The Murder Of The American Dream

October 24, 2021 by Essay Writer

Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood unfolds the murder of the Clutter family by two outsiders, Dick Hickock, and Perry Smith. Dick and Perry attempt to attain their version of the American dream, while the death of the Clutter’s symbolizes the demolishment of such dreams. The American Dream is twisted through the fates of those who do achieve and through the jealousy of those who cannot achieve it.

The Clutter family is displayed as having achieved the American dream. However, the fates of the Clutters contradict the dream’s promises. Mr. Clutter “labored eighteen hours a day… but after a decade [his] domain consisted of over eight hundred acres owned outright” (11). Mr. Clutter’s success is because of his determination and perseverance throughout all those years. He was a self-made success with a prosperous farm and was well respected by his employees and the community. Not only was Mr. Clutter successful and praised in the community, but the rest of his family was also as well. His children were also greatly accomplished; Eveanna as studying to be a nurse, Beverly as engaged to a young biologist, “Kenyon, who at fifteen was taller than Mr. Clutter and one sister, a year older— the town darling, Nancy,” (7). The Clutter family is illustrated as a perfect all American family, who meet every standard of the American dream. Yet, all of their achievements are thrown away in a single night.

The murder of the Clutters not only generates fear through the city of Holcomb but the whole state of Kansas. As one woman, a school teacher told Detective Dewey,”Feeling wouldn’t run half so high if this had happened to anyone except the Clutters. Anyone less admired. Prosperous. Secure. But that family represented everything people hereabouts really value and respect, and that such a thing could happen to them … It makes life seem pointless” (88). The Clutters, regardless of their advantages and morality, lose their lives. The flaws and realities of the American dream are displayed through their murder. As a result, the community of Holcomb begins to challenge the value of honor in a society where others demolish their success not out of revenge, but for money. Dick and Perry exhibit the how the lack of success can provoke jealousy against those who do. The two misfits came from backgrounds antithesis of the glorified concept. Dick was raised in a stable, middle-class lifestyle. However, he still yearned for more and felt as if anything less was below him. Especially after being involved in a car crash, his father noticed he began to alter. His father stated, “After that, he wasn’t the same boy. Gambling, writing bad checks. I never knew him to do them things before,” (166). Perry, unlike Dick, had an extremely traumatizing childhood. He was raised by abusive parents, orphanages and foster homes. As he recalls “it was not long afterward [his] mother put [him] to stay in a Catholic orphanage.

The one where the Black Widows were always at [him]. Hitting [him]. Because of wetting the bed,” (132). Hence, he dreamt to grow past those ominous years and become an American success. While the two were in prison, one Floyd Wells told them about the Clutters: how successful, generous and most importantly, rich they were. Floyd recalls what Dick had described to him:“Next thing I knew, Dick was talking about killing Mr. Clutter. Said him and Perry was gonna go out there and rob the place, and they was gonna kill all witnesses—the Clutters, and anybody else that happened to be around. He described to me a dozen times how he was gonna do it, how him and Perry was gonna tie them people up and gun them down” (161). Out of hatred and jealousy, Dick had decided to rob and kill the Clutter family. This is because The Clutters depicted everything Dick and Perry wanted out of life, through the depicted concept of an uphill battle leading to a lifetime of success and happiness.

Throughout the novel, the American dream ideal is the prevalent focus. Dick and Perry’s version of the American Dream seems to compels them to commit their crime while the Clutters, who represent the dreamt, loses everything all at once. Capote demonstrates the corruption of the American dream through the tragedy of the 1959 murder. It depicts how in our society, both those who have and haven’t achieved success can all lose everything out of greed and jealousy.


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