Literary Analysis Of The Novel In Cold Blood By Truman Capote

Truman Capote implements a variety of language and figurative devices to add diversity to his writing in his novel In Cold Blood. By incorporating a series of different strategies; tone, underlying purpose, and literary devices, Capote reveals his desire for a different perspective on the criminals. Requesting that the reader be challenged to think of the antagonist rather than the protagonist and reveals the more human aspect of people and a depth of what it means to be human.

In the first section, titled “The Last to See Them Alive,” the author utilizes foreshadowing to hint at what is going to happen later on in the novel.  The example on page 30, has a quotation from the Bible that Mrs. Clutter keeps in her room that was brought to my attention by an article written by Allisin Barris.  The quotation explains that we don’t know what time our own death will be, saying ‘Ye take heed watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is’, following the foreshadowing are the descriptions of the two murderers in gruesome detail down to the position that the dead bodies were found in. Capote also uses a simile to characterize Dick’s physical appearance.  This simile is a comparison of an apple pieced together the wrong way with the structure of Dick’s face.  By giving the reader the opportunity to picture one of the antagonists, they are able to get a full understanding of the murderers’ experiences and what may have led to their decision to kill such an honorable family. Personally, I believed that the main characters in the story were strong men who had a handsome smile that we often see in other books or movies, however supporting my thesis of how Capote challenges the reader he completely by offering a different perspective of the antagonist.

Imagery plays a large role throughout this novel as well.  Whether it is to describe the murder scenes or the challenging journey the detectives have to overcome to catch the killers, one can see that it is important to the author’s writing style.  Imagery allows the reader to illustrate in their mind the images or situations present in the novel.  This gives the audience the opportunity to relate and connect with the book.  One circumstance where Capote demonstrates imagery is when he mentions the tattoos present on each of the killers’ bodies, mentioned on page 32, “Blue-furred, orange-eyed, red-fanged, a tiger snarled upon his left biceps; a spitting snake, coiled around a dagger, slithered down his arm; and elsewhere skulls gleamed, a tombstone loomed, a chrysanthemum flourished”. Not only does this characterize the suspects, it also gives the reader the background history (by telling us where and why they have the tattoos).  We learn that Perry and Dick have both struggled at certain times in their life, and the tattoo further shows how complicated theses two are. The bright colors that are shown such as the orange and red, and the image that demonstrates a tombstone, snake, and skulls show the happiness and darkness that is in the tattoo, and also in Perry.

Capote himself said that 'In Cold Blood's' purpose was to test the artistic merit of journalism. Critics, educators, and others have also found social issues within it, and used it to debate issues like the value of the death penalty. Others have praised the novel for its insights into the criminal mind. On page 340 the author includes the killers last words, “'It would be meaning-less to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize'. This quote is said by the character Perry who I emotionally grew attached to, which does show that the authors purpose is justified. The last section of the book was titled “the Corner”, as it relates to the housing area of an inmate before they are executed. Unannounced to me, I had no idea and had still assumed that the characters I had grown emotionally attached to were going to die. The final chapter was also extremely emotional because it gives one last good scene before the final act. As Perry and Dick are on their last ride to the post office to receive their last package, they meet a young boy named Bill and we can see the child like side of our two killers as they collect glass bottles. Preceding to go and get pancakes, and aspirin spiked root beer. And this is the last bit of happiness I had before unfortunately Capote decided to kill them.

Tone is the last and most important criteria in determining the authors purpose. The transition between factual and sympathetic tones causes the reader to feel like the murderers are inhumane and terrible people but then as Capote begins to talk about their backgrounds and sympathize with them, the reader begins to sympathize with the murderers. The sympathetic parts come after the factual parts which leaves the reader with the sympathetic feelings, I found this in a Prezi made by Taylor Jerett. On page 134, he includes a quote to cause the reader to feel bad for Perry because of his difficult past and how he feels alone in the world. This quote also proves Capote's opinion towards Perry, which in return influences the reader to agree with him. However, Capote uses objective narration as well as subjective. When he narrates objectively his tone is factual. When this factual tone shifts to sympathetic, it causes the reader to see two perspectives of the criminals: What they really did, and what Capote wants you to feel about them. This is explained in more detail by Mallisa Noel in an article published in 2011.

In conclusion Capote uses a sympathetic tone as well as objective and subjective narration to achieve reader to feel like the murderers are inhumane and terrible people but then as Capote begins to talk about their backgrounds and sympathize with them, the reader begins to sympathize with the murderers. He uses his literal purpose to establish an audience. Lastly, he uses foreshadowing, similes, imagery, metaphor’s, and personification to create an emotional bond with a murderer.


  • Mercades, et al. “What Is the Author's Purpose in Writing This Story?: In Cold Blood Questions: Q & A.” GradeSaver,
  • Barys, Allyson. “Rhetorical Strategies.” Rhetorical Strategies, 1 Jan. 1970,
  • Jarrett, Taylor. “In Cold Blood.”, 10 Oct. 2012,
  • SparkNotes, SparkNotes,
16 December 2021
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