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Morality or Murder in In Cold

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Morality or Murder in In Cold

Parents directly influence a child's morals and values through emulation of parental conduct (Lickona 21). The moral guidance we offer to them is added up and imitated by what they see (Coles 7). I believe that morality is the result of a triad of developmental qualities. Our emotional development makes us feel guilty when we do wrong. We experience social development that results in specific actions toward others and, finally, we gain cognitive development that permits us to empathize. Our morality comes to the forefront early in childhood. In elementary school, "a child becomes an intensely moral creature" (Coles 98).

We develop a moral imagination, a capacity to reflect upon what is right and wrong with all the emotional and intellectual resources of the human mind (Coles 3). This is where we decide what we ought to do or not to do and why (Coles 7). Our moral thinking is also shaped by influences outside the home, by class and race, by social events, by cultural forces, and the assumptions that are fostered as a result of these influences (Coles 3). And we cultivate a moral intelligence from our imagination and our thinking. Our moral intelligence is a consequence of learning to be with others (Coles 5). Children will absorb what they observe (Coles 7). Morality is not a subject; it is a life put to the test in hundreds of moments. August Aicchorn, a noted psychoanalyst, believed "waywardness of 'antisocial adolescents' is in direct proportion to the peculiarities of their moral education" (Coles 32).

I feel we should remember, however, that although we possess these developmental qualities through emotional, social and cognitive development, there is no guarantee that we will become a wise, contributing member of society. I think that professed but insincere values are worthless. We must be honest with ourselves, recognizing the difference between pretended, verbalized values and operational, acted upon values. Of course, no one lives up to all of their ideals, we are simply not capable of perfection. Values that only make us look or feel good do not help us act more morally. This is self-serving hypocrisy.

In the book, Capote makes you almost sympathetic to Dick and Perry by making you privy to the thoughts behind their actions. He brings the realization that they, too, are human and some circumstance(s) in their lives has reshaped them into these monsters capable of this crime. We begin to wonder why Dick and Perry choose the Clutters, we wonder why they murdered them, instead of simply robbing them. We feel for them because of their physical defects which Capote details both literally and figuratively in his writing.

Although Perry was portrayed as an "amateur psychoanalyst" (Capote 302), he is viewed as introspective. He did not seem willing to face his imperfections openly. Even viewing his bodily imperfections was performed within small closed places (like a cheap hotel room and a men's room at the gas station). He did not like even his close friend Dick to discuss his disability with him. He frequently swallowed aspirin, more out of habit than out of need (Capote 53-55), as though the aspirin would cure that which ailed him internally. We can deduce that his twisted, mangled legs represented a part of his inner psyche that also was twisted and mangled. Although premeditated, he, when paired with Dick, could have murdered anyone.

Perry needed Dick because he was the planner, the con artist that could defy circumstances, but Perry actually slashed Herb Clutter's throat and shot all four of the family members in their heads. He resented the "all American family", the morality that they represented. The rage of his inability to measure up to this level, to achieve this type of morality is what permitted him to kill.


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