In Cold Blood


Truman Capote

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Normal vs. Abnormal 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.
Normal vs. Abnormal Theme Icon

Dick constantly asserts that he’s “a normal,” even though he has deeply abnormal physical features (his face is crooked thanks to a car accident) and even though he’s capable of committing various crimes – up to and including murder. The question of what’s considered normal and abnormal is repeated throughout the book.

For example, what is a normal marriage/family? In spite of being the perfect couple, Herb and Bonnie have a troubled marriage. Dick and Perry, on the other hand, could be said to have a happy marriage – they even go on a veritable honeymoon in Mexico after murdering the Clutters. The book also questions what a normal person might look like. Herb, the proverbial everyman, is of average build and has fine, even features. On the other hand Perry, albeit handsome, is often referred to as having feminine facial features, and has stunted and warped legs thanks to a motorcycle accident. In Cold Blood also questions the notion of normal mental health. Bonnie, in spite of having a supposedly perfect life, suffers from bouts of “nervousness” that often result in her hospitalization. By the end of the book, Perry is pronounced mentally ill; Dick, in contrast, is pronounced sane, in spite of his inhumane actions.

The book also grapples with sexual norms. What is normal sexuality? What kind of person possesses normal sexuality? And what is normal masculinity? Perry – sexually inexperienced, never married - is staunchly against “pervertiness” – homosexuality, pedophilia, and rape. Conversely, Dick– married twice, father of three children, and the epitome of what Perry considers masculine - is a pedophile and a rapist. On a metatextual level, one could also argue that the close relationship between Dick, Perry, and the book’s author, Truman Capote (who was openly homosexual throughout his life), further complicates these questions of sexual norms.

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Normal vs. Abnormal ThemeTracker

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

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

Little things really belong to you…They don’t have to be left behind. You can carry them in a shoebox.

Related Characters: Bonnie Clutter (speaker)
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:
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:

Nancy wore her dress of cherry-red velvet, her brother a bright plaid shirt; the parents were more sedately attired, Mr. Clutter in navy-blue flannel, his wife in navy-blue crepe; and – and it was this, especially, that lent the scene an awful aura – the head of each was completely encased in cotton, a swollen cocoon twice the size of an ordinary blown-up balloon, and the cotton, because it had been sprayed with a glossy substance, twinkled like Christmas-tree snow.

Related Characters: Herb Clutter, Bonnie Clutter, Nancy Clutter, Kenyon Clutter
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

Now, what kind of person would do that – tie up two women…and then draw up the bedcovers, tuck them in, like sweet dreams and good night?

Related Characters: Alvin Dewey (speaker), Perry Edward Smith, Richard Eugene “Dick” Hickok
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

Deal me out, baby. I’m a normal.

Related Characters: Richard Eugene “Dick” Hickok (speaker), Perry Edward Smith
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3 Quotes

But I’m afraid of [Perry]. I always have been. He can seem so warmhearted and sympathetic. Gentle. He cries so easily…. Oh, he can fool you. He can make you feel so sorry for him –

Related Characters: Barbara (Smith) Johnson (speaker), Perry Edward Smith
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

Dick was sick of [Perry] – his harmonica, his aches and ills, his superstitions, the weepy, womanly eyes, the nagging, whispering voice. Suspicious, self-righteous, spiteful, he was like a wife that must be got rid of.

Related Characters: Perry Edward Smith, Richard Eugene “Dick” Hickok
Page Number: 214
Explanation and Analysis:

Nonetheless, [Alvin] found it possible to look at the man beside him without anger…for Perry Smith’s life had been no bed of roses but pitiful, an ugly and lonely progress toward one mirage and then another.

Related Characters: Perry Edward Smith, Alvin Dewey
Page Number: 246
Explanation and Analysis: