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Animals in Exile: Criminal and Community in Capote's "In Cold Blood" Author(s): George R.

Creeger Reviewed work(s): Source: Jahrbuch fr Amerikastudien, Bd. 14 (1969), pp. 94-106 Published by: Universittsverlag WINTER Gmbh Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41155637 . Accessed: 02/02/2013 14:52
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Animalsin Exile: in and Community Capote's In Cold Blood Criminal


George R. Creeger As an epigraphforhis nonfiction novel In Cold Blood, TrumanCapote uses four linesfrom are Villon's"Ballade des pendus."The lines,which an explicit plea Franois to notto hardenour heartsagainstthewretched, rather showpity,addressus dibut as to The expression, difficult translate, be renhumains." rectly "Frres may although bederedas "brothers humanity," it insists theintimacy therelationship of in on and tween whomaydie peacefully ourbedsand those"poorones"aboutto be hanged. us in of We are, in fact, hangedmen'sbrothers, we partake, so thepoeminsists, or the and their between criminal the It thisintimate humanity. is, I believe, relationship precisely and his "brothers humanity" Capoteexplores thenovel. in in that The terms therelationship intricate, Capote (like JeanGenet)knowsfull as of are for level we encounter well; and evenat a primary difficulty, mostof us psychological we of Rather, wishto hanging. might denythatwe are thebrothers thosewho deserve for and can readilyunderstand thatindomitable spokesman the rejectthe criminal murderers the "varmints."1 Mrs. whenshe pronounces Clutter community, Hartman, We understand of withequal ease theattitude AlvinAdamsDewey,theKansasBureau of Investigation for downthekillers: poringfutilely agentchiefly responsible tracking of over the "twenty pictures" the dead bodies,he hoped that blown-upglossy-print
he might detailwould declareitself:"Like see that "suddenly something," a meaningful In thosepuzzles.The ones thatask, 'How manyanimalscan you findin thispicture?' a whatI'm trying do. Findthehiddenanimals."(p. 83) to way,that's If "animals" is a less brutal termthan Mrs. Hartman's "varmints,"it is no less generic, and its functionremains the same, for by it the speaker deprives the killers of their in exiles themfromthe community whichhe lives. humanityand effectively Perhaps the principal communityin Capote's book (at least at a symbolic level) is Garden City, Kansas, a town of some eleven thousand people and more than twenty churches, 266) By no means unfamiliar with animals, it possesses "a big, rambling (p. park complete with a small menagerie ('See the Polar Bears!' 'See Penny the Elephant!')" and "placid residential streetswhere animals and children are safe to run free." (p. 33) Yet not all the animals runningfree in the streetsof this Garden confirm the idyl, foramong themis a pair of gray tomcats. of withstrange and cleverhabits.The chiefceremony theirday is . . . thin, strays dirty to of . at twilight . . [when]theytrotthelength Main Street, stopping scrutiperformed of in thosestationed front the nize theenginegrillesof parkedautomobiles, particularly from of for and the twohotels, Windsor Warren, thesecars, usuallytheproperty travellers

1 TrumanCapote,In Cold Blood, New York, 1965,p. 230. (Hereafter will page references be wherequotations within textof thearticleitself. the as as Occasionally, given, often possible, do the are takenfrom same page of the book,I shall let a singlereference double or even duty.) triple

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birdscreatures hunting: are afar,oftenyield what the bony,methodical slaughtered and crows,chickadees, sparrows enoughto have flowninto the path of onfoolhardy the comingmotorists. Using theirpaws as thoughtheyare surgicalinstruments, cats extract from grillesevery the feathery particle.2

The slaughter these of birdstakesplace on theplainssurrounding GardenCity, prewherea different of slaughter kind tookplace during earlyhistory the the of sumably town:foundedsoon afterthe Civil War, Garden City owed muchof its subsequent to of who late in life spenthis time growth the activities one C. J. (Buffalo) Jones, street of "haranguing groupsagainstthewantonextermination the beastshe himself had so profitably hand,wheretheClutter slaughtered." 32) Holcomb,on theother (p. less called originally it lives,has a somewhat dramatic Sherlock, took family history: itspermanent namefrom stranger, "lhograiser,'" a a to Sadie Truitt. according Mother to he Havingmade a lot ofmoney hogsforslaughter, "'decidedthetownought raising be called after him.Soon as it was,'" Mother Truittcontinues, "'whatdid he do? Sold out.Movedto California.'" 66) (p. The buffalo, course, gone,and we hearnothing of are of further hogs;butpheasants stillabound.Everyautumn, whenthegrainfields aroundHolcombspread"lion-colored" (p. 12) undera declining beneficent greatflocks thebirdscometo feed. but of sun, The timeof yearis, in fact,called "pheasant a that weather,"3 kindof Indian summer theregionits onlytruetasteof seasonalglory.Suchweather Mr. Herbert gives greets W. Clutter, "Master"of RiverValley Farm,whenhe stepsoutsidehis large, fortythousand-dollar homeon a quietSaturday an morning, apple in hishand.Havingeaten theapple and feditscoretoBabe,a fatwork horseand family he toward favorite, moves a smallgroveof fruit trees. is accompanied Teddy,his son'sdog - a stray, He by part the the collie,and gun-shy.4 Passingthrough orchard, Masterwalksbeside the river, where encountersparty he a of
fivepheasant hunters from Oklahoma.The pheasantseasonin Kansas,a famedNovember event,lures hordesof sportsmen fromadjoining states,and duringthe past week had and plaid-hatted regiments paraded acrossthe autumnalexpanses, flushing felling withroundsof birdshot of birds.By custom, great copperyflights the grain-fattened thehunters, theyare not invitedguests, supposedto pay the landowner fee for if are a thempursuetheirquarryon his premises, whenthe Oklahomans to but offered letting hirehunting Mr. was amused."I'm not as poor as I look. Go ahead, get rights, Clutter all youcan,"he said.5 2 P. 246. Cf. the connection them and PerrySmith:"Mrs.Meier explicit Capote drawsbetween dead birdscaughtin thevehicles'enginegrilles.Thereexplainedthatthecatswerehunting after painedhimto watch it their maneuvers: 'BecausemostofmylifeI've done whatthey're use cf. doing.The equivalent.'" 264) For a somewhat (p. comparable of imagery, thedescription(p. 54) of thewindshield themurderer's filthy of with"theslimeof battered insects." car, 3 P. 77.Cf.Also Indiansummer laststhrough that Christpp. 13 and 58; and fortheremarkable mas,pp. 113and 204. 4 P. 12. Capote,whomakesa to good deal of therepresentative powerof theanimalsbelonging theClutters one of themostenigmatic Babe, and Nancy'scats),lets Teddy suggest (notably of father and of thelarger, less well-coif aspectsof themurders thepassivity thestrong ordinated (cf.pp. 13,65-66,82,and 236). For Dewey perplexity thesubjectcf.pp. 82 son 's on and 240. 6 P. 13. Capotepermits himself fewadditional(and comparable) a ironiesinvolving pheasants: forexample, account Mr. Clutter's his of insurance the agenthearing newsof themurder just

