In Cold Blood

Themes and Colors
Dreams Failed, Dreams Achieved Theme Icon
Christianity Theme Icon
Evil Theme Icon
Normal vs. Abnormal Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in In Cold Blood, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Christianity Theme Icon

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….”

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Christianity ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Christianity appears in each chapter of In Cold Blood. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Christianity Quotes in In Cold Blood

Below you will find the important quotes in In Cold Blood related to the theme of Christianity.
Part 2 Quotes

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.”

Related Characters: Perry Edward Smith
Related Symbols: The Golden Parrot
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

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