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Truman Capote was one of the most popular representatives of the genre of non-fiction novel and short story written in a style of so-called new journalism. The most famous of his works in this genre is In Cold Blood (1966). This documentary novel is about a brutal murder of a farm family in Kansas. The book shows brilliant use of literary means displaying the psychology of two killers.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote is not an ordinary book. His story was once shocking reality taking place in the American village of Holcomb. The brutal murder of the farmer’s family was a real tragedy for that village. It intrigued the writer, and he launched his journalistic investigation. He met with the witnesses and talked with the murderers. The author also examined the crime scene. As a result of his writing, a journalistic novel about the murder came to life. The killers and their psychology were described. The nature of violence, the judicial system of the United States, as well as morality of the death penalty are the main ideas of the novel.
The book In Cold Blood is based on the story of a real crime. It happened in 1959 in Kansas. The novel shows the multifaceted nature of violence as a social and psychological phenomenon. Truman Capote’s book quickly became a bestseller. It created a special genre of non-fiction novel. The novel shows the impartiality of the author’s unbiased position. The brilliantly applied style and the polyphony of its images made Capote’s novel one of the best examples of a documentary with a portion of fiction.
In this novel, Capote dissects the identity of the killers and shows all aspects of their lives. The names of the others involved or the circumstances of the case are not changed either. The author provides a lot of highly detailed information, which makes the argument utterly convincing.
The fictional part is extremely small. Nevertheless, Truman Capote devoted almost six years to this novel. He regularly communicated with the convicted murderers of the Clutter family. The author was also present at the hearing in the court, and got familiar with the environment of the victims.
Books that are based on real events are the hardest to read and ponder. They shake one’s imagination to the core. Such books are considered to be more acute than the ones with imaginary plots. It is rather scary that everything described happened in our world, and thus might happen again.
The novel has an unusual style of narration for a detective novel. The reader knows who killed the heroes, but the inside motives, known from the murderers themselves, are revealed only at the end of the story. In this detective novel, paradoxically, the main thing is not the plot: the killers become known to the reader rather quickly. The main idea in the novel is feelings and thoughts that arise. Capote describes heroes very precisely: “That morning an apple and a glass of milk were enough for him; because he touched neither coffee nor tea, he was accustomed to begin the day on a cold stomach” (Capote, 1966, p. 6). The stress on the psychological aspect of the crime is what makes this book differ from the others in this genre. Overall organization of the text including word choice, sentence structure, and construction of the paragraphs makes the novel not very easy to read. In the novel, the writer traced back the last day of life of all members of the Clutter family, their dreams, desires, plans, and experiences. In this description, there are terrible phrases: “the last time”, “on the last day of his life” etc. After the description of the family killing the readers feel the desire for revenge, justice, and punishment of the murderers. However, the genius of the book is that while reading it the reader goes from hatred toward the murderers to the feeling of pity for them. The most striking image is Perry Smith’s. The author concludes that the world’s cruelty engenders violence, which nothing can justify.
The name of the novel has two meanings: the senseless death of the victims, and the cold-blooded execution of the criminals. And the tragedy of the story is that no murder, no penalty will change anything. People with crippled souls will not receive aid.
The experience of reading the novel was filled with suspense, as the book is a psychological one. I would recommend reading it to anyone who likes non-fiction based on real events as well as detective stories.