Perry in In Cold Blood - Character Analysis | smudge (2023)

perry smith

When we meet Perry Smith, he's a burglar on parole from the Kansas State Penitentiary, an idealist who dreams of being magically released from his difficult life, a man who lies about killing another just to impress. He had an abusive childhood with an alcoholic mother who choked on his own vomit, a father who didn't send him to school and towed him across the country in a makeshift trailer. Two of his brothers have committed suicide and his remaining sister is afraid of him. His only lasting relationships, aside from a friendship with an Indian lumberjack, were with other convicts, and it's one of those relationships that eventually involves him in a brutal murder and a trip to the gallows. His childhood trauma has left him with some childish behaviors: he still wets the bed and sucks his thumb when he cries in his sleep.

Perry is a complicated guy, full of contradictions and rapid changes. He is the most complex character in Capote, and we close the book wondering how we can possibly sympathize with this guy. But we do.

So does Capote.

it's a hard life

We learn about Perry from many sources: her own recollections, her father's letters to the parole board (completely factual, we're sure), and reports from her sister, the detectives, and the author. Perry attributes the sad state of her life to a childhood marked by constant violence and neglect. When she was five years old, her parents were traveling rodeo performers. The family lived on the fringes, always on the go, often living in a broken-down trailer of "porridge, Hershey's kisses, and condensed milk" (2,171).

But he was quite a happy boy until his father began to brutally beat his mother, who became a promiscuous drinker. Perry saw and heard his mother "entertaining" several men. He eventually dragged his children to San Francisco, where Perry constantly got into trouble. He accuses him of "having no rule or discipline or anyone to show me right and wrong" (4.54). He ended up in a series of orphanages and Salvation Army homes, where guards beat him for weeding the bed and tortured him.

There was a nurse who kept calling me "n*****" and saying there was no difference between blacks and Indians. Oh, Jesus, she was a wicked bastard! Embody. She used to fill a tub with ice cold water, put me in it and hold me until she turned me blue.(2.172)

His father accepted him and they lived together for a while, always on the move, so Perry never had a chance to go to school.

"I finished third grade," Perry recalled, "that was the end of it."(2.175)

By the time Perry is old enough to leave home and live his own life, the psychological damage will already be done. He joins the Merchant Marine and then the Army, where he earns a Bronze Star but is never promoted. Her plans to run the hunting lodge with his father fail, and for the next four years up to the time of the murders she leads a vagabond life, working odd jobs, starving to death, and ending up in prison for robbery and escape. the prison.

Could it get worse?

Oh me.

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To add insult to injury, or in this case to compound the injury, Perry ends up in a motorcycle accident after being discharged from the military. He leaves him with crippled legs and constant pain. He has a strange appearance:

Sitting, he looked like a man of normal height, a strong man, with the shoulders, arms, thick, stooped torso of a weight lifter…but some parts of him were out of proportion to others. His tiny feet, encased in short black boots […], would have fitted well into the dancing shoes of a dainty lady; when he rose he was no taller than a twelve-year-old boy, and on suddenly crippled legs that seemed grotesquely inadequate for the adult mass that supported them, he looked not like a burly trucker but like a bloated, muscular retired jockey. .(1.19)

Perry blames a rainy road for the accident, but his father suspects that it was Perry's need for speed that led to it.


Perry gets none.

A large part of Perry's personality is his image of himself as an intelligent, sensitive and creative person who has been slowed down by life and is full of unrealized talent and intelligence. He is consumed by resentment. He sees himself as an extraordinary guy who could have become someone if he had the chance. Thecould have become a contender.

Perry always longed for an education. When he joined the military, the recruiter had to fake his test results to get him accepted.

