In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, features multiple strong themes throughout the narrative, some subtle while others are overt. These themes include life in rural America, the American dream, violence, and trust.
Life in Rural America
In Cold Blood is a non-fiction novel that takes place in communities all across America. The main character, Perry, travels with his family from Texas to Oregon and later to Florida, Texas and Nevada as well as to the country of Mexico. Through Perry's travels, Capote explores the similarities between rural American communities despite the distance between them. Perry's childhood is spent traveling from one place to another, and it is this sporadic upbringing that contributes to his identity as a loner. The text explains that he "washed dishes in an Omaha restaurant, pumped gas at an Oklahoma garage, and worked a month on a ranch in Texas."
As the story progresses, the superficial differences between the states Perry has lived in are woven into the tapestry of what Capote considers the myth of America. Despite the differences in each location he travels to, Perry identifies a common loneliness and dissatisfaction among the rural populace he encounters.
The American Dream
The American Dream and life in rural America are themes that are closely intertwined throughout the narrative. Perry and Dick are motivated to commit violent crimes by perversions of the American dream, which was a prominent topic in the 1950s. As a self-made farmer, Herbert is living the traditional American dream. Perry and Dick seek to obtain the rewards of that dream without putting in any of the honest work it takes to achieve success. To do this, they devise a plan to murder Herb and his family and use their money to further their own dreams.
The central story of In Cold Blood revolves around the planned murder of Herb Clutter and his family. Perry Smith and Dick Hickock believe that the Clutters have thousands of dollars hidden somewhere in their home and kill the family in cold blood to obtain the money. In reality, they find only $40 in Herb's wallet. The ruthless ambition of Perry and Dick is used to showcase the reality of violence, which is so often inflicted for the sake of petty gain.
Capote grows close to Perry in an attempt to obtain his confession. He works to gain Perry's trust over time and becomes something of a kindred spirit, even as he comes to the conclusion that Perry and Dick are cold-blooded killers. Both men are isolated and consider themselves loners, which contributes to the trust that is built between them over time. In a subtler sense, the idea of trust in an orderly world is also explored through this narrative. Herb is a pillar of the community and he has no reason to believe that anyone would wish to hurt him. This trust is violated when two men he has no direct connection to break into his home and perpetuate violence against him and his family.