In Cold Blood

Literapedia Book Notes for
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote


Characters

  • Herb Clutter (I): father of the Clutter family, well-liked, responsible
  • Perry Smith (I): co-murderer of the Clutter family, sensitive, easily angered
  • Richard "Dick" Hickock (I): co-murderer of the Clutter family, "manly," pedophile
  • Nancy Clutter (I): 16-year old daughter of the Clutter family, good-natured, popular
  • Susan Kidwell (I): Nancy's best friend
  • Bobby Rupp (I): Nancy's boyfriend
  • Bonnie Clutter (I): mother of the Clutter family, ill, tired
  • Jolene Katz (I): Nancy teaches her to bake pies (one of the last to see the victims alive)
  • Mrs. Ashida (I): Japanese neighbor of the Clutters (one of the last to see the victims alive)
  • Mr. Hideo Ashida (I): husband of Mrs. Ashida
  • Kenyon Clutter (I): 15-year old son of the Clutter family, interested in cars and technology, not girls
  • Willie-Jay (I): Perry's idol, a psychiatrist who Perry knew in prison
  • Nancy Ewalt (I): friend of Nancy Clutter
  • Sadie Truitt (I): mail messenger
  • Myrtle Clare (I): post-mistress
  • Alvin Dewey (II): head police
  • Tex John Smith (II): father of Perry
  • Florence "Flo" (II): mother of Perry
  • Jimmy Smith (II): brother of Perry
  • Barbara Johnson (II): sister of Perry
  • Fern Smith (II): sister of Perry
  • Floyd Wells (III): Dick's jailmate, tells Dick about Clutter home "safe," reports Dick and Perry
  • Harold Nye (III): assistant to Sheriff Dewey
  • Clarence Dunce (III): assistant sheriff to Dewey
  • Roy Church (III): assistant sheriff to Dewey
  • Mr. and Mrs. Wendell Meier (IV): assistant sheriff at Garden City, becomes friend of Perry
  • Don Cullivan (IV): Perry's army friend
  • Red (IV): Perry's squirrel
  • psychologist (IV): a psychologist, analyzes Dick and Perry
  • Judge Tate (IV): judge at the murder trial
  • Lowell Lee Andrews (IV): fellow death rowee, in jail for murdering his family, scholarly guy
  • York and Latham (IV): fellow death rowees, teenagers who killed many
  • Schultz (IV): later, Dick and Perry's lawyer


Chapter Summaries



Part I: The Last to See Them Alive
  • The Town of Holcolmb and the Clutter family are described. The time is November 14, 1959.
  • Perry and Dick are introduced.
  • Scene change to Holcomb again: Nancy helps a child make pies, talks to her friend Susan about Nancy's boyfriend Bobby. Nancy feels that her father is worried about something.
  • Perry and Dick prepare for a long drive.
  • Bonnie Clutter talks to Jolene Katz and leaves her disconcerted. Bonnie retires to bed.
  • Description of Dick and Perry, especially Perry's tattoos.
  • Herb Clutter drives Mrs. Ashida home from a 4-H meeting. Ashida announces her family will move, and Clutter hopes they will not.
  • Perry and Dick buy rubber gloves and rope in preparation for the murders. Dick reminds Perry that they will leave no witnesses.
  • Kenyon speaks to the husband of the housekeeper.
  • Dick and Perry try to get black stockings from a convent. Perry says the real reason he's in Kansas is that he was hoping to see Willie-Jay.
  • Mr. Clutter makes a deal for a large insurance plan and writes a check.
  • Perry plays songs on his guitar.
  • Bobby describes his last night with the Clutters to the police. He was watching tv with Nancy and went home at 11.
  • Dick and Perry have steak. Perry spends a long time in the bathroom, and this worries Dick.
  • Nancy writes an entry in her diary in her bedroom.
  • Dick and Perry arrive at the Clutter home.
  • Nancy Ewalt goes to Nancy Clutter's house for a ride to church, but no one is home, so she runs to Susan for information. The two girls go to the Clutter home and find the dead bodies.
  • The murder is announced on the radio, and people at the Hartman cafe are in disbelief. Bobby and Susan are crying.
  • Dick has dinner with his family while Perry sleeps in a hotel.

Part II: Persons Unknown
  • Mr. Clutter's hunting friends help clean the house.
  • The KBI, headed by Al Dewey, investigates the scene. The only clues found are a footprint and a missing radio.
  • Dewey is unsure of the motive for murder, but he visualizes how he thinks the crime occured.
  • No one in Holcomb feels safe. Locks are installed.
  • Perry worries that they will get caught.
  • Susan attends the funeral. She describes the coffins, Nancy dressed in her velvet church dress with cotton woven around her face.
  • Dick and Perry write false checks.
  • Al Dewey can't sleep because his phone keeps ringing. His wife worries that they will never have a normal life again.
  • Perry tells Dick he is surprised that he was able to go through with the killings. He describes a story he told Dick about killing a negro, and admits that he made the story up to impress Dick.
  • Dick and Perry reach Mexico, the destination they, Perry especially, have been dreaming of. The befriend and fish with a German, Otto, then return to Mexico City.
  • Perry reads a letter from his father about his son, which fills Perry with both hatred and love.
  • Perry and his father's travels are detailed. Perry's siblings are described. Two of them committed suicide and one is living a normal life.
  • Perry reads a letter from his sister Barbara, whom he loathes. Then, he reads an interpretation of the letter by Willie-Jay, and he explains that this is why he's kept Barbara's letter.
  • Al Dewey is exhausted from the case.
  • Dick and Perry are hitchhiking in the Mojave Desert.