From that moment on, I began to realize how important education is. This only added to the hatred and bitterness he felt for others..I started to argue.(4.56)

In an emotional outburst with her sister, she remembers him saying:

"You think soWhatmyself? Oh, the man that might have been! But that bastard never gave me a chance. He didn't let me go to school. IT'S OKAY. IT'S OKAY. I was a bad boy but the time has comebatgo to school. Turns out I have a brilliant mind. In case you don't know. A brilliant mind and a plus of talent. But no training because he didn't want me to learn anything except how to carry and carry it. Silence. Ignorant. That's how he loved me. But you, Bobo, went to school. You, Jimmy and Fern. Each of you has an education. Everyone except me. And I hate them all, Dad and everyone.(3.132)

Even on death row, he rejoiced at the opportunity to write about himself for the court psychiatrist, whom he considered an intellectual colleague:

(Video) (In Cold Blood) Perry Smith Draw My Life

There are a lot of things I haven't said that might interest you. I have always felt a remarkable joy in being around people who have a goal and a sense of dedication to achieving that goal.(4.60)

And seconds before the noose is tied around his neck, he says:

Maybe he had something to contribute, something. (4,312)

As the book progresses, we learn that Perry does indeed have talent. Her outdoor skills are diverse: she can skin a bear, build a hut, hunt, and set traps. He gets his GED from him in prison; his elegant handwriting impresses Agent Nye; He draws a portrait of Jesus for Reverend Post and spends his time in prison painting pictures of the inmates' children. Capote wants us to think deeply about what would have happened if life had been different for Perry.


Other than a few mentions of one-night stands, Perry doesn't seem to have much interest in sex. In fact, Dick thinks he's a prude. He can't stand Dick's dirty jokes and is disgusted with Dick's persecution of women. When Dick had sex in the same room with a woman he picked up in Mexico, he thought it was a "nuisance" (2,219), not a turn-on.

Perry's confidence in his mutilated legs probably prevents him from pursuing women.
Am Strand a Florida,

Dick was wearing a bathing suit but, as in Acapulco, Perry refused to show his injured legs—he feared the sight might "offend" other bathers—and sat fully clothed, even in socks and shoes.(3.100)

Perry is particularly disgusted by Dick's interest in young girls.

[...] "had no respect for people who couldn't control themselves sexually", especially when the lack of control went hand in hand with what he called "perversity": "molesting children", "weird things", rape . . And he thought that he had made his views clear to Dick; Hadn't they been about to get into a fistfight when he recently stopped Dick from raping a terrified young woman?(3.208)

We get an almost asexual impression of Perry. It's hard to reconcile the image of him as a child-wetting, thumb-sucking character with an adult sexual persona.

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Will the real Perry Smith stand up?

This book is an account of four unimaginably brutal murders. And Perry Smith compromised them all. This is a guy who slit an innocent man's throat and then methodically shot him and the rest of his terrified family. After the murders, he nearly hit a guy who hitchhiked him over the head, and when the unsuspecting driver talked about his five kids, all he thought was, "Five kids, well, too bad" (3.71 )

But Capote doesn't make it easy for us to hate the guy. As he said, he appears to him as someone full of contradictions. In the letter from the parole board, his father writes:

Happy vibes - yes and no, very serious when he is mistreated he never forgets.(2.172)

If he sees that the boss appreciates his work, he will go out of his way for him. Tell him how you want him in a pleasant way. He is very sensitive […]. How well I know that Perry is kind when he ritualizes him.(2.175-77)

"Touchie". Bueno.

Perry's sister certainly doesn't buy the sensitive and gentle line about Perry:

He can be so warm and nice. Smooth. He cries so easily. Music sometimes moves him and, when he was a child, he often cried because he thought the sunset was so beautiful. Or the moon. Oh he can fool you He can make you feel so sorry for him—. (2.124)

On the other hand, when he stayed with Joe James, the Indian lumberjack who took him in after his motorcycle accident, he became a teacher and mentor to Joe's children:

You have been very good to me, Joe and his family. He was on crutches, he was quite helpless. So in order to have something to do, I tried to be useful. I started what became a kind of school. The students were Joe's children along with some of his friends and we taught in the living room. I taught harmonica and guitar. He drew. and calligraphy. Everyone always comments on my beautiful calligraphy.(2.177)

Joe testified about those days at Perry's trial:

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Perry was a nice guy and very popular in the neighborhood. To my knowledge, he never got anything out of the way.. (4.161)