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We do not thinkof Mr. Clutteras a hunter,but his son Kenyon is. While yet a boy, conducted "rabbit roundKenyon had, with a friend,and for both pleasure and profit, as many as "half a hundred rabbits" to be delivered "to the 'rabbit facups," killing tory'- a Garden City processingplant that paid ten cents a head forthe animals, which were then quick-frozenand shipped to mink growers." Still better ("what meant most to Kenyon - and Bob, too") was duck hunting,for it provided the sweet pleasure of "swaggering homeward with a dozen duck dinners swinging fromtheir belts." (p. 39) No less intoxicatingwere coyote hunts,in whichthe varmintswere pursued in an "old truck witha Model A engine- the Coyote Wagon" : Not far from RiverValley Farm thereis a mysterious knownas stretch countryside of theSand Hills; it is like a beachwithout ocean,and at nightcoyotes an slinkamongthe in the dunes,assembling hordesto howl.On moonlit evenings boyswould descendupon set and them, themrunning, tryto outracethemin thewagon; theyseldomdid, forthe scrawniest milesan hour,whereasthewagon'stop speedwas thirtycoyotecan hit fifty but it was a wild and beautiful kind of fun,the wagon skidding acrossthe sand, five, the fleeing coyotesframedagainst the moon- as Bob said, it sure made yourheart hurry, 38-39) (pp. A hurryingheart and hounded coyotes. Kenyon knows somethingabout both: as a youngboy, in whom the devil lurked (p. 17), he had ridden his horse to death, "a beautiful horse,a strawberry stallion," whom Kenyon had loved so muchhe ceased to regard him as an animal and was even accustomed to kissing him, although the sight of his sisterkissinga cat filledhim with disgust,(p. 40) But his fatherhad warned him about riding the horse too hard: u<One day you'll ride the life out of Skeeter.' And he had; while Skeeter was streakingdown a road with his master astride him, his heart had failed, and he stumbledand was dead." (pp. 40-41) Of course, a horse is not a varmint, like a rattlesnakeor a coyote; and the death of such a horse as Skeeter may evoke pity and grief.The deaths of coyotesare a different matter:true varmints, theyare not only pursued by excited young boys on moonlitnightsin Coyote Wagons; theyare also shot by Western ranchersas pests. On the long drive that is to bring two captured animals, Dick and Perry,back to Garden City fromLas Vegas, the small caravan of cars passes throughbleak countrywhere thereis littleto see and less to do, except "to read BurmaShave doggerel, and to count the carcasses of shotgunned coyotes festooningranch fences." (p. 232) All of this attentionpaid to "real" animals is, of course, part of Capote's narrative strategy:in detailing the attitudes assumed toward animals (and frequentlythe violence done them) by his characters,he prepares us for understandingmore fully the relationship between the criminal-animal and the community.Put discursively,this relationshipmay be defined as follows: in denominatingthe criminal an animal,6 the communityeffectively separates him from its own conscious self-image - that of a of human beings. The category then permitsthe community thinkof the crito group minal-animal in rather hermeticways and to use action against him for which there of a as he "was plunging knifeintotheroastpheasant"(p. 70) and his description themuron scene of der weapon,a 12-gaugeSavage shotgun whosestockwas a "delicatelyetched in flight." 171); cf.p. 22. (p. pheasants As not only Dewey does, but also his wife (p. 213) and Mr. Clutter brother 280). Cf. s (p. note8.

