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Rhetorical Analysis: In Cold Blood Essay

On November 15, 1959, the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, was severely shook up because of the gruesome murders that took place which ended with a shotgun blast to the face of four members of the Clutter family. Seven years later Truman Capote publishes his book In Cold Blood based on this case. In his book he goes into details of the murders, and describes the life of the family leading up to their deaths, and the investigation of the murderers that were eventually captured and executed. Capote constructed a brilliant book which captures the audience’s attention with suspense and emotion.

Capote uses several different techniques in his writing which made the book so intriguing. He used different points of view shifting from first person to third person depending on the characters to make moments more emotional and intense. He describes everything in details throughout the book which gives the reader a vivid image of what happened during this time. The shifts in the tone throughout also helps the reader get a better grasp what is happening in the book and the mood for each occurring situation.

Capote even causes the reader to develop a sense of empathy for one of the killers which makes you almost feel sorry for him. The Clutter family lived in Holcomb, Kansas, a community full of farmers and large amounts of land which kept the Clutter family wealthy. The Clutter family was looked at as the leaders of the community and were involved with the town’s organization except for Bonnie Clutter, who suffered from depression and was very withdrawn. Herb clutter was the idea family man and was loved by nearly everyone and was well espected throughout the whole community. Nancy Clutter, one of two teenagers that lived at home was the girl in highschool everyone wanted to be. She was filled with talent and was known as the town’s sweetheart. Kenyon Clutter was the youngest of the family, and was looked at as being very awkward and could easily amuse himself. One night two strangers broke into the Clutter’s home and murdered the four family members in the home with no motive. They tied each one up and shot them a couple inches away from their faces with a . 12 shotgun.

Capote then gives an insight of the killers and the investigation that led to finding them and executing the killers whose name were Dick Hickock, and Perry Smith. In Cold Blood is a book intended for people who are interested in this specific case or murder cases in general that give an insight on the criminal mind. Capote’s purpose of writing this book was to share new elements of this case and his views on it. He wrote In Cold Blood as a story line of the family and created a dialogue of the Clutters as if they were still alive till when they died.

Then he went into the minds of the killers to make the reader understand and in ways empathize them after they savagely murdered four innocent people. Truman Capote uses plenty of rhetorical appeals such as logos, ethos, and pathos throughout to enhance the the story. Capote uses a great amount of logos in the first part of the book, Last to See Them Alive. He sets up the story with factual background information to give an image of Holcomb, Kansas, as being boring and simple to add to the important factor of why the killers would choose to kill the Clutter family, especially in an area like Holcomb. The local accent is barbed with a prairie twang, a ranch-hand nasalness… The land is flat, and the views are awesomely extensive; horses, herds of cattle, a white cluster of grain elevators rising as gracefully as Greek temples are visible long before a traveler reaches them. ” (Capote Page 3) “The inhabitants of the village, numbering two hundred and seventy, were satisfied… quite content to exist inside ordinary life-to work, to hunt, to watch television, to attend school socials, choir practice, meetings of the 4-H Clubs. ” (Capote Page 5) Capote also uses ethos throughout.

He describes each character thoroughly which gives the reader a clear idea of how the characters were and their moral views. He especially went into in depth details of the killers which justified their actions for murder. Nancy Clutter particularly stuck out in the sense of potential she had of accomplishing positive things in life. “She found the time, and still managed to practically run that big house and be a straight-A student, the president of her class, a leader in the 4-H program… how a girl not yet seventeen could haul such a wagonload, and do without such brag… the community solved by saying, she’s got character. (Capote Page 18)

This also can relate to pathos in the way of understanding the innocence of the victims who were murdered. An unexpected component Capote uses is the empathy felt for one of the murderers, Perry Smith, which he emphasizes in the second part of the book. Capote focuses more on Perry rather than Dick, leaving an emotional sadness towards Perry and a heartless feeling toward Dick. He discusses the unfortunate childhood Perry had which can explain why he is. He only went to school until the third grade, and dealt with an abusive father towards his mother which split up his family.

He was thrown into a children’s shelter where he was abused for wetting the bed and sucking his thumb which he carried to his adult life. “she’d fill a tub with ice-cold water, put me in it, and hold me under till I was blue. Nearly drowned. ” (Capote Page 132) Perry also experienced regret towards the murder that just took place while Dick does not think twice about it. After reading In Cold Blood it may change your perspective of the murderers and the conclusion you may have assumed when hearing about the murders at first.

Capote uses a variety of style in his writing to mend all components of his book together. Capote makes the story seem very real as if you are reliving the situation. He is so gifted in the ability he has to describe everything in such depth which makes the reader think Capote was there documenting every word he wrote in the book as if he was there in every situation. Capote also changes from first person to third person quite often, but as he does that he does not put in his personal opinions on the characters or situation but let reader form one on their own without being persuaded a certain way.

The diction throughout the book is outstanding, especially in the first half when he is describing and introducing each character. “his eyes not only situated at uneven levels but of uneven size, that left eye being truly serpentine, with a venomous, sickly-blue squint that although it was involuntary acquired, seemed nevertheless to warn of bitter sediment of his nature. ” (Capote Page 31) He wrote the book in chronological order and divided the book into four sections, The Last to See Them Alive, Persons Unknown, The Corner, and Answers in which he focused mainly on one subject in each section which also provided different tones.

The image of the story is very vivid throughout but especially when he describes Perry and Dick entering the Clutter home and killing the family. “Started with Mrs. Clutter, I made Dick help mebecause I didn’t want to leave him alone with the girl. I cut the tape into long strips, and Dick wrapped them around Mrs. Clutter’s head like you’d wrap a mummy… ” (Capote Page 243) Capote also creates a large amount of suspense in the beginning from the time the Clutter family was living till they were murdered. He uses this technique to capture the audience attentions. “Mr. Clutter was amused.. ouching the brim of his cap, he headed for home and day’s work, unaware that it would be his last. ” (Capote Page 13)

This immediately makes the reader anxious leading up to the night they went to bed. “Nancy set out the clothes she intended to wear to church the next morning: nylons, black pumps, a red velveteen dress-her prettiest, which she herself had made. It was the dress in which she was to be buried. ” (Capote Page 56) One of the most important factors Capote uses in his book is the change in point of view. Capote often switches from first person to third person to emphasize certain parts and make the story more believable and vivid.

He uses first person in the beginning with the Clutter family to help the reader understand their life. “It’s been a pleasure Herb,. Same Here fellow. ” (Capote Page 47) He also switches to first person with Perry Smith and Dick Hickock to help the reader relive the case and go inside the minds of the criminals and the way they thought and processed committing a murder and trying to run away from it. This also makes the reader feel closer to the characters which he aims for in his attempt to make the situation seem very real as if the reader were there and reliving the situation.

By doing this it causes the tone to be more emotional because of the attachment the reader develops with the characters. In the end Perry Smith and Dick Hickock were both hanged for manslaughter. Truman Capote overall wrote an extraordinary book that exemplified different writing skills that kept the reader hooked and thoroughly covered every aspect of the Clutter family case. With the tone and mood constantly changing the book was always interesting. He managed to cause the reader to experience a sense of emotion and used surprising elements such as making the reader empathize towards a killer because of Capote’s unbiased view on the case.

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