In Cold Blood


Truman Capote

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Innocence vs. Experience Theme Analysis

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.
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon

Prior to the massacre of the Clutter family, Holcomb, Kansas (a small town adjacent to the county seat of Garden City) is portrayed as a kind of Eden before the fall – a quiet, innocent town where nothing of note happens. (Of course, it’s later revealed in the book that the region had its share of horrifying crimes long before the Clutters were murdered, but it’s a time that’s only remembered by the town’s elderly citizens.) Following the murder of the Clutters, the town becomes a hotbed for suspicion and fear – Holcomb – and, by extension, Garden City - has become a place where terrible things can happen.

Each character in the story goes through a fall from innocence. In Perry, for example, this is dealt with through a discussion of nature vs. nurture – how much of his murderous nature is natural, and how much of it was beaten into him through a lifetime of hard knocks, starvation, and sadness? Perry is ultimately a sympathetic character due to his natural (or seemingly natural) good qualities – he loves music and art, abhors sexual perversion, and loves animals. His fall from grace is essentially thrust upon him, via his abusive, alcoholic parents. This fall from grace is also characterized in his wilted, mangled lower body, which came about as a result of a crime-related motorcycle accident – something that could be seen as a literal fall from grace.

Related Themes from Other Texts
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Innocence vs. Experience ThemeTracker

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

Below you will find the important quotes in In Cold Blood related to the theme of Innocence vs. Experience.
Part 1 Quotes

At the time, not a soul in sleeping Holcomb heard them – four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives.

Related Characters: Perry Edward Smith, Richard Eugene “Dick” Hickok, Herb Clutter, Bonnie Clutter, Nancy Clutter, Kenyon Clutter
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

Always certain of what he wanted from the world, Mr. Clutter had in large measure obtained it…[H]e wore a plain gold band, which was the symbol…of his marriage to the person he had wished to marry…She had given him four children – a trio of daughters and a son.

Related Characters: Herb Clutter, Bonnie Clutter, Nancy Clutter, Kenyon Clutter, Eveanna (Clutter) Jarchow, Beverly (Clutter) English
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Nancy’s door was open. The curtains hadn’t been drawn, and the room was full of sunlight. I don’t remember screaming…I only remember Nancy’s Teddy bear staring at me. And Nancy. And running…

Related Characters: Susan Kidwell (speaker), Nancy Clutter
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

"I’m scared, Myrt."
"Of what? When your time comes, it comes. And tears won’t save you."

Related Characters: Mrs. Myrt Clare (speaker)
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis: