In Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, where does Capote show sympathy for Perry?

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In the book In Cold Blood, author Truman Capote shows sympathy for Perry Smith, one of the two killers of the Clutter family in rural Kansas in the 1960s, in a number of places. This includes eliciting pity for Perry because of his physical deformities and also attempting to...

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In the book In Cold Blood, author Truman Capote shows sympathy for Perry Smith, one of the two killers of the Clutter family in rural Kansas in the 1960s, in a number of places. This includes eliciting pity for Perry because of his physical deformities and also attempting to humanize him by providing detailed descriptions of his hobbies, thoughts, and unhappy upbringing.

Early in the book, Capote provides a description of Perry’s appearance that is designed to evoke pity:

... some sections of him were not in proportion to others. His tiny feet, encased in short black boots with steel buckles, would have neatly fitted into a delicate lady’s dancing slippers; when he stood up, he was no taller than a twelve-year-old child, and suddenly looked, strutting on stunted legs that seemed grotesquely inadequate to the grown-up bulk they supported, not like a well-built truck driver but like a retired jockey, overblown and musclebound ...

Other details play on the reader’s sympathy. For instance, Perry’s impossible dream of being a lounge singer is conveyed in terms that evoke pity, not derision. We are also told that Perry had been maimed and, at one point, “spent half a year in a State of Washington hospital and another six months on crutches.” As a result of the accident that sent him to the hospital in the first place, Perry still endured tremendous pain.

Perry's hobbies that include reading and drawing are admirable, as is his interest in religion. For instance, in writing of a fellow inmate, Capote says Perry had “an ambition to bring this boy to God,” although further on, Capote says Perry’s spiritual quest was “never very earnest.”

Perry is depicted as someone who has never gotten over a difficult background. Capote says,

Perry could be “such a kid,” always wetting his bed and crying in his sleep (“Dad, I been looking everywhere, where you been, Dad?”).

Capote also says that Dick had often seen Perry “sit for hours just sucking his thumb,” which paints a pathetic picture of a man-boy who has been abused by family and society.

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In his work In Cold Blood, Truman Capote explores what makes someone become a murderer and challenges our beliefs on the punishment murders should receive. He does not hide the fact that Dick and Perry are guilty of the Clutter family murder; however, he surprises his reader by making them feel sympathy for both the victims and the criminals.

Capote investigates Perry’s background and argues that the events he experienced caused him to be a murder. Capote paints a tragic childhood for Perry in which his father was abusive and his mother was an alcoholic. After his mother commits suicide, Perry is sent to live in a Catholic orphanage, where he is bullied by the other boys and continuously punished by the nuns. Because Perry’s father is Irish and his mother is Cherokee, Perry endures abuse and racist insults from people around him. In an interview with Capote, Perry explains how the nuns in the orphanage often called him the devil and tell him he was the same as being black because of his mixed nature. He explains that she would “fill a tub with ice-cold water, put me in it, and hold me under until I was blue."

Though he is a grown man, Capote often uses childlike diction to describe Perry reminding the reader that Perry never quite grew up. Dick tells Capote that Perry still wets the bed and often sucks his thumb. Perry explains he only made it through the third grade before his father pulls him out of school.

"I finished the third grade," Perry recalled, "which was the finish."

Capote paints the picture of what Perry’s life could have been. Though he has no formal education, he is able to get his GED while in prison. While he has trouble understanding his actions, he’s a talented artist. Capote humanizes Perry throughout the book, so we realize that he has committed this horrible crime, but we must also think about what events lead him to doing so and what kind of person he could have been if he was supported as a child.

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Through depicting Perry as a lonely and remorseful, Capote shows compassion for him and makes him sympathetic to the reader.

Capote constructs an internal life for both Perry and Dick, but Dick’s internal monologues are ruthless and selfish, while Perry’s tend to show self-pity and internal conflict. For example, Capote presents Perry’s motive for meeting up with Dick to collaborate on a robbery to be a desire for attention from someone who cares about him. When Perry receives Dick’s letter inviting him to help out with “the perfect score,” he responds, not because of the money but because Dick happens to be in the same town as a Preacher he had met in prison, Willie-Jay, who Perry says is the only person who “had ever recognized his worth, his potentialities” (51-52).

Capote also portrays Perry as showing remorse. After the murders, he says and thinks repeatedly that “there must be something wrong with [himself and Dick]” (124). He also expresses surprise that he was able to kill at all: “Way, way rock-bottom, I never thought I could do it. A thing like that,” he tells Dick (125).

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