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in becomes quarry a hunt;or,to the wouldotherwise fewer be sanctions. The criminal themetaphor, animalin exile- whether of flight, an that incarceration, hiding, change the or ultimately death.By thekindof grimlogicpermitted thecategory, prinof by of of violenceis violently the rationalconsciousness the repressed. Thereupon ciple on and to it itself itstriumph return thefeeling cherishes community congratulate may so much thatof security. fatalconcomitant rational consciousness however, The of is, often finds in blindness. One of thenice ironiesof pride,which metaphoric expression thebookis theoften another theset of is affirmed severemyopiaof Mr. Clutter;7 and circumstances of to the surrounding return the animal-criminals Garden Cityforthe trialthatwill lead to their finalexile: as thecrowdawaitsthearrivalof thecaravan, thetwograytomcats makeone of theirdisquieting roundsof theCourthouse Square; the of pair yetbecausetheinterest thecrowdis now on a moreinteresting of animals, catsare largely extractunnoticed. business, daunted, they Nothing proceedabouttheir by ing with surgicalprecisionthe dead birds that have been slaughtered vehicles the toward GardenCity- and perhaps trial.8 speeding as If therelationship defined complex, is also ambivalent, Capote suggests it here is in a brilliant summarizing paragraph: caravan flashing across On an Arizona a is country sagebrush highway,two-car is and and red themesacountry hawks rattlesnakes towering rocks. of Dewey driving seat.Smith Smith beside and is in thelead car,Perry sits him, Duntz sitting theback of to belt is handcuffed, thehandcuffs attached a security bya short and are length smoke unaided. chain an arrangementrestricting movements he cannot so his that his must it him When wants cigarette, he a light for andplaceitbetween lips, Dewey action the an a taskthat detective "repellent," it seems the finds for such intimate kind thing done of he'd while wascourting wife. 232) he his (p. and If theactionsthatlinkcriminal captorare less tangible to thanthehandcuffs chain thatdefine captivity, are nevertheless his and they equallystrong; therelationship between murderer the and the detective and faintly standsdefined bothintimate as perverse. the The extent which to thisintimate and perverse relationship permeates book is but use clear,notonlyin thecontrolled of animalimagery also in various everywhere of For there a heavyreliance, is aspects Capote'snarrative technique. example, particuthree of books,on a calculated, larlyin thefirst perhapseven naive,alternation chapin one whether ters, which devotedto theworldof theClutters of their (or community, Holcombor Garden City) is followedby one devotedto the killersand theirworld or The function thisalternation notonlyto provide of is (usuallythatof flight hiding). thenarrative witha strong senseofmotion also to confirm intimacy therelabut the of the and thecommunity. between criminal Thus Book I, Chapter3, endswith tionship Dick to summon 4 thehonkof a hornfrom KenPerry;Chapter begins:"'Good grief, I hearyou.'"(p. 17) At theend of Chapter Capotedescribes satisfaction 5 the Dick yon! feelswiththetune-up he has giventhe 1949blackChevythatis to carry himand job on the 6 Perry their tripto murder fflutters; Chapter begins:"Nancyand herprotge,
7 Cf.inparticular 63; forKenyon's cf. p. parallelmyopia, pp. 38 and 62-63. 8 P. 248. The crowdhad muchof the appearance, of a Capote writes, "expecting parade, or a ... attending politicalrally" (p. 247), and whenit finally "caught sightof themurderers it fellsilent, though as amazedto find them humanly shaped."(p. 248)
Bd. 7 Amerikastudien XIV

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is work."(p. 24) Perryhimself withtheirmorning's JoleneKatz, were also satisfied in withMr. Clutter: the middleof Chapter2 we learn that dramatically juxtaposed 3 Mr. Clutter drinks neither norcoffee 10); Chapter begins:"Like Mr. Clutter, tea (p. coffee." 14) neverdrank theyoung manbreakfasting a cafcalled theLittleJewel in (p. Mr. Clutter's At theend of Chapter12 Capote describes, withsomewhat heavyirony, dollarpolicythatin the on thousand out as making a check "thefirst payment a fortyHe eventof deathby accidentalmeans,paid doubleindemnity." thenbeginsthesuba stanzafrom familiar a sequent hymn: chapter havingPerry by sing "And walks He with andHe talks with me, me, AndHe tells I amhisown, me Andthe weshare wetarry as there, joy Noneother ever known. ." (p.48) has . Suchjuxtapositions even mechanical, abound,and although theyare occasionally us exists the between worldof contrived, do remind thatno absolutedemarcation they and Dickand thatoftheClutters or ofanyother citizens. SomePerry goodbourgeois whatcomparable moresubtleas a narrative but embedare technique theparallelisms ded in the texture the storyitself.For example,Dick Hickock's of constant boast to Perryis thatwhentheydo thejob at theClutters, theywill "'blasthair all overthem walls'" (p. 22) - hair,and blood,too.One oftherooms and thus be plastered bloodied to is thatin thebasement whereKenyonis shotgunned death.It is the same roomin to which and his sister he "had made a paint-splattered to attempt deprive. . . [it] of its unremovable dourness." 38) Of a somewhat bedifferent orderis the parallelism (p. tween dreamofAlvinDewey'swife, the father: and thewordsofDickHickock's Marie, in herdreamMarie thinks BonnieClutter returned cryaloud: "To be murthat has to dered.To be murdered. No. There'snothing No. Nothworse. worsethanthat. Nothing wordsare: "They'll hang them both.And . . . havingyour ing.'" (p. 154) The father's he worsecan happento a man.'" (p. 259) boyhang, knowing will,nothing Suchparallelisms, as the effective a meansof confirming relathough indisputably between killers the and their not are touches victims, on a smallscale,fleeting tionship without theirfleeting but less powerful, thanthe even in theiraggregate, sharpness, Mr. Clutter and Mr. ("Lone between singlesustained parallel thatCapote established father themurderer: menareloners, of both Smith, inclination, Wolf")9 partly by partly becauseneither seems able fully loveortoelicitlove.Mr.Clutter's to failure measured is in to becausetheboy is briefly his opposition Nancy'ssuitor, BobbyRupp- nominally I to a RomanCatholic;butas Nancyconfides Susan Kidwellon thephone,"'whenever I I he startto say something, looksat me as though mustnot love him.Or as though I and I'm And suddenly tongue-tied,just wantto be his daughter do lovedhimless.10 moreenduring measure thatof Mr. Clutter's is as he wishes.'"(pp. 20-21) A stronger, her withhimhas been reducedto a profound on effect his wife,who during marriage to and herpersonality "hervoiceto a singletone,thatof apology, senseof incapacity, in someway disblurred the fearthatshe might seriesof gestures a give offense, by please."(p. 25)
9 So called a number times:by Perry'ssister(p. 141) and by a mail clerkin Las Vegas of (p. 179). 10The ambiguity Capotes syntax hereI taketobe deliberate. of

