In Cold Blood by Truman Capote: Journalism vs. Non-Fiction Novel
In Cold Blood written by Truman Capote is noted by The New York Times as the “remarkable, tensely exciting, moving, superbly written, true account,” of the murders that took place in Holcomb, Kansas on November 15th, 1959. This historical, non-fiction journalistic account uniquely captures the true emotion/characterization behind a pair of divergent criminals, a murdered family, and an entire town affected by an instance of crime.
Having written nearly eight thousand pages of research to verify his testimony– according to Colquhoun from Independent Digital News and Media- the author successfully narrates and gives life to all of the characters involved; especially delving into those characters the reader may be apprehensive to explore.
Capote elegantly works his way through the emotions, facts, and story behind the horrific homicide that shook a small-town Kansas community and eventually a whole state and nation.
Truman Capote deploys many strategies in this novel, one being excellent uses of narration including fictional, nonfictional, first person and third person. Each of the narratives allow the reader to develop a personal connection to each character, thus conveying the effects of crime on all those mentioned. He creates more than one opportunity to understand the characters through these multiple points of view. As a result of these perspectives, the reader might be left to wonder how he accomplished such an accurate first hand account.
This type storytelling was one of the first of its time. According to Mass Media Professor Eric Sandstrom of Colorado Mesa University, “Capote was a literary guy, and he had no loyalty to traditional journalism.” Capote used journalistic tactics to get at the truth behind the story rather than just the facts as they were reported by the police. Professor Sandstrom explained that Capote wanted to capture “the human aspect,” that could only be found through the same research that a journalist would use. The novel created controversy among the journalistic community as it blurred the lines between hard journalism and creative storytelling that was based on a true story. The novel never reported a crime; rather, it painted one.
Truman Capote ultimately wrote In Cold Blood as a non-fictional novel which stemmed from a long journalistic pursuit. He wanted to achieve a work where the author should not appear in the work, ideally, to write without ever appearing himself, and yet, at the same time, create total credibility.
Not only did Capote bring attention to a well deserving story using journalistic techniques, he compelled the reader to view the effects of crime from many perspectives. Through a variety of reporting strategies and narrative choices Capote was able to achieve high levels of sophistication, accuracy, voice, and passion allowing him to uncover a crime through the sincere elucidation of many themes.
Capote urged the reader to transcend away from all stigmas that may be involved and instead explore the idea of what criminality actually is and what it may cause. The effects of crime can be wildly dissimilar among people; Capote’s purpose was to uncover these effects without bias.
In Cold Blood leaves no area grey; the reader is left to entertain the thoughts of crime themselves while the author stays completely invisible. It becomes the reader’s job to allow every point of view as they must become aware of all the persons affected by crime… the novel burrows its way into the unsuspecting mind of the reader, leaving one to acknowledge the emotions and perspectives of all those involved– even the killers themselves.
A Special Thanks to the sources featured in this review