Questionable Motives Explored in in Cold Blood and Frankenstein Essay
The two texts that are to be studied are Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley and In Cold Blood with the author Truman Capote. The dates these texts are published are very contrasting themselves with the most recent novel being In Cold blood; it was issued in 1966. The other book being a literature classic was published in 1818. In Cold Blood is a non-fiction novel being a true account detailing a brutal multiple murder of the Clutter family from Holcomb and the consequences following that crime.
The book follows the victims before their deaths and the police force that were searching for the murderers but mostly, Truman Capote concentrates on the psychological relationship between the two parolees that together committed the most atrocious and spotaneous act ever seen in that State of America. Although, the novel is hardly a factual document as it is obviously a reconstruction, therefore containing some fictional aspects to create the shock and empathy that was needed for the book to become a national bestseller for Capote.
Frankenstein on the other hand, is a scientific thriller fiction novel written a lot earlier, which describes the journey that comes from a creature being brought to life in an illegal scientific experiment carried out by Victor Frankenstein. The creation is then abandoned by his maker and the plot then becomes a game of cat and mouse between the wounded and vengeful monster and the frightened, remorseful scientist. The creature is devastated by a world that turns it’s back on him and he becomes angry at Victor and begins to try and ruin his life in revenge by killing all of his close family and friends.
They both travel to the Artic where they meet their deaths. The theme for this essay is ‘questionable motives’. The definition of questionable motives is a person’s reasons for doing something appearing to be genuine and honest whereas they may hold a more sinister internal reasoning or vice versa. These play a large part in both novels but more substantially in In Cold Blood where the murders appear to be committed without reason. The two extracts I have chosen to focus on from these novels contain many quotes that harbour questionable motives.
For example, in In Cold Blood, I chose a passage which contains Perry recounting his murder of the family and the way he saw it. I thought that this extract would relate to questionable motives mainly because Perry had a lot of bad feelings about the murder which were highlighted in the passage. In Frankenstein, the extract I chose was the meeting of the Creature and the old french grandfather whose family the monster had been observing for a matter of weeks.
I chose this extract because it showed the monsters amiable side but then in the next paragraph, the monsters declining esteem and respect for the human race is portrayed as he is banished from the families home. Motives for him going to the family for aid and for them quickly expelling him from their home can be explored. The genre’s of the two novels are much alike, each appertaining to the horror theme. In Cold Blood, however is a non fiction crime novel whereas Frankenstein is more science fiction.
The genre conventions for these two types of text are fairly similar and considering they’re both ‘horror’ texts, the way the horror is implied – through a lot of detail and imagery – makes the reader become more involved with the text and more likely to understand these ‘questionable motives’ from the character’s point of view. The normal aspects of the gothic genre include gloomy settings and wild landscapes which are frequently illustrated in Frankenstein.
The structure of both texts is also relative to the horror theme, with the two novels containing snappy short chapters (in In Cold Blood these chapters are exchanged for short snappy paragraphs) switching from one character’s viewpoint to anothers each time, giving a tense and suspense filled atmosphere which is also common in thrillers. The language styles differ as both novels were published during different periods. During this time period, the style of language had changed a substantial amount.
Mary Shelley’s use of language in Frankenstein, for example, reflects her time, archaic. Reading the novel today, the dated lexis causes the reader to research and use their imagination more to appreciate the horror fully. Also, the novel was written at an early stage of the Industrial Revolution, a period of intense scientific and technological advance where all this was seemed to be capable quite near in the future, which made the book seem ever more real and likely to happen. Now, the audiences of the two texts could not be more different.
With “In Cold Blood”, the killers are known from the beginning. This wouldn’t attract mystery novel devotees or horror fans because they already know exactly what happens at the start, therefore the novel would only really hold attraction for people who are more interested in the style of writing rather than the content. This is plausible as Capote believed he was starting a new style of writing in “nonfiction”. Therefore, many people who follow such trends in writing could have been the predominant audience.
Whereas, in Frankenstein the main target audience would most likely have been women as “Gothic Novels” at the time were considered to be of low literary quality and be emotionally centered which would make the book appeal to females more. Both novels are mainly written in third person with switches in Frankenstein to and from the first person in the form of letters written to and from the characters. The extract that I have decided to study for In Cold Blood deals with many questionable motives concerning Perry Smith’s obvious worry for what he has committed. This part of the novel is where Mr.
Smith is giving an account of the happenings at the Clutter household to the detective Dewey in an interview. At the beginning of the selected text, he speaks about how he told Dick to “leave them alive” because it would be “ten years the very least” if they got caught. This shows his obvious regret in agreeing to help Dick with the crime but also how he was worried about the actual slaughter of the family; it is blatant he was upset about having to end a person’s life. This is confirmed later on by Perry talking about how he didn’t mean it and “meant to call Dick’s bluff”.