In fact, there's something about Perry that moves people. Mrs. Meier, the sheriff's wife who befriended Perry in prison, had this to say about him:

[…] I decided, well, he wasn't the worst man I'd ever seen. That night after I went to bed, I said the same thing to my husband. But Wendle snorted. Wendle was one of the first to arrive at the crime scene after the fact.crimeHe was discovered. He said he wished he'd been at Clutter's when they found the bodies. Then he could have judged for myself how nice Mr. Smith was.(4.5)

And how about that for a tear-jerking scene on death row with Mrs. Meier right after Perry hears the verdict:

I turned on the radio. not to listen to it. But he could cry like a child. He had never broken down before, had shown no signs of it. Well, I went to him. […] He extended his hand. He wanted me to take his hand and I did, I took his hand and all he said was, "I am embracing shame."(4.196)

We are giving you a minute here to recover.

Despite what other people say about him, the reader can't help but notice (you did, right?) that Perry does some valuable things. He tries to get Dick to buy black stockings to cover his face during the robbery so they don't have to kill anyone. He stops Dick from raping Nancy Clutter and seducing the young woman in Florida. He admits that he shot all four people so that Dick's parents wouldn't have to bury them thinking his son was a murderer. And then there's that pillow under Kenyon Clutter's head...

Move Bruce Banner

One thing Perry's father and sister tell us is that he has always had a violent temper. Treat him nice and he's a nice guy, but "treat him bad and you'll get a circular saw" (2.167). Her sister remembers the time Perry pushed her against the wall and threatened to "throw you into the river" (3.131). Willie-Jay warned Perry about controlling his "dangerous antisocial instincts" (2,207).

Perry also knows this about himself:

Dad snatched a cookie out of my hand and said I ate too much what a greedy selfish bastard I was and why didn't I come out he doesn't want me there anymore. He kept going until I couldn't take it anymore. My hands grabbed his throat. My hands, but he couldn't control them. They wanted to strangle him. (2,178)

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Is poorly controlled, easily unleashed anger killing Herb Clutter?

I told [Herb] that it wasn't long until morning and that they would find someone in the morning and that everything, me and Dick and everyone, would seem like something they dreamed up. I didn't fuck it up. He didn't want to hurt the man. I thought he was a very nice gentleman. soft spoken. That's what I thought until the moment I slit his throat.(3.286)

Complicated? We would say that is a bit of an understatement. So what is it? A heartless psychotic killer or a lost soul who never had a chance? We inform. It's up to you.


What is Perry's personality in cold blood? ›

He is calm and gentle, and he seems to want love and acceptance, but he is eventually revealed to be the more brutal of the two men. One of his main motivations is to take Dick to Mexico, and to hunt for treasure and go skin diving.

What information about Perry's childhood do you learn from his sister? ›

One thing that Perry's father and sister tell us is that he's always had a violent temper. Treat him well and he's a good guy, but "treat him mean and you get a buzz saw" (2.167). His sister recalls the time when Perry shoved her against the wall and threatened to "throw you in the river" (3.131).

What does Capote say about Perry? ›

Capote often links Perry's violent tendencies with his childhood, described as 'no bed of roses but pitiful, an ugly and lonely progress toward one mirage and then another', as he was raised 'with no rule or discipline, or anyone to show [him] right from wrong'.

Does Perry regret killing the Clutters? ›

Perry was the one who actually killed all the members of the Clutter family. However, he shows remorse in later statements once he and Dick were caught, and he blames himself for everything that happens.

What do we learn about Perry's childhood? ›

Capote reveals details of Perry's childhood. His childhood was pleasant until his mother began drinking and abandoned her husband, taking the children with her. Later, Perry was left in children's homes where he was horrifically abused, mainly by nuns.

What are Perry's dreams? ›

In his dream, he is in an African jungle heading toward a special tree that has large diamonds hanging off its branches instead of fruit. When Perry goes to pluck one from the tree, he predicts that a snake will fall out of the branches and attack him.