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he There are manycomparableaspectsto Lone Wolf Smith'spersonality: shares Herb Clutter's and competence; if he does not achievetheremarkand independence a able success himself talented characteristic Mr.Clutter, nevertheless of he man, proves but who cannot who can build and construct, can even,like Mr. Clutter, who bake,11 evokethelove ofhis children. senseof absolute Eachmanhas a strong law,butforboth are Both fathers it comesclose to beingsimplyan extension theirprivatewills.12 of as thenovel seemsto suggest, begetters killers;it is, afterall, Lone Wolf of the also, whohas taught son how to trap- and how to hunt.(p. 128) One mustassumethat his thesameis trueofMr. Clutter. coursetheform takeswithKenyonis, in thatkilling Of a fairly trivial manifestation the"satanickink";butit is notcrowdof terms, ordinary ing the book too hard to suggestthatperhapsKenyondies beforehis capacityfor and a moreseriousthanrabbits, ducks, killingdevelopsand swervestowardvictims I in belovedhorse.Confirmation thispossibility find thepresence, theend of the of at for one book,of twoyoung killers, of whomat leastis clearlya Doppelgnger Kenyon. come RonnieYork and To death row,wherePerryand Dick await theirexecution, wellson Lowell Lee Andrews. The former theeighteen-year-old of a "well-known, is named diver" (p. 322); together with a nineteen-year-old companion paid deep-sea The another he Latham, has killedsevenpeoplein lessthana fortnight. latter, eighteenand moreprecisealterego forKenyonis, like theClutter boy,a loneryear-old boy "the and Filled withfantasies, ill-coordinated, estranged. brilliant, myopic, physically secretLowell Lee, the one concealed inside the shy church-going biologystudent" one bitter November in nightto read the (p. 312), havinglockedhimself his bedroom to and his of last chapter The Brothers Karamazov, emerged kill his sister, mother, his revolver, 313) The rifle and a Ruger.22-caliber a withslugsfrom .22-caliber father (p. in and to wonderif one to reconsider Kenyon, whomthe devil lurked, episodeforces have not himtoo thatpowerof so manynames and disguises from might ultimately on leapttodo violence morethanvarmints orSkeeter. not in of The figure thefather, anycase,dominates onlythelifeofthetruemurderer that and exiled animalbut also thatof the scionof the eminently respectable family Yet however Clutters the the victims. is tobecome murderer's they respectable maybe,13 of for the liveslie hiddenenergies like are also a strange family, beneath surface their consciousness repressive or fear.The case ofKenyon have we exiledbyrational animals morepoignant thatof his mother, is mismostmiserably observed. Perhaps already it namedBonnie("For thechildthatis bornon theSabbathDay . . ."). Her childhood, and gay; and even following her marriageto Herbert is true,had been blithesome to Clutter and the advent of her children (ultimately number four)therehad been But she to moments happiness. gradually had succumbed a melancholy profound of so One successful modeof therapy been to thatit made of hera nearlytotalrecluse. had leave homeand husband, to Wichita,and workin a Y.W.C.A. For the pleasure go guilttookits sure toll,drivingher backto the husbandwhomshe gained,however, as bothlovedand feared(p. 28) and to thefamily where, she putit,no one neededher.
11 ForMr.Clutter's cf. baking prowess, p. 9; forMr.Smith's, 128. p. 12 For Mr. Smith, p. 128and passimin his longletter cf. (pp. 125-130);forMr. Clutter, 8. p. 13 So muchso thattheypossessalmostthe representative in powerof figures an Aristotelian version tragedy; thispower,cf.pp. 6 and 10 (Mr. Clutter) of for and 70, 85, and 88 (thefamily).
7*

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of of and as thebookbegins, the (p. 25) Capoterecognizes, course, complexity herstate, of withThanksgiving ahead and Christmas the marriage an olderdaughter and just of to there a kindofresurgence hopeappropriate thespirit is notfaroff, by symbolized festival those days:
. . . returningfromtwo weeks of treatment... in Wichita, her customaryplace of retirement,Mrs. Clutter had broughtscarcely credible tidings to tell her husband; with joy she informed him that the source of her misery, so medical opinion had at last decreed [italics mine], was not in her head but in her spine ... a matter of misplaced vertebrae. Of course, she must undergo an operation, and afterward- well, she would be her aold self again. ... If so, then Mr. Clutter could, when addressing his Thanksgiving table, recite a blessing of unmarredgratitude,(p. 7)