On the other hand, Perry could have been “bluffing” the detective all along and trying to place the blame more towards Dick, his hated partner in crime. His motives for killing the family were quite measly in my opinion as it seemed that he just wanted to prove to Dick that he was a better man. However, given the chance to leave the scene whilst Dick panicked before killing Mr. Clutter later, Perry turned it down, suggesting that he had some ulterior motive to the killing. “Dick wanted to get the hell out of there.
But I wouldnt let him go. Now, Smith seems to be worried about Mr. Clutter’s pain and wants it to be over for him as he says “I couldn’t leave him like he was”. This shows Perry’s sympathetic and understanding side as he himself was left disabled from something that was not his fault either, this probably furthered the motive to “finish off” Clutter. The way this part of the text is written really adds to the tension with short simple sentances so a clear picture is presented; “Then I aimed the gun. The Room just exploded. Went blue. Just blazed up.
This is probably because this part of the text is practically a transcript, being a long piece of speech from Perry. People tend to talk in these short snappy sentences rather than long elonquated ones but I think that employing almost a transcript effect for the whole chapter adds to the horror. After this description of the first death by Perry, the narrative switches to Dewey the detective as he pictures what the rest of the deaths would have been like for the victims. This part uses a lot more descriptive language as it tries to paint the picture in more detail as a detective would have done.
The whole extract is littered with very simplistic lexis combined with an unadorned syntax and informal register is employed as the conversation happening between the two men, the detective and the murderer, is quite casual. This aids the understanding of the emotions as the reader can relate with the simplistic terms and this in turn helps with the understanding of the questionable motives. The last few sentences of the In Cold Blood extract include how Perry thought about killing his ally, Dick on the way home from the crime scene. “That’s when I decided I’d better shoot Dick…
No witnesses… I don’t know what stopped me”. The motive for Perry thinking about this act could not at all be as he says, to “leave no witnesses” but I believe a much more sinister motive is employed as all along Smith has spoken of his jealousy and seemed hatred for Dick Hickock and the “no witnesses” quote that Dick had “drummed into him” could just be a cover up for how he really felt towards his accomplice and pushed him to think about commiting that specific act. Frankenstein is a book that is riddled with questionable motives.
The whole book, in fact, is a questionable motive. For example, why did Victor Frankenstein create the monster? For his own fame and fortune or because he genuinely wanted to create a being which would extend the whole of science’s capabilities mixed with his driving force to help mankind conquer death and diseases? But the extract I have chosen accomodates only a few of these questionable motives.
The extract’s plot is where the monster had been viewing a french family for a matter of weeks and finally plucks up the ourage to ask for aid from the elder blind frenchman when he was alone. Hoping the blind man would “see past” his hideous looks and listen to his plea, the monster approached the home, to be met with welcome from the elderly gentleman, however, after giving his plea, the rest of the family return home to find the monster next to their father and expel him from their home not before striking him violently with a stick.
The questionable motive I will be exploring is why did the monster not destroy the family or the cottage at that instant like he was able to? But my heart sunk within me as with bitter sickness and I refrained”. His motives for letting the family banish him are not very clear although in the next paragraph the monster begins to curse his creator “Why did I live? Why, in the instant, did I not extinguish the spark of existance which you had so wantonly bestowed? “. This leads me to the conclusion that the monster was keeping the family alive as they were the closest thing he had to a family and he had somehow become attached to them whilst watching them for a few months.
Even though his feelings were “those of fear and revenge”, he still did not quit his retreat and set fire to the cottage as he threatened to do and “glut” himself “with their shrieks and misery”. However, this could be contrasted with the thought that the monster might just be saving their murder for a more appropriate time (he does burn down the cottage later in the novel) and all along he may have just had a sinister motive for leaving them be.
On the other hand, the monster’s motives for not murdering the family could be likened to Perry’s in In Cold Blood as he simply did not want to kill somebody who he had learnt so much about in such a short amount of time. Both of the characters knew a lot about their “victims” and this could have established a sort of bond between them and their family they were learning about that they did not want to affect. This is natural in all humans as they feel closer to them because of this.
Altogether, it appeared both characters, Perry and Frankenstein’ monster, in their novels seemed to have ulterior harmful and ill intentioned motives whereas, when one looks deeper into the texts, their motives no longer seem vicious and selfish but in some ways they meant well. The authorial intention was to make the readers believe that the characters were bad people but also to make them sympathise with them and seemingly understand why they did what they did.