Tag Archive: essay

“In Cold Blood”

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.

Free As A Bird

Great song by the Beatles, just to start; lyrics are insanely haunting and it just really conjures up good feelings of freedom. Unlike Neil Gaiman who is quite possibly   the greatest living author around right now, I wouldn’t say, “Fat Charlie wasn’t sure he liked freedom… There was too much open air involved.” Now, applying this to myself, I wouldn’t quite agree with it; I can’t get enough of freedom, probably because of how irritatingly imposing I’ve always found everything in life. Can’t do one thing right without getting screamed at for doing another wrong and all that.

But I digress, as is quite usual for these sorts of things. Today, I got back the results for an AP test that I took at my school. For those of you who don’t know, AP stands for Advanced Placement and in essence is taking a college class in high school  and then participating in an end of the year test for potential college credit. As the first available AP course, I jumped on this one. Today,  after  waiting for a few months for the results, I, along with the others in my school who took the  test, received my results. Alright, I wasn’t waiting, I forgot about the test about two days after I took it, but no biggie.

These tests are scored on a scale of 1-5, 1 meaning ‘why did you bother to enroll yourself in this class?’ and 5 being ‘good work, now it’s time to stop studying and learn some social skills.’ I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had gotten a…. (Drum roll, please)….


No, I’m just pulling your leg. It was actually 2 squared, for those of you who like a good math insert. For those of us who are more simple minded, I actually achieved a 4. On the scale, that would be somewhere around a, ‘you’re above average in intelligence, but chances are talking to you is social suicide.’ So, all in all a good call; I’m happy to say I have avoided the pitfall of being social suicide to be seen with, so not too bad. Especially considering that a 4 is above average and that I didn’t study.

Reflecting on the test, it’s actually a little shocking I did so well. The test is pretty simple: 60 minutes, I believe, for 70 multiple choice questions and then about 2 hours to write three different essays; one document based, one change over time and one comparing and contrasting. I might be a little wrong in terms of the time given, but I believe that’s it. Multiple choice questions are taken on what is essentially a scantron sheet and the essays are written in a nice little booklet. Anything written in the essays and crossed out is not graded.

Yes, that is bait for students like me.

Naturally, there are the classic AP yearly jokes; this years was a simple, “Yo AP test grader, Imma let you finish, but this is one of the best essays of all time. ALL TIME!’ All fine and dandy, I did this in my second essay, a change over time, to lighten the mood. Essay one was mostly serious, being about the mechanization of the cotton industry in Japan and India. I know nothing about this, and  you probably don’t either; it’s good it was the DBQ, which pretty much provides all the info you need. The second essay was about how religion in Sub-Saharan Africa has stayed the same and changed throughout time; pretty straightforward. And the third was comparing and contrasting the Roman Empire and Han China.

Essay three was where I went all out. In fact, when I saw the page I had to rough draft, it was all I could do to hold back laughing; all that I had done was drawn a penis. One ball had China written in it, the other Rome, and the rod had ‘Roman Orgies!’ like I had made some grant discovery. Sad part is that I can’t post  a picture; my history teacher hangs onto these packets for examples for next year’s students. Moving on to the test, I can’t remember all that I did do, but there was plenty I do remember; references galore to the classic “Plains, Trains and Plantains” (http://www.ubersite.com/m/56674). In another section I pointed out, quite off topic, the importance of Romans inventing orgies and other similar things, before stopping to realize, “Oh, wait, that was the Greeks… Sorry.” All, of course, single-line crossed out. As far as Han China goes, it was something along the lines of how important the imperial examination system was in “squinting contests, determining who could eat the most rice and who could say, ‘Herro, prease.'” Once again, this was, of course, single-line crossed out. No offense to Chinese or Asian readers in general meant by these comments.

In closing, I was proud of passing the AP test because of passing it, but also because of all those sly little jokes I slipped in as well. I hate to be sexist, but since most of the jokes were perverted guy humor, I have to wonder if a bit of the humor was lost on my grader, who was apparently a woman according to the slip I received; hopefully she didn’t think I was just some immature sophomore… Of course, that would be entirely true, but that’s besides the point. Actually, immature junior now, so not entirely true. Anyone else here ever taken an AP test? What was your experience with the difficulty level and how did you do on it?