Why did Truman Capote title his book "In Cold Blood"? Was it because of the characters' upbringing, which in their minds may have justified their means of killing the family?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Capote's journalistic novel chronicles the robbery attempt by Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Edward Smith, a plan that Hickock devised while incarcerated.  While in a Kansas prison Hickock had heard from another inmate that Herb Clutter for whom he had worked at one time, kept large amounts of cash in his home safe.  With Smith, Hickock planned to rob the Clutters of their money.

On November 14,1959, after driving across Kansas, Hickock and Smith attempted to rob Clutter, but upon learning that he paid all his bills by check and had virtually no money in the house, Smith coldly slit his throat and then shot him in his head.  When interviewed, Perry Smith said,

I didn't want to harm the man.  I thought he was a very nice gentleman.  Soft spoken.  I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat.

After Smith shot Clutter, he put a single shotgun blast into the heads of the remaining family members.  This was the first mass murder of such brutality committed in the United States.  Smith's senseless and brutal, cold-blooded killing of the Clutter family and Smith's obvious detachment of feeling and psychoses, Capote was prompted to use the phrase "cold blood" in his title.

During Perry's incarceration after his trial, Capote visited him constantly, having bribed the officials into giving him carte blanche to come and go as he wished.  Smith, a child of institutions had many stages of his development arrested in the infantile stage:  he wet the bed, sucked his thumb, and cried out for "Daddy" in his sleep.  He prefered root beer to beer or coffee.  Being of mixed heritage, Indian and Irish, Perry had many psychological problems that Capote found fascinating, and, perhaps, felt were the cause of Smith's detached, cold killing of his victims.

drrb | Student

In Cold Blood is a novel about the committing of a mass murder. The two parolees Dick Hickock and Perry Edward Smith who could not commit the crime individually did the murder in a pre-planned way. Smith here claimed in his confession later that Hickock murdered the two women in cold blood. He wanted to confess any responsibility for all four killings . Hickock also maintains that Smith committed all four killings. This mystification is also done in cold blood. They pleaded temporary insanity at the trial. This is also done in cool brain. True criminals and die hard criminals always maintain a cool appearance .This is also true of Hickock and Smith. The plan carefully made by both the friends in the prison to commit the robbery without leaving any witness and to start a new life in Mexico shows that they committed the murder in a similar way. They will in no way get excited about the crime. They will maintain a composure which is however only a mask for them so that they are not suspected. But the mask is exposed. They were arrested and punished. So their cold blooded murder is of no avail. Murder is out. So the title of the novel is appropriate.

Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee ,India