Style Over Substance in Truman Capote's In Cold Blood Essay

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Style Over Substance in Capote's In Cold Blood    


In "Murder, He Wrote," William Swanson believes the stylistic techniques employed in Truman Capote's novel In Cold Blood are more memorable than the story itself. For Swanson, Capote not only captures the readers' attention with a story about a horrific crime, but his use of diverse voices, sounds, and silences make it an event people will never forget.


Almost two decades after his initial exposure to Capote's novel, Swanson discovered it was still a "brilliant study of crime and punishment" being more "haunting than ever" (32). When Swanson first read the novel, he was more impressed with Capote's "audacity" and stylistic techniques than
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In conducting his research for the novel, Capote managed to make friends and sources of the relatives and neighbors of the Clutters and the killers, the lawyers, the police, and Dick Hickock and Perry Smith (33). He did not use a tape recorder or a notebook when speaking with his sources, but relied on his memory to keep the facts straight.


It was Capote's use of stylistic devices that the novel memorable to Swanson. Capote not only vividly recreated the events leading up to the murders, but he also described in "meticulous detail and diamondlike prose" the "dozens of lives destroyed or altered" in the process (33). Capote carefully chose each word he recorded, enabling his readers to encounter the same feelings of despair, grief, and fear the characters experience. But Capote's greatest gift was his "ability to listen" and then composing what he heard into a symphony of voices, sounds, and silences (33). Swanson heard the voices of the Clutter family pleading for their lives, the sounds from the "roar of a twelve-gauge shotgun", and the subsequent silence of "an upright, accomplished, and much-admired" family's removal "from a quiet community" (33).


While other journalists have tried their hand at writing nonfiction novels, none have come close to creating the same psychological and emotional impact of In Cold Blood. In
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