Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In writing “The Headless Hawk,” Capote worked with many of the same components that he used in other short stories of the same period, as well as in his first novel: dreams, nightmares, and distortions, all characteristic of the gothic mode that is typical of much of his work. The intent of this style is to reveal psychological states that cannot be portrayed in other ways, to show fear and horror within the inner core of many lives.

The dreams, the painting, and the fantasy of Mr. Destronelli compose the major symbols of the story, but there are many more, in addition to multiple images. Directionlessness, for example, is seen not only in the symbol of the headless hawk but also in other phases of the story: in Vincent’s dream of waltzing, in his uncertainty as he walks the street, and in his use of an umbrella, which makes the tapping sound of a blind man with a cane.

Images of imprisonment, entrapment, and death recur throughout the story. The word “locked” appears in several places, and at the end it is clear that the two characters are locked together figuratively, imprisoned in their lives, bound to their individual selves and to each other. A fan that turns around and around in a store window is still another emblem of the inescapable circularity of their lives.

The separation of Vincent and D. J. from the ordinary world is shown through nightmarish images. The people on a New York avenue appear to Vincent as...

(The entire section is 411 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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Brinnin, John Malcolm. Truman Capote: Dear Heart, Old Buddy. Rev. ed. New York: Delacorte Press, 1986.

Clarke, Gerald. Capote: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.

Dunphy, Jack.“Dear Genius”: A Memoir of My Life with Truman Capote. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1989.

Garson, Helen S. Truman Capote: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1992.

Plimpton, George. Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career. New York: Doubleday, 1997.

Rudisill, Marie. The Southern Haunting of Truman Capote. Nashville, Tenn.: Cumberland House, 2000.

Windham, Donald. Lost Friendships: A Memoir of Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and Others. New York: William Morrow, 1987.