the ButBonnie'slifeis snuffed before can discover whether hopehad substance, out we has and we are leftwiththe imageof her as one whosevitality fledand who lives a wraith. is The cause, Capote clearlysuggests, not only the inadequacythatshe feels husbandbut also the fearthathe her resolute and successful whenmatched against for in in her. Thus, decisionsnecessary his absence are impossible her to generates What if Herb should "What if shemade a mistake? make,and shebecomes desperate: not door and pretend to hear,or say,as she Better lockthebedroom to be displeased? sometimes T can't.I don'tknow.Please.'" (pp. 28-29) And to an intimate friend, did, her she wails thatshortly son "'will be grown - a man.And how will he remember up Wilma.'" (pp. 29-30) me?As a kindofghost, but thereis apparently AboutNancy,her daughter, nothing radianthappiness no no no darkness, repressed energy, hiddenanimals:she is the "towndarling"(p. 7), to as Capote reports; the phraseis somewhat close for comfort one used in but too so Perry'ssister("everybody's describing sweetheart"),14 that it stands ironically to is sourceof distress Mr. Clutter's Still,Nancy'sonlyimmediate opposition qualified. hergoingsteady withBobbyRupp.(pp. 20-21) This cloudaside,herworldis as bright whomshe playsin as thatof a prelapsarian Thatcher, idyl;or at leastas thatof Becky of of a school of performance Tom Sawyer.We think heras theinstructress a younger withherfriend of riding pies,or as an equestrienne, girlin themysteries bakingcherry on How pleasant, hotsummer horse.15 work Susanon thebroadbackofBabe,thefamily like theirflutes while the two girlsplay to evenings, guide the horseinto the river, bare limbs, (pp. 94-95) Yet young pagans in a GoldenAge, and thewaterlaves their to her death,is forced to it is Nancywho,talking Susan on thephonetheday before she her nails: "Muchas Nancy tried, could notbreakthe confess thatshe is "eating" to them she her habitof nibbling nails,and, whenever was troubled, right the chewing (p. quick." 20) a darkness: man without is there also no apparent vices,he is AboutNancy'sfather as of and one who can respectsuchan embodiment charity Mrs. a superbprovider
14 P. 185. Originally to namedFern,she decidedat fourteen changeher name to Joy(loc. cit. "Bonnie." and a and p. 273)- itself felicitous mocking paralleltoMrs.Clutter's 15Nancyis particularly devotedto animals(p. 84), notonlyto babe (cl. pp. 94-95,207,27lj but Evinrude 19) and Boobs,whohad died undermysterious of also toa number cats,including (p. bear in herroom(cf.pp. 56, 60, circumstances pp. 84 and 102).The pinkand whiteteddy (cf. of recollection themurder 110). to and 78) is partoftheimagesattributed Perry's (p.

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Yet Ashida,wifeof a local tenantfarmer. if he is open and candid,he is also rigid, also sets a manwhose"selfassurance" himapartand "whileit createdrespect, limited little."(p. 36) He is a man forwhom"laws werelaws" (p. 8), theaffections others of a his whom wifeonceaccuseshimof lovin as we discover hisrelations withhis children, is lessthanhisprecious fruit trees, 13) His rigidity evenmoreclearlyrevealedin (p. ing to he abstemious his attitude towarddrinking: himself, refuses take on hands totally once said to him: bold neighbor A who admit to drinking. more than ordinarily out a I "'You've gotno mercy. swear,Herb,ifyoucaught hiredman drinking, he'd go. was starving.'" 10) Yet thisfailureof caritas, And youwouldn't care if his family (p. a flawthana second- namely, kindof a it though mayrundeep,is finally less serious on it is Mrs.Ashidawhoputsherfinger the of limitation his imagination. Significantly scaresyou . . . it thinks is a strength): she weakness(although herself "'Justnothing whathappened, I can'timagine afraid.No matter you'dtalkyourway outof it.'"16 you Mr. Clutter, is if of This failure theimagination, notalso of theintellect, one which no at shares withthecommunity large,whosemembers, more as a representative figure, The to violenceas a factrelevant themselves. failure thanhe,can believein murderous to withtheinability perceive(or at least witha is, furthermore, beginning complete: the violencewithin self,it proceeds, a for desireto deny)thepotentiality murderous by of to accept,as normal,expressions violencetowardthose fatal and perverse logic, as has whomthe community defined animalsor "varin (whether factor metaphor) the desires very of conscious so doing,itpowerfully without mints." Furthermore, being the the to in it (the violence pretends, someforms, abhor;thusit invites hunters killers, "T'm not as poor remark: intotheGardenwiththebland but ambivalent murderers) is of thisfailure theimagination maybe as I look... getall youcan.'" How pervasive of of the tested examining majormythic pattern thebook- that theGarden. by of How fortunate Capoteis in thematter names!That he shouldhave at hisdisposal To and a county a city, seat,namedGardenCityis superbly appositeto his purposes. of on the the demonstrate waysin which townrepresents a fairly large scale themyth not would the dream, to the theGarden, attempt recapture Paradise,to fulfill American smaller than it of in be difficult; finally, theeconomy thebook, is lessimportant those yet Peror createforthemselves dreamof creating. either thatseveralcharacters gardens in thebook who is reported one early haps themostsignificant is thatof Mr. Clutter, of to Kansas, "'an inchmoreof rain as havingsaid,withreference thearidity western would be paradise - Eden on earth.'" (p. 12) Even withoutthe and this country his has inch rain,Mr. Clutter gonea longway toward of additional establishing private - less in his vastholdings he has plantedand and wealththanin thesmallgrove Eden on It tendedso carefully. stands, largely significantly, thebanksof a riverand consists "to and apple trees.It is his attempt, of peach,pear, cherry, Capote writes, contrive, Eden, he envisioned." rain or no, a patchof the paradise,the green,apple-scented is thatof his wife,Bonnie.It to Mr. Clutter's A pathetic garden parallel (pp. 12-13) she window(p. 40), and although is rarely lies just outsideand beneathher bedroom so the to well enough workin it herself, hiredman and herson tendit carefully, that
16 P. 36; cf. a repetition of the remark (p. 117). That Mr. Clutter is also, like the murderers, maimed is a fact Capote does not overlook: cf. his description (p. 6) of the mangled remains of Mr. Clutter'sring finger.

