In Cold Blood | Study Guide

Truman Capote

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Course Hero. "In Cold Blood Study Guide." November 28, 2016. Accessed December 12, 2017. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/In-Cold-Blood/.

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Course Hero, "In Cold Blood Study Guide," November 28, 2016, accessed December 12, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/In-Cold-Blood/.

In Cold Blood | The Corner (Part 5) | Summary

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Summary

Perry Smith's and Dick Hickock's first execution date passes as their lawyers file appeals. Although their cells adjoin, Perry refuses to talk to Dick, not out of anger but because he remains suspicious and doesn't want anyone hearing his "private business." He especially dislikes Lowell Lee Andrews, who corrects Perry's grammar. After one such incident, Perry stops eating and keeps up the hunger strike for nine weeks, telling Dick, "You can wait around for the rope. But not me." But after seeing a postcard his father sent the warden asking after his son, Perry decides he should stay alive, because "anybody wanted my life wasn't going to get any more help from me." Two years pass during which Dick's mother visits him every month; she lost the farm after Dick's father died and now lives with different relatives. Dick, who reads law literature in the prison library—in addition to novels Perry calls "degenerate filth"—writes letters to the ACLU and Kansas State Bar asking for help in getting a new trial because he claims his was a "travesty of due process." The case is appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court, but its judge finds Perry and Dick did receive a "constitutionally fair trial." A new date of execution is set but passes, thanks to another reprieve. Meanwhile, Lowell Lee Andrews is hanged in November 1962.

Analysis

While it was Perry Smith who committed the murders, Dick Hickock more strongly carries the novel's theme of crime and immorality. Dick's continued appeals and his attempt to blame his attorney for not representing him adequately all fail because both defendants confessed. Although they refused to sign written confessions, there were witnesses to their oral confessions, which were allowed as evidence at trial. The appeals failed because when the defendants admitted to criminal and immoral acts, there was no case to overturn. Perry talks of suicide often, so readers are not surprised when he tries to starve himself with a hunger strike. But his turnaround, suddenly finding the will to live, indicates his self-awareness. He will remain a contradictory character to the end.

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