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Mental Illnesses in "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote

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Daegun Jung

on 11 December 2014

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Transcript of Mental Illnesses in "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote

Mental Illnesses in "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote
Thematic Statement
In the book "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote, mental illnesses affect the actions of men and influence their thoughts and behaviours.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that impairs emotional responses and breaks down thought processes in the brain. This causes several symptoms such as paranoia and delusions. It most often develops in people between the ages 16-40. Schizophrenia is caused by a combination of factors, namely genetic traits, and living environment during childhood.
Psychopathy is a mental illness in which the subject is antisocial, has less empathy or remorse than normal, and does not have good control over their behaviors. It is still over debate what exactly causes psychopathy to develop. However early signs of the disorder can possibly be things such as cruelty to animals, antisocial behavior, or anxiety.
Mental illnesses in "In Cold Blood"
Perry, who obviously suffers from both schizophrenia and psychopathy, often shows signs of not feeling guilt or remorse for the crime he has committed. "I didn't want to harm the man. I thought he was a very nice gentleman. Soft-spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat" (Capote 240). This quote suggests that Perry isn't necessarily in control of his own actions. Dick has also shown some of these tendencies. After the murders, Dick stays with his family and winds up falling asleep for he had "among other things, driven over eight-hundred miles over the last twenty-four hours" (Capote 167). The fact that he can fall asleep soundly after committing four murders shows his lack of empathy for the Clutter family, and reveals some of his own psychotic tendencies.
“[Dick] was holding the knife. I asked him for it, and he gave it to me, and I said, ‘All right, Dick. Here goes.’ But I didn’t mean it. I meant to call his bluff, make him argue me out of it, make him admit he was a phony and a coward. See, it was something between me and Dick. I knelt down beside Mr. Clutter, and the pain of kneeling—I thought of that goddam dollar. Silver dollar. The shame. Disgust. And they’d told me never to come back to Kansas. But I didn’t realize what I’d done till I heard the sound. Like somebody drowning. Screaming under water” (Capote 244).

“When Smith attacked Mr. Clutter he was under a mental eclipse, deep inside a schizophrenic darkness.” (Capote 302).

"The crime was a psychological accident, virtually an impersonal act; the victims might as well have been killed by lightning. Except for one thing: they had experienced prolonged terror, they had suffered. And Dewey could not forget their sufferings. Nonetheless, he found it possible to look at the man beside him without anger—with, rather, a measure of sympathy—for Perry Smith’s life had been no bed of roses but pitiful, an ugly and lonely progress toward one mirage or another.” (Capote 245).

Perry and Dick were schizophrenics and psychopaths.
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