Discussion Topic

The portrayal and relationship of Dick and Perry as evil in In Cold Blood


In In Cold Blood, Dick and Perry are portrayed as embodiments of evil through their brutal and senseless murder of the Clutter family. Their relationship is complex, with Dick being the dominant, manipulative partner, while Perry is depicted as more sensitive yet deeply troubled, ultimately highlighting the disturbing dynamics that drive their criminal actions.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the relationship between Dick and Perry in In Cold Blood?

Although possessing the literary structure and techniques of a novel, In Cold Blood is actually a nonfiction work by Truman Capote published in 1966. It describes the murders of Herbert "Herb" Clutter; his wife, Bonnie; and their children, Nancy and Kenyon in 1959 by Richard "Dick" Hickock and Perry Smith. Capote traveled to Holcomb, Kansas, where the murder occurred and did extensive research concerning the crime and interviewed both Smith and Hickock several times before they were executed in 1965.

Perry Edward Smith (October 27, 1928 – April 14, 1965) was the older of the two killers, but despite that, he is portrayed as more of a follower than a leader. Of mixed Irish and Cherokee ancestry, he was abused as a child by his father, briefly raised by an alcoholic mother, and then sent to an orphanage, where he may also have been abused. After a tour in the military, Smith had a motorcycle accident which left in him with chronic pain in his permanently injured legs. Capote portrays him somewhat sympathetically as a dreamer who loved painting and wrote poems and felt remorse for the killings. He often functions as a sidekick, having ideas and dreams but being less practical, driven, and motivated than Hickock.

Richard Eugene "Dick" Hickock (June 6, 1931 – April 14, 1965) began as a popular student athlete but was disfigured in an accident and unable to attend college for financial reasons. He is portrayed as more practical and ruthless than Smith and the driving force in the pair's activities, making decisions and translating plans from ideas into reality. He also seemed to lack remorse and the capacity for self-reflection and second thoughts. He is shown as the leader of the pair.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why are Perry and Dick considered evil in In Cold Blood?

I'm not sure whether I can give you a thesis sentence, but I think that what you ought to say in such a sentence is that both of these young men were dangerous characters but they wouldn't have committed the terrible crime they did if they hadn't been brought together like two chemicals in a testtube. It is often the case that two people will do things that neither of them would do separately. I think you can see in the book how they both seem to be trying to impress each other with how bad they are.

It occurs to me that Shakespeare was demonstrating the same truth about human nature in Macbeth. Lady Macbeth could not have committed the murder of King Duncan by herself, and Macbeth pretty obviously would not have committed it if his wife hadn't kept encouraging him to do so.

You should use Perry's and Dick's full names in your thesis sentence.

Like certain chemicals, antisocial people who are relatively harmless by themselves can form a lethal partnership when they are thrown together; this is what happened with Dick Hickock and Perry Smith.

That is my suggestion for a thesis sentence for you to tinker around with. I believe that Truman Capote felt that way about the two killers and may have actually said something like that in his book.

In the famous Loeb and Leopold murder in the 1920s, the two young men would never have committed the crime separately, but somehow they became lethal when brought together. And the fact that there were two of them made it possible for the police to use one against the other, just as they did with Dick and Perry.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

How does Capote portray Dick and Perry as evil in In Cold Blood?

Truman Capote inserts his opinion about Dick and Perry being evil through the dialogue. The quotes Capote selects from the killers suggest Capote has characterized them as diabolic, wicked, or evil.

In chapter 3, Perry speaks to detectives about Mr. Clutter. “I thought he was a very nice gentleman. Soft-spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat,” explains Perry. There is a stark contrast between what Perry thinks about Mr. Clutter and what he does to him. The striking difference arguably emphasizes Perry’s evil traits. It’s possible to claim that Capote includes Perry’s gentle side to underscore his cruelty. In dialogue elsewhere, Perry is presented as a high-minded aspiring aesthete. The juxtaposition makes his murderous actions come across as deliberate and, thus, all the more evil.

Perry’s dialogue also draws attention to Dick's evil nature. Perry tells the detectives that Dick wanted to rape Mr. Clutter’s daughter Nancy. “I’m gonna bust that little girl,” Dick tells Perry. Dick’s plan to sexually assault a teenage girl makes him evil. At other moments, Capote uses dialogue to demonstrate Dick’s callousness. At a diner, as Perry frets about getting caught, Dick tells him, “Get the bubbles out of your blood. We scored. It was perfect.” Dick’s glee about possibly getting away with murdering a family reinforces his evil characteristics.

The quotes link back to Capote because this is his book. Capote called In Cold Blood a nonfiction novel. This provocative, paradoxical term indicates that Capote is using novelistic devices to portray real-life people and events. In a sense, Perry and Dick are characters that he created. Capote inserts plenty of nefarious dialogue, which makes it possible to argue that he’s of the opinion that these characters/men are evil.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why are Perry and Dick depicted as evil in In Cold Blood?

In Cold Blood is of course a true story. Perry and Dick in the story formed the design of robbing the Clutter family and further planned to leave no survivors. They spent some time planning the crime, then drove several hundred miles to follow through. The multiple murders they committed were thus done cooly, deliberately, and with multiple opportunities to reflect on the enormity of their crime. Throughout the book, they present no redeeming qualities: they write bad checks to survive; and later plan on murdering another victim who offers them a ride so that they can steal his car. They express no remorse until they reach the gallows, at which point Dick simply comments that there are "no hard feelings," and Perry indicates that it is too late to do so.

They thus represent evil in its most human form: those who kill others for personal gain with no remorse or reluctance.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on