The Role of Financial Stability in the Novel In Co Essay

This essay has a total of 1333 words and 6 pages.


The Role of Financial Stability in the Novel In Cold Blood





Herb Clutter and his family possess it. Dick and Perry want it. It is often associated
with the ideal existence. What is “it” exactly? “It” refers to
financial stability. This is the state of not having to fret about paying the bills or
providing for one’s family and of not having to worry if one will eat on a given
day. The concept of financial stability is central in the novel written by Truman Capote
and inspired by real events entitled In Cold Blood. This issue is the backbone of the
novel and is the chief motive for the murders committed in the story. Additionally,
financial stability is an important component in the typical view of the “American
dream.” It is fair to say that the Clutters embody this concept, which involves a
pattern of social and personal virtue that is accompanied by financial stability. The
opposite seems true for those characters of Dick and Perry who fail to exhibit virtuous
behaviors and therefore, never attain financial stability. These characters embody the
“American nightmare.” Capote argues in his story that tragedy is not confined
to the latter category and life is indeed a fragile thing.

It may seem risky to say that a person who has attained financial stability has done so by
exhibiting virtue. While in the real world this statement might not hold true, it is
supported within the context of Capote’s story. He introduces the Clutters as a
financially stable family and as the embodiment of the “American dream.” He
illustrates the virtues of Herb Clutter by stating “his name was everywhere
respectfully recognized” (6) and “he was known for his equanimity, his
charitableness, and the fact that he paid good wages” (10). Capote, when speaking
of what Herb wanted to obtain in the world, says he “had in large measure obtained
it” (6). Herb was a successful father, husband, businessman, and politician
according to Capote’s account. The success of his farmland was a direct result of
his hard work (11-12). In addition, Herb was very prudent with his money. He never
carried cash (46) and he was excellent at storing his assets (11). Herb Clutter obtained
financial stability for his family through virtuous means. Thus his family, with respect
to financial stability, embodied the “American dream.”

Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, however, were not known for their virtue and respectability.
While it is true today and was true at the time of the story that many profit from
dishonesty, ultimately Dick and Perry were destroyed by it. It is fact that both Dick and
Perry had served prison sentences for robbery in the past. Capote further illustrates the
vices of Dick’s personality when he uses the statement, “I promise you, honey,
we’ll blast hair all over them walls” (22) to portray Dick as a potential
murderer. Capote also shows that Dick is a liar by revealing that he lied to his father
about where he was going the night of the murders (23). It is fairly obvious that Capote
is portraying Dick as a person who doesn’t often exhibit virtue in his actions.
Capote presents a similar idea about Perry when he reveals Perry’s confession of
murdering all four Clutter’s present at the house (255). Dick and Perry never
attain financial stability and are, within Capote’s story, the embodiment of the
“American nightmare.” It is possible that Capote is subtly equating this with
their lack of virtue.

Throughout the story Dick and Perry tried to come up with schemes to make money. Dick
goes on a bad check writing spree and he promises to marry Maria “who was the widow
of a ‘very prominent Mexican banker’” (118) in order to get money. In
fact, the incident at the River Valley Ranch was meant to be a robbery and not a murder.
Dick and Perry never seriously try to find honest ways to make money, rather they spend
all their time scheming and violating others in order to get money. Their methods
ultimately fail every time and they always find themselves broke shortly after scamming
someone. Thus the pattern of dishonest and dishonorable behavior is a major component to
the idea of the “American nightmare” and it seems to coincide with financial
instability within the context of Capote’s story.

It is possible to argue against Capote’s idea that virtue is followed by financial
stability. After all the Hickocks were what Dick described as “semi-poor. Never
down and out, but several times on the verge of it” (277). The Hickocks were good
people who worked hard for what they had (277). They do not seem to fit with the idea
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