Characters make up the skeleton of a story. They convey the author’s ideas and beliefs about, as well as relationships with, the world as well as the human beings around them. Major characters in In Cold Blood by Truman Capote are not only interesting but also deeply disturbing for the readers due to their conversation and actions. Some of the major characters of In Cold Blood are discussed below.
Characters in In Cold Blood
Dick Hickock is one of two men who rob and murder the Clutter family. An ex-convict who is out of prison on parole, he comes from a good family and has a loving mother. Despite having done well in school and sports when he was younger, he gets involved in a capital crime. Speaking of a head injury Hickock sustained in a disfiguring accident, some theorize he suffered brain damage that has made him impulsive. Though there is little solid evidence to support this idea, his parents speak of a change in behavior for the worse after the accident, lending a little credence to the theory. Though he is a womanizing figure shown constantly running after women despite his marriage to his wife, Carol, he is ashamed of this behavior. The conclusion of the story shows that he is an expert in planning and execution, the reason that he has already involved himself in serious crimes.
Perry Smith is the second criminal involved in the gruesome murder of the Clutters and is, therefore, another important character in the book. He, like his fellow criminal, is an ex-convict but is not as shrewd as Dick. He follows others, rather than planning crimes himself, which is what he did in the case of the Clutters murders. He does not, however, follow Dick’s womanizing behavior. In contrast to Dick, Perry comes from a poor background and was raised by an alcoholic mother. Throughout the time period covered in In Cold Blood, Perry is always battling pain due to a leg injury and uses aspirin constantly to curb it. He remains a soft-spoken person despite living with Dick for many years, and rarely reacts with anger. Theoretically, he is a schizophrenic person who has the power to impress others through his glib tongue.
The head of the unfortunate Clutter family, Herb Clutter is a deeply religious person and a very loving yet formal father who wants his children to act in a certain decent way. Despite belonging to a well-to-do farming family of the River Valley Farm, he wins the respect of the locals so much so that they consider his family the least probable target of such a heinous crime. A leader among the wheat farming community, he has also served under the popular president Eisenhower and has been a great figure of the farming organization. Though he has been in high positions, Herb does not feel any shame in serving his family and willingly cooks and cares for his children when his wife’s depression makes her unable to do so. A tough, yet popular man, Herb Clutter is found with his throat slit after the robbery.
True to her training by her father and mother, Nancy Clutter represents the decency of the family through her being Class President and a leader of community activities. Despite being only sixteen years old, she devotes her time in community teaching and believes it’s her permanent duty. She falls in love with Bobby Rupp, the basketball star, which her father dislikes because Nancy is Methodist and Bobby is Catholic. Her decency even shows itself on the last day of her life when she teaches a neighbor girl and takes care of her horse. Her final conversation with Perry shows a great calmness even in the face of death.
Bonnie Clutter is Herb’s wife and the mother of Kenyon and Nancy. Despite suffering from chronic depression, she does her best to perform her household duties. Bonnie isolates herself socially, and often spends her afternoons alone, though she regrets this lack of socialization.
Dewey conducts the investigation into the robbery-murder of the Clutters. His prolonged familiarity with the Clutters leads him to personally involve himself with the investigation, leading often to sleepless nights and negatively impacting his personal life. It is difficult for him to find the criminals, as he faces heavy odds and little evidence.
A lonely, yet intelligent figure, Kenyon is a tall, quiet person who tries his best to excel in sports. However, he ends up socially isolated. His best friend and hunting companion, Bob Jones, has abandoned him in favor of romantic escapades. Exactly like his mother, Kenyon is a sensitive boy who does not mix with others without good reason.
A very close friend of Nancy, Susan Kidwell is also called Sue. She visits the Clutters’ home and discovers the carnage. Her recollections about her childhood and the Clutters make her a symbol of patience and dignity who displays courage in the face of such a great tragedy.
Bobby Rupp is Nancy’s boyfriend and is initially suspected of committing the murders. His singling out as a suspect causes insult to the decency of the Clutters. He is cleared by the end of the story.
A rodeo rider in the past, John Smith now lives in Alaska and has come to know his son, Perry is involved in the murder. Perry is also ambivalent about his father, who demonstrates resentment toward him.