Student Question

Evaluate Capote's rhetorical strategies in each chapter of In Cold Blood.

Quick answer:

Capote's use of rhetorical strategies in In Cold Blood are, in some ways, hard to pin down. Partly this is because Capote was pioneering a new form of writing: the non-fiction novel. As such, Capote was trying to draw the reader into this compelling story of murder in the heartland in a way the seemed "journalistic" rather than novelistic.

Expert Answers

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Published in 1965, In Cold Blood is Truman Capote's most influential and famous novel. What he achieved in this novel was unique in that he completed reporter-like research (with the help of his friend and fellow author Harper Lee) on a real case but then presented this information in a format that reads like a novel. Though this format is well known today, In Cold Blood was one of the pioneering works of true crime, a genre that has since exploded in popularity.

In terms of rhetorical strategies, Capote writes in an objective and non-biased tone that is more akin to journalism than to creative writing. This is the tension that makes the book so interesting. By striving to be a distant and impassioned observer of a horrific, senseless murder and its fallout, Capote's rhetorical goal seems to be to evoke pity and sympathy from the reader rather than to condemn or judge.

Whether or not Capote succeeds in both engaging the reader and make them feel for both the victims and the murders is open to interpretation. Some critics of Capote's project believed that he got too close to the murderers and, therefore, could not help but present them in an undeservedly sympathetic light, despite their brutal crimes. If one subscribes to this point of view, then Capote fails to exercise critical reasoning throughout the book and, instead, is working more in the realm of emotions.

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