The people of Holcomb have difficulty accepting that, “…the murderer was not someone among themselves. Indeed, a sizable faction was refused to accept the fact that two unknown men, two thieving strangers, were solely responsible” (231). Likewise, investigator Alvin Dewey, “…though [the confessions] answered questions of how and why, failed to satisfy his sense of meaningful design” (245). Most obviously, these statements reflect a certain fear of the unknown and the unpredictable. Socially, these statements reflect a prevailing stigma attached to those deemed “mentally ill” in the 50s and 60s. However, the stigma surrounding mentally ill patients is attributed to a lack of knowledge of the subject. At the time, the psychology field was just taking off. Capote writes:
In regard to his family, Mr. Clutter had just one serious cause for disquiet—his wife’s health. She was “nervous,” she suffered “little spells”—such were the sheltering expressions used by those close to her. Not that the truth concerning “poor Bonnie’s affliction” was in the least a secret; everyone knew she had been an on-and-off psychiatric patient the last half-dozen years. Yet even upon this shadowed terrain sunlight had very lately sparkled. (7).
Yet, Bonnie Clutter, because of her “affliction,” is still stigmatized, inciting fear even in those who know her: “Jolene had never before been alone with Nancy’s ‘strange’ mother, but despite discussions she had heard, she felt much at ease…” (Emphasis Mine 25).