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In Cold Blood, what do Perry tears after listening to 'Oh Come Let Us Adore Him'...

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thebookworm1995 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted May 14, 2012 at 7:11 AM via web

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In Cold Blood, what do Perry tears after listening to 'Oh Come Let Us Adore Him' indicate about his character and personality?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 31, 2013 at 9:38 PM (Answer #1)

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With his new genre of journalistic fiction, Truman Capote presents facts through the vortex of the personal histories of the victims and criminals, especially Perry Edward Smith, about whom Capote was intrigued because like Capote himself, Perry possessed artistic talents and was marginalized by his behavior--although Capote's homosexual behavior disapproved of by relatives finds no similarity with Perry Smith's behavior.

Certainly, Capote's portrayal of Smith raises questions. In her essay on Capote's book, Lydia Kim writes,

Perhaps portraying Smith in such a manner provided Capote with a much-needed and perfectly oblique means of catharsis and finger-pointing. Smith and Hickock are almost perfect illustrations of Dickens' child symbols Ignorance and Want in ‘‘A Christmas Carol.’’

Thus, Capote finds in Hickock and Smith "the wanton as well as inexplicable nature of existence" in the human tragedy. For, the sensitive Capote, the complexity of Smith's life, especially, does not permit a categorization of him simply as killer. Instead, he is both victim and victimizer, perhaps wreaking revenge upon those who represent the American ideal, an ideal which has never been within his reach. 

While they reside at 335 Ocean Drive in Miami, Christmas arrives and Perry asks Richard why he has not wished him a "Merry Christmas." As it common, this season brings with it many sentimental memories as well as feelings of loneliness for those not with family. So, perhaps, Perry is brought to tears as he hears "O Come Let Us Adore Him" as he recalls his traumatic years in the Catholic orphanages and other lonesome Christmases. For, with this song and its emotional stirrings, Perry contemplates suicide--not an uncommon thought for many lonely souls at Christmas, either. Perry cries for his lost youth, his lost family, his lost happiness. 

...an exalted music that moved him to tears--which refused to stop even after the music did. And as was no uncommon when he was thus afflicted, he dwelt upon a possibility that had for him "tremendous fascination": suicide.

This poignant scene illustrates that Perry is not just a cold-bloodied killer; instead, he is sensitive and artistic at times. Through this portrayal of Perry Smith as a complex character, this author condemns society as well as the murderer in his "human tragedy." 

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