1) What are the events that this nonfiction novel recounts? (Considering ICB together with the
NYTimes piece will give you a jump-start here.) This question is more difficult and interesting
than it may at first seem. In fact, this question really subsumes all the questions below. (Of
course you’ll keep in mind the follow up question: Why does it matter to understand this? But
then, you’re always asking this question, right?)
2) What are the differences between a) the order of events as they happened and b) the order of
events as told?
3) From whose point(s) of view are these events told? How can you tell?
4) Who is the narrator? What can you say about “her”?
5) In the narrator’s judgment, which places, things, people, etc. deserve extensive description?
How do these descriptions encourage us to view what is described? (Here you can think of the
language that gets used: vocabulary, metaphors, etc.)
The killers approach Holcomb, while the Clutters go about their wholesome, everyday business.
This sequence is crafted so as to heighten the sense of suspense. Capote shifts quickly from
scene to scene. It is like a film in which the scene shifts between simultaneous events in different
places. The reader knows that the Clutters are going to die, but the Clutters are blissfully ignorant
of this fact. Capote capitalizes on this irony. At the end of almost each chapter about the Clutters,
Capote writes that this will be their last day, their last apple pie, etc.
It is obvious that Capote is the narrator, because the narrator is obviously more sophisticated than
many of the characters in the book. His descriptions sound almost like anthropological
investigations; he is aloof from his subjects. Although Capote had a rural childhood, his
cosmopolitan experience comes through clearly as he describes "local color." In many ways, he
is an urban sophisticate giving us a voyeuristic window into the "heartland" of America.
In Cold Blood
is divided into small chapters. In this part of the narrative, Capote uses the short
chapter lengths to their full effect--the chapters come quicker, like brief, alternating glances as
Dick and Perry near the River Valley Farm. This heightens the sense of simultaneity. It is as if the
mind's eye were quickly toggling back and forth between a view of the Clutter home and one of
the approaching black Cadillac, trying not to miss a thing.
Capote makes the most of the fact that he is telling a true story. To describe Billy's visit to the
Clutter home, he simply uses Billy's testimony. He is calling attention to the fact that this is a true
story. The factuality of his story becomes something like a gimmick.
As the killers race toward Holcomb, Capote sketches the developing working relationship
between Dick and Perry. Perry wants to tell Dick about his dream that a giant parrot will come
and rescue him, but Dick ignores him. Dick is practical; he does not understand the romantic side
of Perry. Also, he underestimates Perry. Dick thinks that Perry may be having second thoughts