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In his novel “In the Cold Blood” Capote starts his narrative by painting the American dream. He epitomizes the “American dream” through his depiction of the Clutter family. Through hard work, Mr. Clutter is provides a decent life for his family. They have a firm standing in their community, an adorable daughter who is slotted to be the prom queen and a delightful family home whose doors are rarely locked. This signifies that Mr. Clutter can provide a secure home for his family in terms of material wealth and, therefore, from a distance the author paints a picture of a family that many would cherish to have. Ironically, his wife can hardly keep up with her husband’s ambition of being the Pillar in his society. As a result, she suffers what we can only describe as an emotional breakdown. Mr. Clutter also has notions of impending doom that is likely to befall his family. This forces the readers to question whether he has achieved his dream of providing a secure home for himself and his family. He, therefore, takes out an insurance policy for his family. In a way, Capote in the first pages of his novel drives his audiences to question the reality of the much hyped American dream. All this is dramatically shattered when the four members are tragically murdered in a single night.
Capote cleverly shifts the focus of his novel from the Clutter family and their achievements to the society through their reactions to the despicable murders. The entire town is shocked at the events that occurred to the much envied family. The women in this town are afraid to go out until the perpetrators of this crime are arrested and brought to justice. Most of the people in this town can only discuss the occurrence of the fateful night. This is to say, that the tragic murders become their only focus and significantly disrupts their quiet lives. Their lives are, therefore, totally disrupted, and the only remedy seems to be getting the answers. More appropriately this society has to be able to understand what happened to the Clutter family and feel that some justice is done, for the society to feel secure again. Therefore, until the law enforcement agents apprehend the killers and take them to court the lives in this town are in chaos.
In other words, until someone pays for the crimes that were committed against the Clutters no one in this town we feel secure. From here on, the readers are focused on the impending chaos that resulted from this family’s tragic killings and the disruptions that have taken away their quiet lives in the small town. This is further complicated by the fact that the community is well aware that those who committed the crime may be members of their society and people known to them. It is, therefore, not surprising, that everyone is now focused on the law enforcement agents, the justice system and their efforts that are aimed at restoring order to this society, by identifying the murderers and bringing them to justice.
Thesis: Is the society to blame for the tragedy that befell the Clutter family, and does avenging their deaths undoubtedly bring any justice and order into the lives of the remaining family, friends and the entire society.
Within the first chapter of his novel, Capote shifted the focus of his readers from the American dream to the ills that befall an equal society. On the one hand, we have well- to- do Clutter family, and on the other, there would be murderers and their sorry lives. Through his detailed description of the characters and their lives Capote forces his readers to examine the justice system in the society. On one hand, we have those whose hard work seems to pay off and on the other; we have individuals who seem ill fated from the exact day they were born. In a sense through their varied or different lives Capote forces us to re-examine whether we are responsible for our actions. That is, are we products of our own upbringing or products of the seemingly unjust society that we now live in or are we victims of our own circumstances?
The American dream is largely based on the notion that, the dream is achievable to all members of the society if they work hard enough to achieve it. In other words, we all have the capability to achieve the material wealth, as did the Clutters and hence live a decent life if we work hard enough for it. Yet the irony is that the seemingly calm and orderly life that the Clutters lead as viewed from a distance is more complicated than we think. The family though living in everybody’s dream home and surrounded by abundant material wealth is not as perfect as we perceive. It is this irony that Capote perhaps wanted to draw to his audience, by going to a detailed description of the family members their home, emotions and dreams. So to everyone else, they are a family to envy and to those angry with what fate has handed down to they are considered easy prey.
This is what Perry and Dick thought when they concocted their plan to rob the Clutters. From the look of the family’s home and the appearance of their standing in the society, they seemed to be the people who would have lots of cash lying around. Yet capote points out to his audiences that Mr. Clutter though rich hardly keeps any money in the house. A fact, that both Perry and Dick are not privy to concurring. In their eyes, the riches that life has denied them mean having a lot of money lying around. It is on this misguided perception that they decide to get rich the easy way by robbing those who to them, seem to have it all. In other words, they resolve to end the chaos in their lives that have resulted from their perceived lack of wealth. This is describing in details in the book when Capote points out the lonely life that Perry lived and how much education he wanted to get. Yet through circumstances beyond his control, he was not able to fulfill his dreams. In other words, the American dream eluded him. Dick, on the other hand, had led an equally miserable life with his family when his father’s investment and dream failed to materialize.
Capote paints Perry as a complex character; indeed the psychologists who examined him cannot seem to agree on whether or not, he is crazy after they were caught. His partner in crime, on the other hand, is painted as a extremely straightforward and practical man. He is able to convince Perry to take part in the robbery and when they fail to find money in the house. He is convinced that since the Clutters are rich they must have some cash in the house. The only question in his mind is where the cash is hidden. When their plan goes awry they lash out in the most possible way and that is by ending the lives of the Clutter family.
The actions of law enforcers are of much interest to this society. In their eyes, the only way for an order to be restored back to the community and for justice to be carried out is through a speedy investigation to identify the murderers and prosecuting them. This in their eyes would array their fears of such occurrences happening to them and provide justice. Capote introduces his audiences to the men tasked with this vital role. The lead detective is described as a man whose life is on hold until he solves the crime. His family is unhappy with his obsession with this case. The community continuously harasses him with questions on when he will eventually solve the case. The significance of solving this case to the lead detective is brought to our attention when he is described walking out of the bathroom dripping wet to answer a call that notifies him that the murderers have been caught, he then hugs his wife. To him the chaos in his life is over, and he can finally get his life back. It is ironical when Capote informs his audience that after Perry and Dick have been hanged he feels no relief. This implies that he is not satisfied with the outcome, yet he had put his life on hold to achieve this outcome. Similarly by detailing the lives of the two murderers Capote forces his audience to re-examine their stand on capital punishment. By the end of the book, one cannot help but sympathize with the two criminals yet in the first chapter one would be forgiven for wanting to wring their necks.
In conclusion, the hanging of the two murderers brings no sense of order in this society. One cannot help but wonder whether the circumstances that surrounded their lives did not drive them to commit crimes. Taking away their lives, however, just it may seem for the acts that they committed, does not adequately answer or resolve our fears. Thus, order is not restored in the society, in addition considering that the Clutters, had been respectable and hardworking people and what befell them should not happen to anyone. Yet by the mere fact that it happened and not because of their fault, means such fate can befall on any of us.