening to boots on hardwood stairs, the creak if the steps as they climb toward her, Nancy’s eyes, Nancy watching the flashlight’s shine seek the target ‘She said, Oh, no! Oh, please. No! No! No! No! Don’t’… I gave the gun to Dick. I told him I’d done all I could do. He took aim, and she turned her face to the wall” (Capote 245). This shows both visual and auditory imagery. It tells exactly what happened, even the pain/guilty feeling Perry felt as he gave the gun to Dick. Capote’s purpose of making both of these scenes so graphic, is so the audience will feel the pain of the detectives, and the murders. Capote wants the audience to be able to connect with the characters, so they learn empathy, humility, and forgiveness. He wanted the suspense of Nancy’s death, and the others to linger in the brains of the audience for some time, so they understand the magnitude of what is going on. Therefore, Capote uses visual imagery wen he explains what the detectives saw at the crime scene, and when Perry was telling the full story of what happened that night; to make the audience feel the pain of the people in the town.

Are devices used to enhance meaning? Which devices- similes, metaphors, personification, hyperbole, etc. does the writer use? When does he/she use them? Why? 

Capote uses symbolism throughout part four to explain Perry’s religious fantasies, because Perry has struggled with accepting God, and submitting himself and his actions over to Him. Every time Perry has a dream about his death or is on the verge of dying, he has one of these symbolic dreams. While in the cell in Garden City, Perry dreamed that he had slit his wrist, and “the walls of the cell fell away, the sky came down, I saw the big yellow bird” (Capote 265). This is a symbol of God or Jesus, coming down to get him. It relates to his fight between God, because it shows him slowly submitting to a higher power. Also, it explains how it is like he is giving up on his fight between him and God. The next religious fantasy/dream Perry has is when he is starving himself and he had a reoccurring dream of him performing at a Las Vegas night club, but nobody applauded him. He was confused until he “understood their silence, for suddenly he knew that these were phantoms, the ghosts of legally annihilated, the hanged, the gassed, the electrocuted—and in the same instant he realized that he was there to join them, that the gold-painted steps had led to a scaffold, that the platform on which he stood was opening beneath him” (Capote 319). This is a symbol of Perry’s own fate. A symbol of how he felt like he was living on a pedestal, but the people viewing his life are dead. They made similar choices as him and are waiting for him to have the same ending finale as they did. This shows the religious side, because he is walking up the steps, leaving his life behind and eventually joining the ghosts into eternity. He saw his fate but was just waiting for it to happen. Henceforth, Capote’s uses of symbolism were used in Perry’s dreams/fantasies to show him his final moments and how he needed to submit to a higher power.

Does the writer use devices of humor? Puns? Irony? Sarcasm? Understatement? Is the effect pleasure? Ridicule? Comic relief? 

Capote uses dramatic irony throughout the book, because the audience knows that the Clutters are going to die, they know who murdered them, and that they are tried and executed. At the end of the exposition, Capote describes the sounds heard and how, “those somber explosions that stimulated fires of mistrust in the glare of which many old neighbors viewed each other strangely, and as strangers” (Capote 5). This piece of dramatic irony is there to cause suspense within the story, because the audience wants to know how those big events happen. They want to feel anxious to know the details of the murders, and why they were murdered. Capot also uses some comic relief, while characterizing people and their decisions on what to do with their life. Mrs. Ashida was trying to find her husband a Christmas gift, and she told Mr. Clutter that what her husband “needs is teeth” (Capote 36). This is a form of comic relief, because they were first talking about her moving and how that would sadden the community. Henceforth, Capote uses both dramatic irony and comic relief to help develop the story, and bring suspense and humor within with tragic book.

Cite this essay

Thesis and Central Argument of “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote. (2020, Sep 09). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/thesis-and-central-argument-of-in-cold-blood-by-truman-capote-essay

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