Study Guide

In Cold Blood Visions of Rural America

By Truman Capote

Visions of Rural America

When Truman Capote left for Kansas, his original plan was to write about the effect on a small, rural town of a brutal killing. It was only when he got there that the murderers were caught—major stroke of luck for him—and so In Cold Blood also became a psychological portrait of the killers. So we get an incredibly detailed look at rural small-town life in the 1950s. In 1959, Capote was living the high life in New York City. But he spent a lot of his childhood in rural Alabama, so he knew something about the kind of town that would occupy the next six years of his life. Holcomb was the quintessential town of the heartland of America, sitting smack in the middle of the country on the Great Plains. One writer pointed out that the family farms that dominated the towns like Holcomb no longer exist: "It is the last sad irony of Herb Clutter that just a few years after his own violent death, his way of life died too." (source.)

Questions About Visions of Rural America

  1. What details does the author use to convey his views of Holcomb and Garden City? Why does Capote focus so much on the religious beliefs of the townspeople?
  2. Do you buy the picture the author paints of this small town?
  3. Is this one of those "there's something sinister going on in Paradise" stories?

Chew on This

Life in Holcomb means lifelong friendships, security, and contentment. Everyone looks out for everyone else. Let's move there.

Life in Holcomb is isolating, limiting, boring, and lacking culture or fun. We're moving to Topeka.