"In Cold Blood" is a novel and literary experiment by Truman Capote that explores major themes, such as the American Dream and how easily it can shatter. Capote wrote journalistic nonfiction in a novel form by compiling interviews, police records and 8,000 pages of research.
"In Cold Blood" tells the true story of the murder of the Clutter family by Perry Smith and Dick Hickock. Capote uses information he discovered to give readers a personal connection to the Clutters and the killers. For example, in the book's first section, entitled "The Last to See Them Alive," Capote juxtaposes scenes of the Clutter family living everyday life with scenes of the killers preparing for murder. The image of Nancy Clutter baking a pie followed by descriptions of the killer's tattoos creates an image that impacts the reader, illustrating the massive difference between the two worlds that are soon to collide.
A major theme in the book is the American Dream. The Clutter family is an average family living an idyllic suburban life. They seem to be doing everything right, according to the dream; despite this, their world comes crashing down due to seemingly arbitrary circumstances. In this way, Capote shows that even the "perfect" family is not immune to tragedy and disaster.