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when she looks out throughthe hard transparent glass (the window is always shut,even on the hottestsummerday), she can see the small cultivated patch at her feet. If the Cluttershave theirgardens,so too have the Smiths:Perry's existslargely in his dreams and daydreams, as we shall see; that of his father,who says of the familythat they've always been "'outdoor folks'" (p. 126), is more substantial: under grim condia tions,he fosters kind of rude Eden in the hostile cold of Alaska (p. 130) completewith Garden of Memories and Wishing Well. (p. 135) If the reality falls shortof the dream, it is neverthelessa partial success. More clearly so is the garden of Perry's married sister(not Joy,but a woman called Mrs. Johnson): lying behind her tidy ranchhouse in San Francisco, it is a small back garden surrounded by a white picket fence (p. 180), whereher children may play, as she hopes, in safety. Yet another garden is that of Alvin Dewey, who in 1951 had bought two hundred acres and forty was fine he likedto driveoutthere ... severalmilesnorth GardenCity.If theweather of the roamthrough tin and practice draw- shootcrows, cans - or in his imagination his the househe hoped to have and through gardenhe meantto plant,and undertreesyet to be seeded.He was verycertainthatsomeday his own oasis of oaks and elmswould shadeless standuponthose plains: "Someday. God willing."17 Apparently,however, it is not the will of God that Eden shall be regained through Herb Clutter's Paradise is no sooner established than it is violated by a such efforts: small plane that crashes into it ("'Herb was fitto be tied! Why, the propeller hadn't his beforehe'd slapped a lawsuit on the pilot"* [p. 13]); and it is through stopped turning once violated garden that he walks to the edge of the river and invites the pheasant huntersto come in and get all they can. His wife's garden, separated fromher by the hardness of glass, has already fallen into autumnal decay when her childtransparent ren meet theretoward the end of the last day of theirlives: "The chill of oncomingdusk shivered throughthe air, and though the sky was still deep blue, lengtheningshadows stalks." (p. 40) Out of the flowers emanated from the garden's tall chrysanthemum themselves darkness seems to spring, as though the principle of violation were not merely external to the garden but actually inherent. "Crows cawed, sundown was sort descends on Mrs. Johnson'sgarden, once the near." (p. 41) Darkness of a different detectives(come to ask about her brother)have finallydeparted: but door was locked, not the door to the garden.The gardenwas whitewith The front and Fern [Joy]. Mama and Jimmy of have been an assembly spirits: it might sea-fog; she boltedthedoor, had in mindthedead as well as theliving, 187) WhenMrs.Johnson (p. And Dewey 's garden is destined to die stillborn; for once the knowledge of murderous violence intrudesdirectlyupon the life of him and his wife,he discoversthat she no longershared [his dream] she had told himthatnevernow would she consider ; in Dewey knewthateven if he were to livingall alone "way out there18 the country." her the snarethemurderers nextday,Marie wouldnotchange mind- foronce an awful house.19 who friends livedin a lonelycountry fatehad befallen 17P. 105; cf.p. 150. 18 Capote capitalizes of bothon thecentral position GardenCityand Holcomband on thefact oftheir being"outthere." 19 P. 150; cf.p. 341.

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Only one garden in the whole book seems immune to violation; it has a name Valley View: a The pioneers who founded GardenCitywerenecessarily Spartanpeople,butwhen arid soil and thetimecameto establish formal a despite cemetery, weredetermined, they the troublesof transporting water, to create a rich contrastto the dusty streets, above thetown theaustere which plains.The result, theynamedValley View,is situated on a plateau of modest Seen today,it is a darkisland lapped by theundulating altitude. are from hotday,forthere manycool a of surf surrounding wheatfields a good refuge shadedbytrees ago. pathsunbrokenly plantedgenerations (p. 341) Here, rather than in the dreary storage shed at the State Prison where the killers are hanged, Dewey is finally able to experience "a sense of climax, release, of a design justly completed." The hanging had proved merelyan anticlimax - or worse, almost an whose symbolicfunction injustice,particularlyin the case of Perry.But in the cemetery, is like that of the one overlookingGrover's Corners,New Hampshire, Dewey findsnot time just the memorials of death but also a sense of life's continuing.Here, for the first since the trial, he encountersSusan Kidwell, who tells him of how life has gone on for her, murderor no murder. Surrounded by death, Dewey neverthelessfeels in her preof sence a reaffirmation vitality,just as the garden cemetery,by an ancient paradox, asserts itself as an everpresentrefuge from the vastness of space, the remorselessness of light- and the loneliness of exile. But no comparable sense of "climax, release ... a design justly completed" is granted to the killers,and not quite for the obvious if perhaps only pseudo reason that,having turned the final hours of the Clutters' lives into terror,they deserve a comparable measure of terror;although one of them (Dick) does assert that the desire for revenge is the State's only legitimateexcuse forexecution,(p. 335) Throughoutthe book Capote's sympathyfor the murdered family remains strong; yet it is not, I believe, outrageous to insistthat theirghastly fate is not the central issue; rather,it is the question that lies at theheart of thenovel: what makes a man a murderer? The book contains a number of answers, explicit as well as implicit: one supposes Mrs. Myrtle Clare may be from the prison chaplain, the Rev. that however different Mr. Post, they stand in essential agreement about one fact - innate depravity. "Varbut also formankindin general,20 termnot only forthe murderers mints"is the former's The chaplain, on the forwhom,under stressat least, she has a pretty profoundcontempt. more charitable, and he quotes with approval "old Doc other hand, is somewhat Savage," a fictionalcharacterwho held that evil sprang froma part of the brain that held "wicked thoughts" and believed that if that part could be excised by surgery, all the world's criminals would be transformedinto decent citizens, (p. 306) Yet if pressed, the clergymanmightwell have to confessthat all human brains possess such a "part" and that in consequence an enormous amount of surgery seems necessary, if wickednessis to be abolished. On one level Capote treats the idea of healing throughsurgeryjocosely; yet it is clear that there are formsof violent human behavior that have a physiological cause. a Dick Hickockis the principal case in point: having suffered head injury in an automobile accident as a young man, he possesses a face, Capote writes,that 20Both "varmints" and "rattlesnakes" referratheroftento the lawabidingmembers the of (cf. community pp. 69, 113,and 191).

