This weekend I read Truman Capote’s nonfiction crime novel which tells the story of the murder of four  members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. For those of you who haven’t  read it, it is very well written, but don’t come out expecting a happy ending. It is no spoiler to say that the murderers, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, are executed at the end; this is revealed on the back flap. This book is one of those far more about the journey than the destination. At the conclusion of the novel, you would think that there would be some sense of closure in reading about the deaths of the two murderers, but it doesn’t; it just leaves you with a feeling of loss, knowing that two more people have perished, even if they were two men who have murdered four innocents.

It is intriguing the way that the book progresses, something I’ve seen before. One begins to read and learns of Perry and Dick and their actions with nothing but disgust. Then, after the murders have been committed, Capote focuses on their story as well. Throughout the second section of the book, you feel, slowly, a degree of empathy for Perry due to his terrible upbringing and how he was forced to go through life. Dick remains a stone-like object who does not seem very personable, presumably because he never takes on the temporary role of third-person narrator. One of the only times that any empathy can be found for the character is when someone calls the police to confess to the crime; though never revealed with certainty, it is implied that this is Dick, who wishes to gain the reward money to repay his family. Adding on to the empathy one feels for Perry, the words frequently used to describe him make him appear child-like because of his small, deformed legs. Though I have yet to find a picture of him to see just how accurate these descriptions are, the pitiful way Capote describes him certainly do find a way of gaining empathy from the reader, in this case, me. Extra empathy must be given to Perry, especially during the trial; the mentions of the squirrel that he manages to tame in his jail cell  make him appear just that much more human and more touching as a person and character.

Dick Hickock, however, is not entirely an emotionless character. Towards the end of the book, in the final section, he becomes a much more empathetic character as the focus shifts more towards him than Perry. It also is revealed that in spite of Dick’s cold exterior, making him seem to be the obvious killer of the pair, it was Perry who killed all four members of the Clutter family; earlier when this had been claimed, it was hinted to  be something of a lie, put forward by a desperate Dick to try and cover himself and lessen his own punishment. This revelation makes one feel a certain degree of empathy for the character and begin to realize that perhaps he has been incorrectly personified with Perry as the third-person narrator. In this section, Dick also states the dislike for Perry that has developed among the other prisoners on Death Row, in the Corner, as it is called. Appeals and the like manage to push the date of their execution back for several years. When they are finally forced to go through with their execution, one goes to the gallows almost hoping to feel good about the death of these prisoners, who have killed four innocents without emotion. When they are killed, no good feeling comes in return; someone simply realizes how tragic it is that two more have perished, even if it is, perhaps, rightful. More empathy is put with the residents of Holcomb who primarily did not advocate the death penalty and instead wish for the prisoners to be given life imprisonment and pray for them. The ending pages, which tell the tale of Alvin Dewey and his last encounter with the friend of Nancy Clutter, on of those murdered, are certainly strange and touching, with timeless and beautiful prose.

Overall, the book was good and well-written, definitely a classic, however it is not the book for people used to happy-endings like those of the Harry Potter series or other fantasy novels or fiction that are so common to this time. It envelopes someone in the world of Holcomb and the many places that Dick and Perry flee too, making someone realize that criminals are still people and they still can be empathized with; just because they have committed terrible crimes, such as murder, it does not make it impossible to feel for them, to suffer with them through their troubles. I would certainly recommend it to someone interested in a good read.

Now, though, it probably is time to move on; luckily this isn’t a school essay, huh? Much too random and unorganized. Glad that that’s what a blog is for, pretty much! Hopefully this isn’t too hard or  irritating to read, but for those of you who have gotten so far, any idea just what Perry looks like in real life? His legs more specifically; the novel conjured up an image in my head that I have not been able to confirm or deny as true.

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