In Cold Blood Analysis English Literature Essay

The book, In Cold Blood, focuses on The Clutter family in the beginning. They were normal sized family living their life in a farm in Holcomb. The parents, Herbert and Bonnie, and their children, Nancy and Kenyon lived in a small settlement in western Kansas. Their family are well known members of the community and are given the proper amount of respect in Holcomb. The farther, Herb Clutter is known to be a generous employer but a disciplined farther. Although life of Nancy and Kenyon is pleasant and provided for. The story centers on the Clutter family during the events of November 14th, 1959. The book refers to this time period as the family’s “last.” At the same time In another part of Kansas, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith,  are on parole from the Kansas State Penitentiary. During this time they are planning a robbery based on a hunch that there is a safe with a large sum of money inside it. Richard and Perry begin their drive to Garden City and begin their entrance to the Clutter family’s home.

Alvin Dewey begins an investigation with special agents Roy Church, Clarence Duntz and Harold Nye. At this time Perry and Richard have already left Kansas City and are reading about their crime in the newspaper. They begin wondering if the crime will ever be traced back to them. Perry and Richard are now headed for Mexico and get some quick cash by using some bad checks. The information regarding the murderers are slowly given away during the narration. While in the run, Perry has dreams of adventures and of being taken away from his problems by parrots reveling that he is not content and is stressing over his problems. He is a self-conscious person and is sensitive. Richard is a very cocky person, who had a normal past but turned to crime.

The investigative team gets a lead off a man called Floyd Wells who used to be an employee of Herb Clutter’s. He was a cellmate of Richard at Kansas State Penitentiary as well and is the one that told Richard about the safe that had inside of it cash that was inside the Clutters’ house. After following up on this testimony, it is discovered that Richard and Perry were traveling during the time that the murder happened. During this time Richard and Perry have come back to the United States. The police then trace a stolen car to them, and they are caught in Las Vegas. Their apprehension of Richard and Perry was only six weeks after the murders.

During the interrogation process Richard was caught in his lies and he gave a confession, but says Perry committed all of the murders. Perry says that that they broke into the Clutters because Floyd Wells told them that Herb Clutter kept ten thousand dollars in a safe that was located inside the house. No safe was found, so Perry snapped took the knife, from Richard and slitting Mr. Clutter’s throat, and shot the rest of the family and then they fled the scene. They were trial in Garden City. Richard and Perry undergo a psychiatric evaluation, and it is concluded that both are suffering from mental illness. Despite these findings, the court upholds the M’Naghten rule, which disregards mental illness in determining whether criminals are responsible for their actions. Richard and Perry were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. They were hanged on April 14th, 1965, in front of twenty witnesses.

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The book In Cold Blood spends a good amount developing that characters Richard and Perry. Richard Hickock is more of the pushing factor in the team. He develops the idea to rob the Clutters as well as comes up with the idea of “no witnesses”. He seems very content with his twisted lifestyle, and it was much more of a choice for him to become a criminal then a forced lifestyle because of past experiences, meaning that his he has no roots that can be directly related with his criminal tendencies, such as childhood neglect. Although, Richard was involved in a car accident that resulted in a head injury. His father says that the day of the car accident he “wasn’t the same boy”. He spent most of his life being a low end criminal who is always looking for the easy way out. Perry Smith is a passive character who, prior to his murdering of the Clutters, was a sensitive, thoughtful, creative and very smart person. A theme throughout the novel is that Perry’s has a very strong belief in fate. He doesn’t think that he can’t do anything, and whatever is going to happen to him is going to happen to him regardless. This is one of his major personality traits, and where Richard somewhat balances him out. As Perry would be considered hyper aware of his situation, Richard is more carefree about what goes on and believes things will work out in his favor as long as he has a plan. He follows the belief that anything that happens in his life will happen and things will always be like this. This is a trait that was most likely inherited by his traumatic childhood. This is something he most likely saw his parents and siblings show as his life went on. His brother and sister committed suicide to avoid their life’s problems and his mother ran away from her own problems as well. Perry shows these traits in his personality throughout the story.

