An Analysis of the Nature and Nurture of Two Cold-Blooded Murders in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood

Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood was a major revelatory book about the nature and nurture of two cold blooded murders as told in a narrative based on factual events. In his pursuit of creating a “nonfiction novel,” it was urgent that Capote find a hero for his story: he chooses Detective Alvin Dewey and depicts of him an image of determination for justice to the point of obsession and all-consuming thought regarding any clue he can get in the investigation. A perfect scene detailing Capote’s manipulation of facts and events regarding this character is the scene when Alvin arrives home to his wife Marie after having received the news of Floyd Wells’s lead in the investigation.

Alvin Dewey and my chosen scene fall under the journalist-character phenomenon that Janice Malcolm describes as the writer becoming tired of the subject’s story and replacing it with their own. The scene in which Dewey enters his home, trying to maintain his composure while his wife tells him about the problems of the household creates a realistic image of a common domestic occurrence that waits to burst with excitement. Dewey is described as “flushed” and “elated” without having yet said a word to his wife about the information. The scene includes highly detailed episodes that one would expect from a fiction narrative, which is exactly what this scene was: fiction.

Capote is sure to bring in the seemingly trivial details of the family cat attacking a cocker piel, yet in a prose that brings the scene to life. Did the cat really attack the dog, or was that just an addition to narrative? Dewey was very generous to Capote when it came to opening up any resources Truman needed to write his novel, and Dewey usually always backed Capote in confirming that the book was factual. However, further investigation has shed light on the fact that many scenes of the novel were in fact fabrications.

Thus it might be said that Alvin knew that Capote was essentially distorting truth in order to write his book, as long as Dewey himself was portrayed as a hero. Capote’s and Dewey’s relationship is not at all similar to the writer’s relationship with Perry Smith, who suffered perhaps more from being a prey of Capote’s, being emotionally manipulated under the illusion of an “all-accepting, unforgiving mother.” In that relationship Capote unquestionable violated any ethical journalistic standards, violating the subject’s trust and perhaps even costing Smith his life. But on the journalist-subject relationship between Capote and Dewey, the ethical issue was of less severity, revolving primarily around the substitution of truth with fiction and Dewey allowing Capote unrestricted access to information as long as Capote depicted him as a hero.

Considering Capote’s pursuit of a nonfiction narrative, writing Dewey as a hero is not highly unethical or immoral however dishonest. I feel like it is justified because Capote was more of a novelist and fiction writer who wasn’t harming anyone (perhaps just the two killers) through his fabrications, at least not the ones about Dewey. The book and genre became highly commercial successes for which one might argue Capote exploited a small town and an act of violence which threatened to tear it apart. However I would argue that having the end of making beautiful art that could touch people is justified by its means, except regarding Perry Smith.

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