Death Penalty In Truman Capote's In Cold Blood

In his novel In Cold Blood, Truman Capote explores a significant controversy in the American justice system: the death penalty. He carefully describes a dramatic incident in Holcomb, Kansas when four members of the respected Clutter family are killed. When the murderers, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, are finally caught after an extensive investigation, they are given the death sentence. Through a historically accurate and compelling novel, Capote criticizes capital punishment by humanizing Perry and Dick, suggesting their sentence to be unnecessary, and exposing its brutal nature. Capote paints the death penalty in a negative light by presenting the criminals’ more humane characteristics to create sympathy for them. For instance, after Dick …show more content…
For instance, Lowell Lee Andrews, another victim of the death penalty, is executed, but “his heart kept beating for nineteen minutes” (383). When Dick is executed, he also “[hangs] for all to see a full twenty minutes” before the prison doctor could finally “pronounce [him] dead” (391). Capote emphasizes the length of time – nineteen and twenty minutes – that the criminals hang for before they could be ascertained as dead. Since the deaths are not instantaneous, Capote conveys the idea that they hang for a considerable amount of time while alive and on display for others to see. As a result, the death penalty is dehumanizing. Shortly after, nearby observers discuss the hanging of Dick. One observer believes that Dick “[didn’t] feel nothing,” but his companion questions this; he “could hear him gasping for breath” (392). By including the observation of Dick “gasping for breath” before he finally died, Capote suggests that Dick suffers before his death. In addition, Capote challenges the idea that executions are quick and painless by implying that Dick could have suffered for the aforementioned amount of time – twenty minutes – before dying. Executions are not a clean, merciful death, but instead, they are ruthless and inhumane. Capote suggests that the death penalty robs criminals of their humanity and deprives them of an ethical

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