The notion of Christianity as a force of redemption and salvation is explored in numerous ways throughout the book. It’s emphasized from the beginning that Garden City is a strongly religious (and specifically Christian) town. The Clutters are a Methodist family, and their Methodist frugality and temperance seem to be tied in with their apparent achievement of the American Dream.
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. Since childhood, Perry has been subject to visions of a golden parrot – a huge, cross-shaped bird that descends upon him in times of crisis. Perry is convinced that this vision (which is most likely a symptom of paranoid schizophrenia) is divine – an avenging angel, or possibly even Jesus. Perry forms an unlikely friendship with the prison chaplain’s clerk, Willie-Jay – a relationship that becomes very influential in his life.
Christians and Christian principles surface throughout the book as possible antidotes to killing and violence – the death penalty is opposed by a number of Christians (including Herb’s brother), and Christianity is often presented (especially by Willie-Jay) as a possible means for turning Dick and Perry from a life of crime. Christianity isn’t always presented in a positive light, however. Bonnie, for example, descends further into guilt and depression after briefly leaving her husband to live a new life in a different city; she “had liked it too well, so much that it seemed to her unchristian….”
Christianity Quotes in In Cold Blood
It was after one of these beatings, one [Perry] could never forget…that the parrot appeared, arrived while he slept, a bird “taller than Jesus, yellow like a sunflower,” a warrior-angel who blinded the nuns with its beak, fed upon their eyes, slaughtered them as they “pleaded for mercy,” then so gently lifted him, enfolded him, winged him away to “paradise.”