?nd values through emulation of parental conduct (Lickona 21). The moral guidance we offer tothem is added up and imitated by what they see (Coles 7).
I believe that morality is the result ofa triad of developmental qualities. Our emotional development makes us feel guilty when we dowrong. We experience social development that results in specific actions toward others and,finally, we gain cognitive development that permits us to empathize. Our morality comes to theforefront early in childhood. In elementary school, “a child becomes an intensely moralcreature” (Coles 98).
We develop a moral imagination, a capacity to reflect upon what is right and wrong with all theemotional and intellectual resources of the human mind (Coles 3). This is where we decidewhat we ought to do or not to do and why (Coles 7). Our moral thinking is also shaped byinfluences outside the home, by class and race, by social events, by cultural forces, and theassumptions that are fostered as a result of these influences (Coles 3). And we cultivate a moralintelligence from our imagination and our thinking. Our moral intelligence is a consequence oflearning to be with others (Coles 5).Order now
Children will absorb what they observe (Coles 7). Moralityis not a subject; it is a life put to the test in hundreds of moments. August Aicchorn, a notedpsychoanalyst, believed “waywardness of ‘antisocial adolescents’ is in direct proportion to thepeculiarities of their moral education” (Coles 32). I feel we should remember, however, that although we possess these developmental qualitiesthrough emotional, social and cognitive development, there is no guarantee that we will becomea wise, contributing member of society.
I think that professed but insincere values are worthless. We must be honest with ourselves, recognizing the difference between pretended, verbalizedvalues and operational, acted upon values. Of course, no one lives up to all of their ideals, weare simply not capable of perfection. Values that only make us look or feel good do not help usact more morally. This is self-serving hypocrisy.
In the book, Capote makes you almost sympathetic to Dick and Perry by making you privy tothe thoughts behind their actions. He brings the realization that they, too, are human and somecircumstance(s) in their lives has reshaped them into these monsters capable of this crime. Webegin to wonder why Dick and Perry choose the Clutters, we wonder why they murdered them,instead of simply robbing them. We feel for them because of their physical defects whichCapote details both literally and figuratively in his writing. Although Perry was portrayed as an “amateur psychoanalyst” (Capote 302), he is viewed asintrospective. He did not seem willing to face his imperfections openly.
Even viewing hisbodily imperfections was performed within small closed places (like a cheap hotel room and amen’s room at the gas station). He did not like even his close friend Dick to discuss his disabilitywith him. He frequently swallowed aspirin, more out of habit than out of need (Capote 53-55),as though the aspirin would cure that which ailed him internally. We can deduce that histwisted, mangled legs represented a part of his inner psyche that also was twisted and mangled. Although premeditated, he, when paired with Dick, could have murdered anyone. Perry needed Dick because he was the planner, the con artist that could defycircumstances, but Perry actually slashed Herb Clutter’s throat and shot all four of the familymembers in their heads.
He resented the “all American family”, the morality that theyrepresented. The rage of his inability to measure up to this level, to achieve this type of moralityis what permitted him to kill. Dick’s background was also a train track to immorality. He grew up in a poor family,experienced family trauma through his divorces and eventually turned to a life of petty crime.
He became embittered toward life in general and Capote believed this was even evidentexternally with Dick’s disfigured face. Capote felt that even Dick’s faade warned us of thebitter sediment that formed the basis for his nature. However, I do not think that Dick wouldhave committed this crime on his own. Dick was viewed as a small-time crook compelled to actout this crime because Perry viewed him as macho. Dick needed Perry’s violent nature tocomplete the bond that almost seems to develop into a third person when they were together. A leading researcher of values, Milton Rokeach, believes that it is often necessary to becomedissatisfied with yourself before you will change your behavior, attitudes, or values.
I feel thatthis means that one has to create a problem before you will solve the problem of morals. Forexample, we have to become dissatisfied with our behavior toward others before we will admitthat we should become more considerate of others. Usually, we avoid dealing with these typesof issues because we are unsure exactly what our values and morals are and we may feel that by”facing up to them” we will be forced to air our imperfections. Perhaps this random murder wasDick and Perry’s expression of their dissatisfaction with themselves and their lack of moralvalues. Both men exhibited changed behavior at some point in their lives which also lends credence totheir dissatisfaction.
Dick’s external behavior changed radically after he was discharged fromprison in 1950 (Capote 292). Perry’s childhood was marked by brutality, a lack of direction, loveand a fixed sense of moral values (Capote 296). We can reason that their actions were “born outof previous and now unconscious, traumatic experiences (Capote 299). I also feel that the elements of the tragedy were beyond control simply because this murder wasthe result of the random chance telling of a fabrication about Herb Clutter by a cellmate (FloydWells) of Dick’s.
One is given to believe that this type of storytelling within the prison walls iscommonplace. I believe that the randomness at which the parties became involved makes thisbeyond control. Even Floyd didn’t think that Dick would do anything to the Clutter’s and whenhe did realize that they had actually committed the crime, he became their nemesis, he providedthe tip that resulted in their arrest. Upon their incarceration, Perry drew pictures of Jesus,exhibiting his expressive, gentle side. Dick simply did not show emotion or remorse.
In prisonthey were separated and that “person” that was borne of their joining forces could not evolve,could not murder. Separate they were purposeless. “Mental health is based on the tensionbetween what you are and what you think you should become. You should be striving forworthy goals. Emotional problems arise from being purposeless” (Victor Frankl, 1970). BibliographyCapote, Truman.
In Cold Blood. New York: Vintage International, Vintage Books, ADivision of Random House, Inc. , 1994. Coles, Robert. The Moral Intelligence of Children. New York: Random House, 1997.
Frankl, Victor. “Quote of the Day. ” Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia. 1998 ed. CD-ROM.
Cambridge, MA: The Learning Company, Inc. , 1998. Lickona, Thomas. Raising Good Children. New York: Bantam Books, 1983.
Neumann, Erich. The Child. Boston: Random House, 1990.