Part III: Answer
  • Floyd Wells hears about the murder and is shocked because he knows who committed the murder.
  • Al Dewey hears the news.
  • Harold Nye visits Dick's family. He sees a shotgun that uses the bullets found in the bodies.
  • Dick and Perry pick up hitchhikers, mean to kill them, but their plan is deterred.
  • Nye speaks to the owner of a hotel Perry stayed in. She shows him a box of stuff Perry told her to keep, which just contains the hotel keeper's towel and some of Perry's keepsakes.
  • Nye visits Barbara, who is preparing for a house-warming party. She has not heard from Perry in two years and asks that the police not let Perry know where she lives because she is afraid of him.
  • Dick and Perry steal a 1956 Chevy.
  • Dewey is careful to keep Floyd Wells's information secret because he is not sure it is correct and also because he wants the accused to feel falsely safe.
  • Perry is sitting in a laundromat, worried that Dick is captured because he is late. Dick tells Perry he has passed many fake checks and also stolen a Kansas license plate.
  • Dewey gets a phonecall from Nye telling him that Dick is in Kansas and has been passing fake checks.
  • It's Christmas and Dick and Perry are at Miami Beach. Dick tries to make a move on a little girl and his pedophiliac tendencies are revealed. Perry shows disgust.
  • Bobby Rupp rememberes how he would always walk through the snow to give Nancy her Christmas presents, which he always spent so long coming up with.
  • Perry makes Dick stop the car and pick up two hitchhikers: a grandfather and a grandson. The grandson turns out to be very cheery and they have fun picking up bottlecaps and getting money for them.
  • Al Dewey gets a call that Dick and Perry are captured. He's just out of the shower, dripping wet, and hugs his wife.
  • Perry picks up a package he sent himself full of his memorabilia, and a policeman who recognizes their license plate arrests the two.
  • In an LA police station, Dewey, Nye, Clarence Dunce, and Roy Church question Dick and Perry separately.
  • Dick and Perry deny the killing at first, but then Dick admits the killing but blames the murders on Perry, while Perry says he murdered the men while Dick murdered the women.
  • The officers tell them that there is a witness (Floyd Wells). Dick knows it is Wells. They also mention a second piece of evidence against the two killers, the print of the boots.
  • The capture of the killers is finally announced. The people in Hartman's Cafe are shocked.
  • On a car ride to Garden City, Kansas, the police bug Perry and finally tell him that Dick told about the story of Perry killing the negro. Perry is very surprised because he thought the police were bluffing, but now he knows that Dick truly placed the blame on him.
  • Perry gives a full confession and even says that he takes full responsibility for all four murders because he thinks Dick's parents are good people.
  • Perry describes exactly what happened at the Clutter house that night, how calm and trusting Mr. Clutter was, how exactly he locked them in the bathroom, tied them up and killed them one by one, and how Dick wanted to rape Nancy.
  • They go to the jail amid a watchful crowd.

Part IV: The Corner
  • The Garden City jail is described. Perry and Dick are housed on separate floors. Wendel Meier and his wife are housed on Perry's floor.
  • Perry receives a letter from an old army buddy, Don Cullivan. Perry is touched that Don signed the letter "your friend." Perry befriends a squirrel named Red.
  • Dick appears to be relaxed, but he is actually plotting escape by creating an icepick-like tool to stab the jailor.
  • Perry dreams that the yellow parrot will save him.
  • A psychologist asks Dick and Perry to write him an autobiography, and he psychoanalyzes them to determine if they can claim temporary insanity.
  • The jury is painstakingly selected.
  • The state begins to present its case. Witnesses, including Wells and Dewey, testify.
  • Don visits Perry in his cell. Perry is very excited about having a visitor and asks Mrs. Meier to prepare a beautiful feast. Don is very impressed. Friendly chatter ensues, but nothing of importance results.
  • The defense makes its case. Perry and Dick's lawyer hopes that the psychologist can claim temporary insanity, but when questioned whether Dick was sane, the psychologist said "yes." When questioned whether or not he could determine whether or not Perry was sane, he said "no." He is not allowed to give further information, but Capote presents to the reader what he would have said about Dick and Perry's characters.
  • Judge Tate calls for death penalty for Dick and Perry.
  • Perry and Dick are assigned cells in "The Corner," death row, with others given the death penalty, including Lowell Lee Andrews, a scholar who Perry detests.
  • They are joined by York and Latham, two 18-19 year olds who killed because they hated life.
  • Dick writes a letter to the Kansas bar association and receives a response. Schultz takes the case.
  • After five years, Dick and Perry are hanged on April 15, 1965. Dewey attends and describes the execution.
  • Dewey runs into Susan Kidwell, now a grown lady, and she tells him that she is doing well and Bobby is married to a nice and pretty lady. The story ends by the wind blowing over the grass.


Book Note Creator



Bernice Chu