In Cold Blood

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Two Gray Cats Symbol Icon
During his stint in the Garden City county jail, Perry Smith notices two gray cats prowling around the town square. The cats come out every night and pick dead birds from the grilles of automobiles. Perry realizes that his life is a lot like theirs, given that he lives on the outskirts of society and picks at whatever scraps he can find. The two cats could be seen as being analogous to Dick Hickok and Perry.

Two Gray Cats Quotes in In Cold Blood

The In Cold Blood quotes below all refer to the symbol of Two Gray Cats. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Dreams Failed, Dreams Achieved Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of In Cold Blood published in 1994.
Part 4 Quotes

The cats, for example: the two thin gray toms who appeared with every twilight and prowled the Square, stopping to examine the cars parked around its periphery – behavior puzzling to [Perry] until Mrs. Meier explained that the cats were hunting for dead birds caught in the vehicles’ engine grilles. Thereafter it pained him to watch their maneuvers: “Because most of my life I’ve done what they’re doing. The equivalent.”

Related Characters: Perry Edward Smith, Josephine Meier
Related Symbols: Two Gray Cats
Page Number: 264
Explanation and Analysis:

The two gray tomcats are obvious symbols of Dick and Perry themselves. From his cell, Perry watches them and at first feels perplexed by their behavior. This harkens back to Capote's concern with normality and abnormality, as Perry clearly finds the cats' behavior to be abnormal—until Mrs. Meier explains that they're hunting for dead birds in car grilles. At this point Perry seems heartbroken by watching them, because he sees himself in the cats: surviving by foraging for what's cast off by the world, living on the margins of society, and benefiting from violence and death. In comparing his own behavioral patterns to the behavior of the cats, Perry seems to embrace the same fatalism that led him to conclude that his behavior was largely outside of his control. He is pitying himself here by comparing himself to animals who are not taken care of and have little hope for a better life. 


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Two Gray Cats Symbol Timeline in In Cold Blood

The timeline below shows where the symbol Two Gray Cats appears in In Cold Blood. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 3: Answer
Dreams Failed, Dreams Achieved Theme Icon
Normal vs. Abnormal Theme Icon
Two gray tomcats wander the streets of Garden City, picking dead birds from the grilles of automobiles. Nearby,... (full context)
Part 4: The Corner
Dreams Failed, Dreams Achieved Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
Normal vs. Abnormal Theme Icon
Perry watches the two gray cats from his window and realizes that his life has been a lot like theirs. He... (full context)