Literature Study GuidesIn Cold BloodThe Last To See Them Alive Part 2 Summary

In Cold Blood | Study Guide

Truman Capote

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Course Hero. "In Cold Blood Study Guide." November 28, 2016. Accessed September 19, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/In-Cold-Blood/.

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Course Hero, "In Cold Blood Study Guide," November 28, 2016, accessed September 19, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/In-Cold-Blood/.

In Cold Blood | The Last to See Them Alive (Part 2) | Summary

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Summary

Sixteen-year-old Nancy Clutter is sweet, kind to everyone, popular, and good at everything she tries, and not at all self-absorbed. She is the class president, an accomplished actress and musician, and the "town darling." On the day of the murders, Jolene Katz's mother calls Nancy to ask if she can teach Jolene how to make a cherry pie. Nancy's biggest problem is overbooking herself, so her father offers to release her from her promise to accompany him to the 4-H meeting that night; he'll take Nancy's brother, Kenyon, instead. Nancy gives Jolene the pie lesson, and then rushes off to help another neighbor's child with a trumpet solo, leaving Jolene alone with Bonnie for the first time as she waits for her mother to pick her up.

Bonnie Clutter, depressed since the birth of her last two children, sleeps in a single bedroom away from her husband. She often locks herself in her room and has to be hospitalized frequently. Once in Wichita for treatment, she, at a doctor's suggestion, took an apartment and then a job. But she soon returned home, guilty she had liked the adventure and taste of independence so much. While waiting for Jolene's mother to arrive, Bonnie shows Jolene her collection of miniatures. She gives Jolene a small fan and talks of the need to always have something of your own with you, leaving Jolene wishing her own mother would soon arrive.

Dick Hickock and Perry Smith both have physical deformities due to being in serious accidents. In a car crash, Dick suffered a head injury, which left his face deformed. He may have also suffered residual brain damage; after the accident, his antisocial behavior increased to criminal levels. In a motorcycle wreck, Perry's legs were broken in five places and he had to stay in a hospital for six months. On the day before the murders, Perry and Dick work on Dick's car, preparing it for the drive to Holcomb, and spend the afternoon grooming themselves, almost as if they are preparing to go on dates.

Analysis

This part emphasizes the American Dream theme. Nancy Clutter is everything wholesome, everything good, and everything a community wants in a neighbor or friend. Bonnie Clutter is also a generous, loving woman, despite her struggles to interact with the world. As her children become more independent, she feels no one needs her. Bonnie's personality and depression introduce the theme of mental illness, which impacts the Clutter family before the murders and impacts the killers in all their actions, including planning, preparing for, and committing the crime.

The descriptions of Perry Smith and Dick Hickock give the reader insight into how they interact. Perry is attracted to Dick's masculinity as well as his drive to get money. Perry hopes Dick will prove to be a good companion and share his dreams and ideas for adventure once they reach Mexico. Dick often calls Perry such terms of endearment as "honey" or "beauty." The two are not romantically involved, but Dick takes advantage of Perry's devotion to him. Neither of them have lasting success with relationships, though Dick often has interludes with random women, and the anticipation of the crime gives him a similar rush.

The scene with Bonnie Clutter and Jolene also raises the themes of suspense and fear. Bonnie goes through life directed by fear, and the descriptions of her physical presence in the house, right down to how she dresses and moves, make the reader feel something bad is about to happen. Bonnie's paranoia, while not related to anything real or specific, foreshadows the horrific night to come for the Clutter family, from which there is no escape.

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