Within the non-fiction novel, “In Cold Blood,” written by Truman Capote, an exploration on the murders of the book’s main characters, the Clutter family, is offered.
The Clutters were portrayed by Capote as a middle-class family that has already achieved the American Dream — the basic concept that hard work will give way to life success — living in a loving community called Holcomb where they were adored and valued.
Throughout the initial chapters, Capote consistently provided snippets of what a daily, middle-class life was like for the Clutters in a way that creates a more familiar bond between the Clutters and readers of his book. Although it appears that Capote attempted to depict himself as an impartial scribe of the tragedy that descended upon the Clutters, he frequently presents the Clutters as classical Americans that many can ardently identify with, be it dreams, ambitions or careers; furthermore, Capote’s repeated discussions on how the murders affected the Holcomb community cleverly aligned his readers to sympathize with the appalling plight of the Clutters by demonstrating the devastating effects that Holcomb suffered through with the loss of the Clutter family.
The descriptions of the Clutter family within “In Cold Blood” is carefully sketched out with delicate strokes of flaming passion upon Capote’s literary canvas. The Clutters were from an immigrant background with origins in Germany; however, by the time it was Mr. Herbert Clutter’s generation, he had essentially achieved the American dream with his family. For instance, numerous symbols of achievement such as “framed documents commemorating milestones in his career gleamed … a college diploma, a map of River Valley Farm, agricultural awards … an ornate certificate bearing the signatures of… Eisenhower… cited his services to the Federal Farm Credit Board” attests to the hard work and efforts he putted in to achieve his existing social rank.
Moreover, although “he was not as rich as the richest man in Holcomb … he was … the community’s most widely known citizen, prominent both there and in Garden city, the close-by county seat.”
Herbert Clutter’s achievements and active community involvements were highlighted by Capote as a way to gently remind people of how the Clutter family attained their middle-class background through hard work coupled with persistence and how innocently undeserving they were of the murders that had become their fate. Capote’s portrayal summons fiery feelings of indignation and commiseration among his readers in a considerate way that reflects what the majority of the Holcomb community must have experienced when they lost the Clutter family.
Intermittently throughout the concluding parts of “In Cold Blood’s” first portion, Capote dedicated most of his narrative discussing the catastrophic effects that the murders of the Clutter family members had on the Holcomb community rather than discussing the actual murders themselves emphasized just how influential the Clutter family were and how injurious its effects were on the citizens of Holcomb.
For example, one Holcomb resident states that the murders of the Clutter family had a tremendous blow on them, “somehow that made me feel again. I’d been too dazed, too numb, to feel the full viciousness of it. The suffering. The horror. They were dead. A whole family. Gentle, kindly people, people I knew — murdered.”
Capote’s strategic incorporation of this piece into “In Cold Blood” shows the powerful impact that the Clutters had on their town. Unobtrusively, it also proves just how highly the Clutters were regarded and how admired they were by the Holcomb community. Capote’s discussion revealed how respected the Clutters were and how that level of respect commensurated with the level of sadness, anger and disbelief that the Holcomb community went through despondently. From this portion of the narrative, Capote potently created feelings of shared resonance in response to the tragedy that unfairly struck the Clutter family to garner sympathy for them.
Unimpeachably, Capote’s attempt to provide an impartial recount of the atrociously brutal murders of the Clutter family failed due to his eloquent appeal for the Clutters based upon their successful achievements and his heavy emphasis on how the murders impacted the Holcomb community.
The murders of the Clutter family fundamentally changed Holcomb forever. The murders of the Clutter family for Holcomb is similar to the degradation that a book may experience when its cover is torn off — in frustrating anger and an eternal sense of incompleteness. The Clutters’ tragedy provokes an unforgettable sense of haunting sadness and empathy in many readers that is bound to linger in a timeless manner.