Family is a very key element in this book. The Clutter is what would be considered to be a textbook family. The farther holds everyone to very strictest standards, for example, he does not allow any alcohol or caffeine. He is especially strict with his children, for example, Nancy is almost never allowed out of the house after ten. However, he is an incredibly good provider for his family and employees. After the clutter family is killed, the reaction is “amazement, shading into dismay; a shallow horror sensation that cold springs of personal fear swiftly deepened” (70). The Clutters were shown in such in a way that made them look like the purest of family life. The polar opposite of this would be Perry. His roots are exactly what would be considered a life that would cause a negative mental impact on anyone, somewhere where no one would ever want to grow up. Although I am sure the Clutters’ were not perfect people, their strength is in caring nature of everyone in family. Dick as well has ties to root in family. He yearns for the life he had when he was still married to his first wife. He had dreams of becoming self-sufficient and wanted to be able to support their three sons. Although this ideal is pushed on (that the way you were brought up should directly result on how you perform when you’re older), there seems to be an exception to this rule is with regard to Dick’s parents. He seemed to have parents that raised him with care and that he had a genuine respect for them and like the affection. In the end he still became a criminal dispute this.

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A very big theme of this book was mental illness and if the death penalty was the correct punishment for Richard and Perry. Both Perry and Dick’s criminal tendencies are shown to have past experiences that can be linked to cause medical issues. Perry is a schizophrenia and suffers from paranoia, while Dick has brain damage from a concussion that was gained during a car accident. The question of the murder trial is, are Perry and Richard still accountable for their actions or is their mental illness to blame? The book seems to very often to ask the question of whether the same moral standards should be applied to all people, regardless of their past and their life circumstances; or if Perry and Richard are in some way redeemable by the fact that they suffer from a mental illness. Despite this Perry and Richard still faced the Death Penalty. As I see it the punishment fit the crime. This crime scene was planned out from the very start and was done for money. Before the crime had actually even started the “no witnesses” rule was said. To me, although Richard and Perry were suffering from a “mental illness”, they knew what they were doing was wrong, therefore I see no excuses to keep them alive. Although I do believe that there was something mentally wrong with both Perry and Richard, this does not mean they should not of suffered the fate that they did.

During Perry’s confession to the murder of the Clutter family is the point in the book where all the anticipation had been building, even though during the book the event had taken place already It is at this point that the KBI investigators search for an explanation had ended, what happened during the murder was now completely explained. The confession given at this time was most definitely voluntary. Richard, right after being told that footprints were found that matched theirs, confessed to doing the crime. He said that although he had taken part in breaking into the Clutters Perry was responsible for all the murders. According to Perry though, Richard was responsible to two of the four murders. Neither of these confessions (Although Perrys was clearly fabricated) were forced in anyway and were due to a panic on Richards part. As far as evidence linking Perry and Richard there was slim to none. Although the boot prints were found that matched theirs, that was almost all they had to go on. If it wasn’t for the confession made by Dick they most likely would of gotten off completely scot-free and only would of been disciplined for their failure to follow the proper parole protocol.

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Richard Hickock made several complaints to the Kansas Bar Association regarding the fairness of the trial. The improper handling of the case and failure to move the trial created some problems. This caused the case to have opened four appeals and it also postponed their impending death sentence for 5 years. The lawyers tried three times to have the case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court but this was unsuccessful every time without any reason given why.

As Perry and Richard are on death row are in a position where they can only think about their future, which will be leading them to death by hanging. Perry and Richard handle this both in their own way. Perry attempts to starve himself as he hates to see that as he thought, once again, he has no control over anything. This is his way of taking matters into his own hands and as he believes this is him actually making the choice to die rather than being forced. When Dick is put on death row he very calmly accepts the sentence. Although it seems as though he has actually accepted it he does concoct a number of ways to free himself. One of these schemes was to make the appeal to the Kansas Bar Association, which did have potential to work, but ended up failing. In the end, I believe that the sentences given to both Perry and Richard were fair and although the trail may not of been conducted properly (and chances are the sentence would of been completely different if it was). I was satisfied with the end result.

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