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GeorgeR. Creeger seemedcomposed mismatching his of parts.It was as though head had beenhalvedlikean thatthelips wereslightly off a . put apple,then together fraction center . . withtheresults levels butof unevensize, at aslant,thenoseaskew,and his eyesnotonlysituated uneven it that thelefteye beingtruly witha venomous, squint21 although sickly-blue serpentine, at sediment thebottom to was involuntarily seemednevertheless warnof bitter acquired, ofhis nature, 31) (p.

Here the fall of man is presentedas a kind of confirming accident, one whichis asserted oftenin the novel, most notably by the young man's father("'He just wasn't the same not boy'")22 and by the psychiatrist permittedto testifyin detail at the trial, although he had written:"'It is importantthat steps be taken to rule out the possibilityof organic brain damage, since, if present, it might have substantially influencedhis behavior duringthepast several years and at the timeof the crime.'" (p. 295) The case of Perry Smith is of a different order,however, and one that clearly interests Capote far more than that of Hickock: for the latter surgerymighthave been an answer, but not for Perry, who though also physically injured ("maimed"), was hurt about the legs, not the head. Yet he bears profound mental scars which are crippling and, for Capote, more pitiable because somehow less necessary than the organically damaged brain of Richard Hickock. Nothing is more impressive in the book than the detailed analysis Capote presentsof Perry Smith's characterand its development.We to are permitted see it frommany points of view: but thoughwe learn muchfromPerry's to father,his sister,his friends,his appointed lawyers and psychiatrist, say nothingof his enemies,it is finallyfromPerryhimselfthatwe learn the most. Like all otherhuman beings, Perry lives exiled fromthe Garden; unlike most,however, Perry has faced an extraordinarilynumerous and brutal series of confirmations that in him the sense of rage should of his exiled state. It is small wonder, therefore, be so great and the desire to gain some "patch of ... paradise" so strong: an incessant conceiver of voyages, an inveteratecollector of maps (p. 14), he pores over the latter as avidly as Dewey does over the murderpictures,hoping to findnot hidden animals but simplya place where, if he can reach it, happiness may be his. His fantasies,fed partly by his reading (pp. 14-15), partly by his dreams, define the content and structureof happiness,as forexample in the followingpassage: and to partly, partly my "Nights[in Alaska] I used to lie awake- trying control bladder, I'd whenit was too cold hardlyto breathe, because I couldn'tstop thinking. Always, Lamour.I wantedto go there. think aboutHawaii. Abouta movieI'd seen.WithDorothy Wherethesunwas.And all youworewas grassand flowers." 133) (p. In other fantasies,conjured between wake and sleep, Perry extends this somewhat naive vision: he projects himselfeitheras a singingstar in "a night-clubin Las Vegas" (p. 16) or as a fortunehunter in vaguely tropical, southernparadises. In this second daydream he has the feelingof 21 Cf. thefollowing of eyes,was reminded a childhood by passage: "Marie,transfixed Hickock's she'dwantedto incident of a bobcatshe'd once seen caughtin a trap,and of how,though her had drainedher of pityand filled releaseit,thecat's eyes,radiantwithpain and hatred, withterror." 164) (p. 22 P. 292; cf.p. 166.

