A Theme Of Mental Illness And Violent Crimes In ‘in Cold Blood’

Everyone has the potential of developing a mental illness in their lifetime. Throughout the book, Capote tries to show the true complexity of the murderers through their character traits and actions and conveys how their background and psyches affected their actions turned them into a life of crime. Truman Capote writes In Cold Blood to prove that an individual's suffering from mental illness experience an increased likelihood to commit violent crimes if left untreated.

People with mental illnesses tend to experience impulsive behaviors. In the novel, Capote says, 'The murderous potential can become activated, especially if some disequilibrium is already present, when the victim-to-be is unconsciously perceived as a key figure in some past traumatic configuration'. Some individuals have an unstable ego defense system and carry an aggressive surcharge of energy that makes them prone to murder. Also in the novel, Capote says, “I still think the reason he started doing stunts such as that was connected with the smash-up. Concussed his head in a car smash-up. After that, he wasn't the same boy. Gambling, writing bad checks, I never knew him to do them things before”. After Dick's car crash, brain damage affected the way he lived his life. The crash resulted in Dick’s brain damage and affected his impulse control and aggression leading to more criminal behavior.

Fear instigates regret and remorse in criminal actions. In the novel, Capote says, 'It's just I don't believe it — that anyone can get away with a thing like that. Because I don't see how it's possible. To do what we did. And just one hundred percent get away with it. I mean, that's what bugs me — I can't get it out of my head that something's got to happen.' Perry is experiencing psychological processing problems with the crime he committed. Perry's fear of people finding out what they did lead to him driving himself crazy over being caught. Also in the novel, Capote says, 'Deep down,' Perry continued, 'way, way rock-bottom, I never thought I could do it. A thing like that.' Despite being mentally ill, Perry feels some sort of remorse over the murders he committed. Perry questioned himself on his actions which shows he cannot get out of his head.

Family issues from childhood cause lasting influences in adulthood. In the novel, Capote says, “I was scared because I thought my father was going to hurt me, also because he was beating my mother. I really didn’t understand why he was beating her but I felt she must have done something dreadfully wrong'. As a child, Perry was scarred for life by his father, which resulted in effects on his mental psyche and adult behaviors. This also gave Perry the idea that hurting people is fine, which led to his criminal behavior. Also in the novel, Capote says, “The parrot, which had first flown into his dreams when he was seven years old, a hated, hating half-breed child living in a California orphanage run by nuns — shrouded disciplinarians who whipped him for wetting his bed. It was after one of these beatings, one he could never forget”. Perry not only experienced events that would scare him forever in his own home, Perry experienced traumatic events at the orphanage that was supposed to act as a safe place away from home but brought more scars that would later negatively affect his mental state. As an adult, the memories of the nuns who beat him never left his head and negatively affected Perry's mindset about the situations he faces.

Truman Capote writes In Cold Blood to show that people with mental illnesses are more likely to commit violent crimes if left untreated. Capote depicts and contrasts the background and psyches of Dick and Perry that contributed to their actions in the murder of the Clutter family. Perceiving mental traits and activity early on in a person's life will truly make an impact later on down the road in their life.

16 December 2021
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