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Literature Study GuidesIn Cold BloodThe Last To See Them Alive Part 3 Summary

In Cold Blood | Study Guide

Truman Capote

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In Cold Blood | The Last to See Them Alive (Part 3) | Summary



Herb Clutter is involved with the Methodist church, the Republican Party, and the Finney County 4-H Club. Though he is a successful rancher and farmer and could be part of the high-society scene, he is not a drinker or smoker, so he doesn't fit in with that crowd. After every 4-H Club meeting, Herb gives Mrs. Ashida—whom Herb nominated for a 4-H award—a ride home. She considers Herb a fearless but kind man. Kenyon Clutter is anything but fearless. He spends most of his time making things in the basement and hunting with one friend. He is uncoordinated and a loner at school; a quiet, intelligent 15-year-old.

On the day of the murder, insurance agent Bob Johnson arrives at the Clutters' house at Herb's request; he wants to purchase a double-indemnity life insurance policy. Bob Johnson's car being parked in the Clutter driveway and not recognized by Kenyon feels like an omen. On the 400-mile drive from Olathe to Holcomb, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock stop at a hardware store to purchase rope, tape, and rubber gloves. But they argue over the need to wear masks. Perry suggests they use black nylons, but Dick reminds Perry they are going to kill their victims after they rob them. Dick also feels his damaged face will be recognizable through nylon. But to appease Perry, he enters a Catholic hospital to buy black nylons from a nun, while Perry reminisces about Willie-Jay, the former cellmate he idolizes and who is being released from prison. Dick's score is an excuse for Perry to return to Kansas and see Willie-Jay again, thus risking a parole violation. When Dick returns to the car without stockings, Perry knows he didn't even ask about them.


The impression Mrs. Ashida has of Herb Clutter is not hers alone; the entire community, including Herb himself, sees him the same way. He has overcome every obstacle to success, except for his wife's depression. But members of the village of Holcomb only discuss this behind closed doors and never to Herb's face. His belief no one will ever try to hurt him later prevents him from attempting to fight off his and his family's killers.

Kenyon Clutter's sensitive personality does not bode well for fighting off an attack. He is attached to the things he makes and never speaks up for himself. The description of Kenyon's life at home and in school raises tension because it suggests he will face something he will be unable to overcome. For sensitive Kenyon, the night to come will be more than a nightmare.

The interaction between Perry Smith and Dick Hickock about the stockings and having to kill the witnesses reveals a break in their partnership and Dick's underlying intention to victimize Perry. Dick doesn't truly care if his face is seen during the crime because he is grooming Perry to be the one to kill the Clutters.

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