Why is Perry the protagonist? ›

We know that Perry Smith is a murderer, but we also know that he has had a physically malnourished and emotionally traumatic childhood with virtually no education. He values learning and wanted his life to turn out differently. In this respect, Perry can be seen as a protagonist.

Why was cookie so important to Perry? ›

Preferably, she is a college graduate. The closest Perry comes to finding love is with Cookie. Cookie likes him, and he enjoys her company. During his stay in the hospital, she takes good care of him and inspires him to read books like Gone with the Wind and This is My Beloved.

What was Perry's relationship with his father? ›

Tyler's father was a violent man, and young Tyler was often the target of his rage. "From a child, I had always known that this man despised me," Tyler says. "I could not figure out why he hated me so. And every action was about his hatred or his disdain for me."

Is Capote in love with Perry? ›

Crucially, Capote's relationship with murderer Perry Smith is depicted in all its self-serving strangeness, with the writer first falling in love with his subject and promising to show his human side to the world, then later abandoning him and longing for his execution in order that he may finish his wretched book.

What were Perry's last words? ›

Perry is then led to the gallows. His last words are solemn: “I think,” he says, “it's a helluva thing to take a life in this manner. I don't believe in capital punishment, morally or legally.

How does Capote build sympathy for Perry? ›

Answer and Explanation: In his novel In Cold Blood, Capote creates sympathy for convicted murderer Perry Smith by portraying him as a sensitive and misunderstood person—someone who only turned to crime because he had led a difficult life.

How does Perry feel about his sister? ›

Perry loathes his sister. Perry also finds an interpretation of his sister's letter, written by his prison friend Willie-Jay. In quasi-intellectual language, Wille-Jay writes that Barbara is obviously a conformist.

What does Perry depict in pastels? ›

What does Perry depict in pastels? He hopes to rape Nancy Clutter. What event coincides with the start of the trial? The Clutter estate sale.

What is Perry history? ›

Perry is a surname with several distinct origins. In England, deriving from the Old English pyrige (pear tree), referring to one who dwells by a pear tree, while in Wales Perry, along with Parry, arose as patronymics, via a shortening of "ap Harry" (son of Harry).

What does Perry's behavior at the beach? ›

At the beach or pool, he refuses to remove his pants, ashamed to reveal his legs. Perry's behavior shows that, even while living his lifelong dream, he cannot escape the insecurities and inadequacies that made him an outcast in the United States.

Was Perry in an orphanage? ›

His mother, of Cherokee descent, and his father, of Irish descent, were rodeo performers. His father beat his mom, so she ran away with Perry and his three siblings. His alcoholic mother eventually committed suicide, and he ended up in a Catholic orphanage at age 13.

What nickname does Perry give himself? ›

Answer and Explanation: Perry smith gave himself the nickname of "Lone Wolf," which appealed to his sense of being an unfortunate outcast from society.

Why does Perry mention the parrot? ›

Toward the end of the book, while he's in a hunger-induced delirium, Perry mutters to himself that the parrot is Jesus. Whatever the parrot is, it is a powerful symbol of Christianity, vengeance, and the divine, and it recurs throughout the story.

What does Perry's tattoo say? ›

The tattoo says “Anuugacchati Pravaha” which means “Go with the flow” in Sanskrit. Sanskrit is an ancient language from India, a country with special significance to the couple. Russell proposed to Katy in December 2009 while they were vacationing in Jaipur, India.

What kind of person is Mr Perry? ›

Mr. Perry is a very cold and dispassionate individual whose idea of succeeding in life was to place his son in a very strict and demanding school.

Who was a character witness for Perry? ›

Perry Mason Character Witness: Emily Dodson.

Is Perry Smith the protagonist? ›

In Truman Capote's In Cold Blood the character named Perry Smith is the protagonist or main character. Since the story focuses on his thoughts and feelings, we have a lot of information about him, including his fascinating childhood and his feelings about his current life.

Why does Perry confess? ›

He states that Perry had changed his original story and confessed to all the killings, in order to spare Dick's parents the thought that their son was a murderer.

