Truman Capote’s non-fiction novel, In Cold Blood, includes aspects of both types of narrative. The non-fiction aspect is told using accurate information gathered by many means including interviews. On the other hand, there are times when the book is similar to a novel, with parts invented by Capote to help develop the plot the way he choose. The inclusion of both truth and invention help to create more powerful work, one that leads the reader to question events as well as wonder what is true and what is not.
In Cold Blood does not include a large amount of invention compared to most narratives in the novel category but there is enough to be significant. Capote had no way of knowing what the exact events of the Clutters’ last day alive might have been. For example, he might have been able to find out that Mr. Clutter and Kenyon attended the 4H meeting, but not that Mr. Clutter had originally planned on taking Nancy. Another example of possible invention is when Nancy received the call from Mrs. Katz. Capote could not have known that “barefoot, pajama-clad, Nancy scampered down the stairs” (p17). Capote uses the invention to help characterize the Clutter family, he chooses events that make them seem like good people, with some flaws to make them human but the type of family that most people strive for.
Due to this characterization, the family becomes loved by the reader, who is already aware of their fates. Suspense then builds as the reader is unaware of when or how the murders will take place. The work is made more powerful by the characterization of the family because, the reader is able to empathize with them as they are made human. Also, the reader comes to the realization that the Clutters were a normal family, therefore, what happened to them could possibly happen to anyone including themselves.
This fear adds to the desire for the murders to be caught. Capote’s use of invention aids in keeping the reader engaged in the book although most of the events are already known. The ending of In Cold Blood is also invented, one reasoning could be that Capote wanted to end the book on a lighter note. The story follows the same structure as a novel with a clear beginning, a middle with a climax, and a resolution. Capote most likely included the fabricated ending to help maintain that novel structure.
Truman Capote was able to find a lot of information that would be considered truth through interviews and documents. Capote chooses what parts of the truth he included and emphasized. The characterization of Dick is and Perry is based on his interviews with them as well as information gathered from their families and those who had interactions with the pair. Capote takes information from documents written at the time of the murder, a couple of examples of this would be, “The Kansas City Star printed a lengthy account of the Clutter funeral” (p 96) as well as, “Alvin Dewey, breakfasting in the coffee shop of a Topeka hotel, read, on the first page of the Kansas City Star, a headline he had long awaited: die on the rope for the bloody crime.” (p 337).
While writing the book, Capote would have been able to reference these documents for exact accounts even though they were from years before, making the details of the book closer to the truth. It is known that Capote had a bias towards Perry therefore, the majority of his characterization depicts that he is a lovable person who just has some flaws.
Aspects of that characterization might be the accurate truth but because Capote the author has the ability to manipulate what he includes, he leaves out what he personally might feel is not true, an example of that would be Perry’s major flaws. Perry is rarely described as a violent murder, a possible reason for this could be Capote’s perception of the truth which does not include that aspect of him. Another support for that argument is the fact that when the trials are taking place, Capote refers to Perry as Mr. Smith in context with the murders. An example of this would be, “three more convictions for Hickock, and four for Smith” (p 307) The reasoning for this could be that Capote is disassociating the act from Perry as he does not feel he, the Perry that Capote was attached to, was involved.
Dick on the other hand, is characterized as having both good bad traits. Capote shows how malicious Dick can be but also that he can be caring at times, such as his desire to have a normal life and a family. Capote’s potentially skewed perception of the truth helps to create a more powerful work because of the details he chooses to include. The reader grows to favor Perry due to the way he is characterized by Capote, therefore, they want to follow his story as well as his ultimate fate. The attachment to Perry provides the reader with reasoning to continue with the book although the ending is already known. Since Capote was able to manipulate what was and was not to be included in the book, we as readers are left with the sense that truth is relative therefore we are not able to hear the whole story, only what seems to be half of it.
People have different perceptions of truth, some with strict definitions, others are more lenient. By my criteria, for something to be true, there has to be significant evidence to prove that it is indeed fact and not just a random statement. There were many times while reading In Cold Blood that my perception of truth prevented me from agreeing with statements made or made me wonder if aspects were true. One instance of this is Dick’s first confession. There was at that time, no evidence to support that Perry had killed all of the Clutters, there was evidence to the contrary at that point in the book. Perry implies that he and Dick committed the crime when he says, “I think there must be something wrong with us.
To do what we did” (p 108) Perry’s usage of the words us and we suggest that he and Dick both took part in the murders, not just Perry. One problem with that passage is the fact that it could possibly be invented by Capote not an actual conversation between the pair. If this is the case, then there is nothing to support that Perry did not commit all of the murders as he also later confesses to being the sole executioner. My definition of truth makes it hard for me to believe many aspects of the narrative due to the amount of invention in the text, it is hard to determine what is evidence towards a statement and what is not.
The inclusion of both truth and invention by Truman Capote in the non-fiction novel In Cold Blood makes it difficult for the reader to draw accurate conclusions due to the fact that not all parts of the text are able to be used as valid reasoning because of the possibility that it might not be the real events. Thus, the reader is left with many questions, which they hope will be answered later in the text. Capote uses invention in his favor to create a story with the aspects he wants. The same is done with truth, Capote leaves out or deemphasizes aspects that might deviate from the ideas he hopes to portray, as seen with characterization and plot.