Comparing Fiction And Reporting In Truman Capote's In Cold Blood

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Journalism and novel writing, like so many other artforms, evolves into variant styles. Combining noveling and reporting, Truman Capote wrote In Cold Blood, a nonfiction novel about a gruesome murder of the Clutter family in a quiet Kansas town. Novels are fictitious and journalism is factual, so their juxtapositions creates an entirely new type of literature, the nonfiction novel. Capote uses fact reporting and storytelling together in a purposeful work that challenges conventional journalism and traditional non-fiction book writing. The mixture of facts with semi-fictionalized tales, and colorful details both establishes the nonfiction novel and challenges traditional journalism. A tension arises between reporting and storytelling. Even …show more content…

Through myriad sources, Capote gathers his intelligence. He talks to Alvin Dewey, Dick, and Perry. He intertwines what he learns to make it appear as if he is with the townspeople, the murderers, and the Clutters at every moment in the story. The level of detail can be intriguing to the reader. Unfortunately, details are where the book verges away from reporting to storytelling. Capote assumes an intent when he writes, “It was as though by keeping this room impersonal, by not importing her intimate belongings but leaving them mingled with those of her husband, she lessened the offense of not sharing his quarters” (29). Capote may have gained information from Clutter friends, but Ms. Clutter is very reticent. Capote had no way of knowing why Ms. Clutter left things in Mr. Clutter’s room. Nothing else in the story rationalizes why Mr. Clutter would be offended by Ms. Clutter sleeping in a separate room. He is not trying to outright make elements up, but he does want to add specificity to the story. Capotes saying, “It was as though…” gives him room to hypothesize (29). Speculation is not common among factual reporting, but it does give Capote room to make things up and make this piece of reportage more interesting like a novel. It is true that they slept in separate rooms. Stating just that would be reporting. It is unknown why she left some of her belongings in Mr. Clutter’s room. The merger of facts and unknown …show more content…

For example, Capote gathers information from talking to one of the investigators, Harold Nye. He tells Capote about a conversation with Perry’s old landlord. Capote prefaces the conversation Nye had with him by writing, “She pursed her lips, hung a cigarette between them, but her eyes stayed on Nye” (177). This kind of detail is story-like and paints a vivid picture of the landlady, but it seems too far fetched for Capote to know it happened this way. It is unlikely that Nye wrote down in his journal that the landlady stares at him while smoking a cigarette, and even if he did write that down, it probably is not with the same details Capote wrote it with. This precise detail is at the expense of the journalistic integrity of the book; however, the nonfiction novel is all about making it seem like the author is with the characters at all times. The landlady’s details push a simple conversation between her and the detective from typical reporting to an engaging

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