What is some direct evidence from In Cold Blood that Perry Smith had personality disorganization?

Direct evidence of Perry’s possible personality disorganization can be found in his mixed-up feelings about gender and sexuality.

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Generally, personality disorganization refers to a person who is dealing with significant turmoil when it comes to their personal feelings and self image. When identifying a person with personality disorganization, one might notice a stark gap between how a person presents themselves and what they actually do.

Throughout In Cold Blood, Perry presents himself as quite high-minded. He reads poetry and demonstrates an expansive vocabulary. Yet this presentation contrasts with what Perry has done: murdered a family.

Even before Perry and Dick massacred the Clutters, Perry was a criminal serving a jail sentence and not the intellectual aesthete that he makes himself out to be. Such disorganization is evinced in Perry’s notebooks. Near the end of chapter 2, Truman Capote provides excerpts from one of Perry’s notebooks. Here, among other things, Perry touches on what he would do “if called upon to make a speech.” This notion—that Perry would somehow someday be asked to give an important speech—could be interpreted as far-fetched and evidence of his personality disorganization.

Further evidence of Perry’s personality disorganization pertains to his gender and sexuality. In chapter 3, Perry expresses his lack of “respect for people who can’t control themselves sexually.” He specifically inveighs against “queer stuff.” Yet Perry demonstrates unconventional attitudes about sexuality and gender. Perry’s story about “queens” in chapter 2 hints that he is attracted to the behavior that he admonishes.

Furthermore, Perry himself seems to struggle with adhering to normative masculine constructs. In chapter 1, Capote writes that Perry was drawn to Dick because, unlike Perry, Dick is “totally masculine.” Again, Perry’s conflicting feelings about gender and sexuality indicate a form of personality disorganization.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on February 26, 2021
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