What makes a murderer? Is it the nature they are born with or the nurture they receive growing up? This is a question asked when reading In Cold Blood, a true crime novel about the murder of the Clutter family written by Truman Capote. In Cold Blood was published in late September of 1965. This book closely follows the finding and capturing of the criminals, the detectives on their journey to catch the killers and the background into the killers lives. A person’s personality is not solely decided by their nature or the nurture they receive.
This is emonstrated in In Cold Blood because Dick’s nature was so deeply driven that it could not be changed by nurture and Perry’s nurture did not mold his nature correctly, because of these things Dick and Perry became infamous killers. Perry Smith was part of the duo that killed the Clutter family. Perry became the person he is because of the improper nurture that was given to him when he was growing up. Perry did not have the most pleasant, safe or stable childhood.
While reading In Cold Blood it is revealed that “Until Perry was five, the team of “Tex & Flo” continued to work the rodeo circuit” (Capote 131) nd Perry later remarks that the way he and his family lived on the rodeo circuit “wasn’t “any gallon of ice cream”(Capote 131). When things became tough him and his family would be forced to live “off mush and Hershey kisses and condensed milk”(Capote 131). Not only was Perry moving around a lot with his family, but he was also malnourished. When Perry was six his parents divorced.
Over the next three years of Perry’s life his mother became an alcoholic an ultimately she died when Perry was 13. This evidence shows a glimpse into the severe neglect that Perry suffered as a child. According to the American Psychological Association, the effects of childhood neglect include “poor impulse control, social withdrawal, problems with coping… pathological behaviors… stealing… poor intellectual functioning and low academic achievement”. It is evident that Perry was neglected as a child, and that this had negative effects on how he developed into an adult.
These traits, that can be caused by neglect, are evident in Perry’s actions in robbing the Clutter family. Based on the evidence provided it can be seen that Perry’s personality traits stem from the nurture he received nd this nurture molded his nature in a negative way. Perry continued to experience abuse into his adulthood. After Perry’s mother died Perry says that him and his siblings were sent ” to stay in a Catholic orphanage. The one where the Black Widows were always at me. Hitting me. Because of wetting the bed.
Which is one reason I have an aversion to nuns” (Capote 132). From the Catholic orphanage Perry and his siblings were then moved to a Salvation Army orphanage where a nurse would “fill a tub with ice-cold water, put me in it, and hold me under till I was blue”(Capote 132). Along with Perry’s mother dying, being moved around a lot and being abused physically and emotionally, Perry’s two siblings also committed suicide during this time in his life. During an unjust confrontation Perry’s father “ran to get his gun.
Came back pointing it at me. He said ‘Look at me. Perry. I’m the last living thing you’re ever gonna see”(Capote 136). Kathryn Patricelli, who received a Master’s degree in counseling and psychological services, says that ” Being abused does make it much more likely that one or more psychological or medical illnesses will occur”. This quote shows a connection between Perry’s life experiences and his adult behaviors. It also proves that the reason for Perry’s psychological problems are most likely the abuse he had as a child.
Ultimately because of Perry subpar nurture and the abuse he constantly received from a young age he turned into a murderer. Dick demonstrates that nurture alone does not make a person who they are. In comparison to Perry’s upbringing, Dick grew up in relatively good conditions. However, Dick’s nature was so deeply driven that the nurture he received could not change his nature. Some may think that Dick became a murder because of the way he was raised. However, his parents were hard working people who taught him good morals.
A neighbor was quoted as saying that “His (Dick’s) mother, though, Eunice, she’s a fine woman. Heart as big as a barn. His Daddy, too. Both of them plain honest people” (Capote 168). Dick was popular in school and was intelligent. Dick’s father said that Dick was “An outstanding athlete- always on the first team at school. Basketball! Baseball! Football! “(Capote 166). Dick also had academic potential because he was “A pretty ood student, too, with A marks in several subject”(Capote 166). All signs showed that Dick should have grown up to be a hardworking, honest, upstanding citizen.
Dick appeared to be a well rounded person while he was under the influence of his parents and his nurture suggested that this pattern would continue. However, once Dick moved out of his parents house his true colors began to show. His reputation was such that even a neighbor remarked “Dick Hickock! Don’t talk to me about Dick Hickock! If everI met the devil! Steal? Steal the weights off a dead man’s eyes” (Capote 168). Once out from under the influence of his parents Dick’s true nature became revealed. One way in which Dick exhibited his true nature was through unnecessary violence.
When Dick was driving in the car he was unnecessarily violent when he ran over a dog “Boy! he (Dick) said – and it was what he always said running down a dog, which was something he did whenever the opportunity arose. ‘Boy! We sure splattered him! “(Capote 113). After Dick graduated high school he married. During his marriage he had three children and later started “Gambling, writing bad checks. (Capote 166). Shortly after these bad behaviors started he “took up with this other gal. The one he divorced Carol(his first wife) for, and was his second wife” (Capote 166).
As a mechanic with three children it was hard to “make ends meet” so Dick started writing bad checks and participating in petty theft . He did these bad things because of his nature. There were not any external factors that made Dick cheat on his wife, it was simply in his nature. He resorted to writing bad checks and petty crime in times of economic stress even though his parents taught him to o the opposite. Dick was born with a tarnished personality and while he lived with his parents he acted like the person they thought they raised him to be.
But through the evidence provided it can be seen that the way Dick’s parents raised him was not enough to change his nature. Despite the consistently healthy nurture Dick received his nature was unchanged and he grew up to be the murderous, angry, and perverted person that is seen in the story. A person’s personality is decided by the nurture given to them and some people, no matter how healthy he nurturing they receive is, cannot be changed because their nature is so deeply driven.
This can be seen in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood because it is the contrast between Dick and Perry’s different development that ultimately leads them to the same circumstances. Sometimes people are bad, sometimes good but it is neither nature nor nurture that solely decides who a person becomes. Rather an ensemble of the two and this is what makes a person. But the true question to ask is what has the greater impact: a person’s nature or the nurture they receive?