What motivates Perry's father to write? ›

What motivates Perry's father to write "A History of My Boy's Life"? How does Tex John Smith characterize his son? His father motivation was that it was to help his son get parole at Kansas State penitentiary. His father outlines that he was a good parent and blame much of Perry's misfortune on his wife.

Why did Perry join the army? ›

One of the reasons why Perry enlisted in the army was to help support his younger brother. He does not want his family to worry about him unnecessarily. He does not want to shock his family or worry them. He finds it difficult to communicate directly to his mother.

What is the significance of Perry's relationship with Willie Jay? ›

Willie-Jay was a fellow inmate of Perry's who thought that Perry had a lot of untapped potential. Since that's exactly how Perry views himself, he sees Willie-Jay as the only person who understands him, and he accepts his advice and guidance.

Is Perry religious In Cold Blood? ›

Although Perry outwardly shuns Christianity – Catholicism in particular, given that he was at one point living in an orphanage run by abusive nuns – mysticism, the divine, and Christian culture are nonetheless very important to him.

Why does Perry feel compelled to tell the truth? ›

He finally told the truth because he felt bad for Mr. and Mrs. Hickock. He didn't want them to think he raised a murderer.

How was Perry's childhood In Cold Blood? ›

When Perry was young, he witnessed his father brutally abuse his mother which ultimately led to his parent's divorce. Also, throughout his childhood, Perry ended up in a series of orphanages and Salvation Army homes because of his mother's drinking problem.

Why is Perry the protagonist In Cold Blood? ›

We know that Perry Smith is a murderer, but we also know that he has had a physically malnourished and emotionally traumatic childhood with virtually no education. He values learning and wanted his life to turn out differently. In this respect, Perry can be seen as a protagonist.

What was Perry's nickname In Cold Blood? ›

Answer and Explanation: Perry smith gave himself the nickname of "Lone Wolf," which appealed to his sense of being an unfortunate outcast from society. He is naturally an introvert, and operates better in isolation, like a solitary wolf.

Did Truman Capote have a crush on Perry? ›

Crucially, Capote's relationship with murderer Perry Smith is depicted in all its self-serving strangeness, with the writer first falling in love with his subject and promising to show his human side to the world, then later abandoning him and longing for his execution in order that he may finish his wretched book.

How did Perry change In Cold Blood? ›

Perry's earns the affection of Mrs. Meier, who cooks for him and gives him books to read. Perry almost becomes a member of the Meier family, and he accepts the love and care of Mrs. Meier in a way he could never achieve with his own mother or sister.

Why does Capote create sympathy for Perry? ›

Answer and Explanation: In his novel In Cold Blood, Capote creates sympathy for convicted murderer Perry Smith by portraying him as a sensitive and misunderstood person—someone who only turned to crime because he had led a difficult life.

Why does Perry keep his sisters letter? ›

He finds a letter that his remaining sister Barbara wrote him while he was in jail. It scolds Perry for feeling sorry for himself and for blaming their father and his childhood for his troubles. Perry loathes his sister.

What was the Fridge Perry's first name? ›

William Anthony "The Refrigerator" Perry (born December 16, 1962) is a former American football defensive tackle who played in the National Football League (NFL) for ten seasons, primarily with the Chicago Bears.

Did Perry Mason have a love interest? ›

Yet throughout the run of the original Perry Mason television series (1957 to 1966), and especially in the 82 Mason novels, it's clear that Perry and Della had a unique relationship, filled with mutual admiration and respect, unquestioning loyalty, and yes, love.

Did Perry get into a motorcycle accident? ›

After being discharged, he has a serious motorcycle accident and recuperates in a friend's home. He reunites with this father in Alaska, where they try and fail to open a hunting lodge.

Why does Perry go on a hunger strike Why does he eventually change his mind and end hunger strike? ›

Perry initially goes on a hunger strike in order to take the power out of the hands of the police and court system. He believes that he should kill himself before giving the state of Kansas the right to kill him. However, after finding a postcard from his father addressed to the warden, Perry changes his mind.


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