Study Guide

In Cold Blood Criminality

By Truman Capote


If there's one central question in In Cold Blood, it's "Why did they do it?" Here's why: Brain damage. Or is it mental illness? Maybe it's childhood abuse, unemployment, abandonment, parents that were too strict, parents that weren't strict enough; maybe it's envy, revenge, lack of educational opportunities, peer pressure, drinking, rejection of God, thrill-seeking, genetics, disgust with the world in general. With all those possibilities, it's a miracle that any of us manage to stay out of prison.

Questions About Criminality

  1. Is there ever a situation where a person's life is so bad that they can't be held responsible for their crimes?
  2. In your opinion, who was the most cold-blooded killer on death row?
  3. What aspects of Holcomb's community might be seen as a deterrent to serious crime?
  4. Do you think Dick Hickock was capable of pulling the trigger?

Chew on This

No matter how bad things are, people still have a choice about whether or not to commit a crime.

Society creates criminals by making people desire things like expensive shoes or cars when it's impossible for some people to ever be able to have them.