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In Cold Blood (Capote) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions 
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for In Cold Blood

1. Start with the victims. What kind of family is the Clutter household? In what way does Capote create sympathy for them? Do you feel they represented the American Dream?

2. How does Capote, as a writer, handle the actual murder of the Clutter family. Or is it too gruesome, too heartbreaking to discuss?

3. Discuss the killers, Perry Smith and Richard Hickock. What kind of men were they? What were their motives in committing murder? Talk about their backgrounds and psychological make-ups? Think, for instance, about Perry Smith's chilling comment: "I thought he was a very nice gentleman.... I thought so right up to the moment I cut this throat."

4. In many ways, In Cold Blood is about the murderers. Do you feel they deserve such attention? Do you think that Capote pulls off the near impossible—does he build sympathy, in your mind, for the killers? Does he endow them—Perry Smith, in particular—with any kind of humanity? Or does he depict them as savage animals, devoid of human redemption?

5. What was the impact of the murders on the Holcomb community? How did it alter the residents' perceptions of the natural order of things, of life?

6. With this book, Truman has been credited with developing a new genre of writing: "literary non-fiction." What might that term mean, and how does In Cold Blood differ from straight crime reporting? Why did Capote create the kind of story he did, and what is its impact on the reader of this new approach?

7. Suggestion: Watch the 2005 film, Capote, with Philip Seymour Hoffman in the role of Truman Capote. Does the film affect your view of Capote and his motives in writing his book?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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