Perry Smith

Characterization Task


An ex-convict, Perry Smith is one of the murderers in In Cold Blood. His developing character joins Dick on his way to Mexico in hopes of reuniting with another ex-convict, Willie Jay. On the way to Mexico is when Perry and Dick decided to commit the murders of the Clutter family. Perry is described as having a strong upper body, but because of a motorcycle accident, he has weak, mangled legs. His dark past claims to have murdered people, but it is unclear if that is true or not.

Rhetorical Effect

Since Perry is one of the main characters of In Cold Blood, it should be an important objective to try and understand his character. To tie in with his violent tendencies, his appearance is important because it shows that he can commit the crime, but it might be hard for him to get away because of his legs. As his character develops the audience also learns of Perry’s love for music. Every person has their muse and music is Perry’s. Through playing the guitar and humming a few tunes, Perry’s calm moods show the audience that just because he’s a murderer, doesn’t mean that he’s necessarily that crazy. Capote put these characterizations in this non-fiction novel so that the reader can kind of connect to Perry. Perry’s purpose, based on how he’s portrayed, is to show the audience that yes, everyone has a dark side-some more dark than others-or some sort of flaws about them, but those flaws don’t takeover every part of who they are. In addition to Perry’s love for music, he also has a love for Willie-Jay. At this point, it is unknown if this kind of love is more than a friend, but there have been hints to homosexuality. This shows that Perry probably didn’t wish to touch the women of the Clutter family, he just wanted to murder them.


Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood. New York: Vintage International, 1965. Print. N.p., 2016. Web. 5 Mar. 2016. N.p., 2016. Web. 5 Mar. 2016. N.p., 2016. Web. 4 Mar. 2016. N.p., 2016. Web. 5 Mar. 2016.