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downward of towarda greenseadusk, waters, plunging sliding drifting through strange of past the scaly, savage-eyedprotectors a ship's hulk that loomed ahead, a Spanish of caskets gold.(p. 17) and galleon- a drowned cargoofdiamonds pearls, heaping Such enrichments the fantasyhave an element of the conscious in them,and theyare of not totally unlike Mr. Clutter's grove of fruittrees, Dewey's two hundred and forty acres, or even his sister's garden - that is, what may be actually strivenfor and even achieved (if only to suffer ultimateviolation). But in Perry's fantasythereis a great deal that comes fromlevels well below that of consciousness- levels of whichPerry becomes it aware only in truedreams. Of these,one is particularlyrecurrent; concernsAfrica: the all "A jungle, I'm movingthrough treestowarda treestanding alone. Jesus,it to smellsbad, thattree;it kindof makesme sick,theway it stinks. Only,it's beautiful Diamondslike oranges. look at - it has blue leaves and diamonds hangingeverywhere. I That's whyI'm there to pickmyself bushelof diamonds. But I knowtheminute try a I to,theminute reachup, a snakeis gonnafall on me.A snakethatguardsthetree.This I see? fatson of a bitch I livingin thebranches, knowthisbeforehand, And,Jesus, don't knowhowto fight snake.ButI figure, a What it comesdownto Well, I'll takemychances. is I wantthediamonds morethanI'm afraidof thesnake.So I go to pickone,I have the diamondin myhand,I'm pullingat it,whenthe snakelands on top of me. We wrestle sonofabitch23 I can'tgeta hold,he's crushing you can and but me, around, he's a slippery about.See, hear mylegs cracking. Now comesthepartit makesme sweateven to think he starts swallowme.Feet first. to Like goingdownin quicksand." 92) (p. Thus far the dream is a quasi nightmare,but in the second part of it a restoration occurs, miraculously,througha power not human, but at once animal and divine: it manifests itselfas a "toweringbird," "a yellow 'sortof parrot'" (p. 92) who "tallerthanJesus[and] yellowlike a sunflower," warrior-angel blindedthenuns a then withits beak,fed upon theireyes,slaughtered themas they"pleaded formercy," himawayto "paradise."(p. 93) so gently lifted enfolded him, him, winged

"Thus",Capotecontinues,
thesnake,thatcustodian thediamond-bearing neverfinished himbut of tree, devouring was itselfdevoured. And afterward blessedascent!Ascensionto a paradisethatin the one version was merely"a feeling," senseof power,of unassailablesuperiority sena sationsthatin another versionweretransposed into "A real place. Like out of a movie ... a garden. . . With whitemarblesteps. . . Fountains . . And away down below . . . . theocean.Terrific! Like aroundCarmel, California." 93) (p.

If in Perry primordial the snakehas preternatural itself intoconsciouspowerto thrust defile garden, his his and evenstart crush to and swallow ness, wealth, prevent gaining there remains miraculous a him, avenging power.Represented thegreatyellowbird, by it can destroy only the snakebut also (and retroactively) the real sourcesof not all in his life: the nunswho beat him whenhe wet his bed, "older children, his misery a a sergeant he'd knownin theArmy."(p. 93) Rarely,however, father, faithless girl, does anything thegreatyellowbirdcometo his aid outsidethedream.There are like
23The ramifications thisdream of the One throughout novelare numerous. of themostpertinent is theparallelbetween description Perry's the of withthesnake(in thedream)and that fight ofa realfight with father 136). his (p.

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a few euphoric moments,as when Dick catches offthe Mexican coast a great sailfish thatreminds Perryof the yellow parrot(p. 120) and when he and Dick marchside by side down a highway,singinga song that Perryhad taughthis companion: "'Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the " grapes of wrathare stored.' Then it was, Capote continues,that throughthe "silence of the desert,their hard, young voices rang: 'Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!'"** But suchmomentsof glory are rare, particularlyfor Perry. Dick, the tough boy, the realist,has had kicksenough: holding a light when Perry shot the Clutters;flashinghis smile to dupe tradesmenwho clearly want to be duped; runningdown a ragged dog on the highway;25or puttingit to a Mexican whore and asking breathlessly,"'Is it good, baby? is it good?'" not caring that she makes no reply but only continues to smoke a cigarette,(p. 147) Perry,on the other hand, recollectingthe life they had led between the time of the murderand theircapture, says that it was like that of animals, (p. 290) Of animals running.Of animals in hiding. Of animals hunted. Of animals caught. In the experience just past there is nothing to compensate for his present state, in which the he comes to increasinglyclear knowledge that he cannot possibly transfigure sordid and mundane into anythingbeautiful and transcendent.The fact is driven home in a finaldream that occurswhile he is in prison awaiting execution: Voices shriekedat him, "'Where is Jesus,Where?' And once he woke up shouting,'The bird is Jesus!'" (p. 319) In the dream he was once again Perry O'Parsons, the famous night-clubsinger; but his performance elicited no applause, though there were thousands of patrons in the room a strangeaudience,mostlymen and mostlyNegroes.Staringat them,the perspiring he theirsilence,forsuddenly knewthatthesewerephanat entertainer last understood the the of the toms, ghosts thelegallyannihilated, hanged, gassed,theelectrocuted and thatthegoldpainted to he steps thesameinstant realizedthathe was there join them, in him.His beneath he on that had led to a scaffold, theplatform which stoodwas opening O'Parsonsentered (p. eternity, 319) Perry defecating, urinating, tophattumbled; Thus the dream of all that Perry Smith yearned to be is annihilated even before he himself is; and he is left with nothing but a confirmedsense of failure and the sad knowledge of what he is - a murderer.Yet he is a murderer,the book stronglyurges, less of his own making than of ours. Somethingof this Alvin Adams Dewey, his captor, but "an perceives at the hanging, when Perry looks not like a ravenous beast of prey, creature walking wounded." (p. 341) Although animal imagery has exiled animal, a often been used in the novel to deprive Perry of his humanity,this last image helps restoreit to him. Under the circumstancesit is ironic that in his final words he should but ironic or not, apologize for an act that society had programmedhim to perform; has the ring of true humanityand remindsus, his "Frres humains," Perry's apology thatwe are not to harden our hearts against him,but, in the words of the poem, to have pityon him.

from of M P. 155.The wordglory closely as relatedto Hickock a definition whatit is he desires is life (cf. p. 239 and passim). 25 An episodeCapotedevelops considerable detail(cf.pp. 110,112-113, 232,and 290). in

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