Summer Book Club: The Answers are Revealed!

So I’ve fallen a bit off the book club bandwagon. My summer classes converged, I have a million things to read to prep for student teaching, and–as always–blogging took a backseat. It didn’t help that I have YET to see anything from my co-blogger about section 3 (cough, cough). I was planning on just posting on the last 2 sections together, since I finished them in quick succession, but seeing as Steve still hasn’t finished section 4, I can hardly ruin it for him. Like Steve’s last post, I have a splattering of comments about Section 3: Answer. I apologize for a lack of cohesion. Be forewarned, if you haven’t read SECTION 3 yet, there are SPOILERS below!

Way to go, Floyd.  As I mentioned in my last post, I was really struggling to see how Perry and Dick knew the Clutters. As we saw in section 2, Dewey was convinced they had known each other, even going so far as to say they knew each other very well. From the first pages of section 3, we see that he was only mildly correct — the knowledge was one-sided. Dick knew the Clutters, or of them anyway. Good old Floyd Wells, companion in the Pen, filled Dick in on the loaded Clutter family and from that point on, their fate was set. It was a mildly disappointing answer to the mystery, if you ask me. I wanted Dewey to be right. I wanted it to be about more than a good score. I wanted Dick and/or Perry to have some deep-seated revenge plot or something. But, no. Taking lives for a couple of bucks (or even for the 10 thousand bucks they thought was there) is something I’ll just never understand. I guess I’m not supposed to understand it though. I also suppose I can’t fault the book or the author for the facts of the case. At least Capote gave it to us up front.

The Boy and the Old Man: I was fascinated by Capote’s inclusion of the short episode of the boy and the old man hitchhikers that Perry and Dick pick up. My first question was, Why on Earth, Mr. Capote? What do these goofy characters have to do with anything? Why glide over some of the hitchhikers the guys pick up and choose to focus on these two? After some more consideration, though, I think this episode highlights two things. First of all, we get another example of Dick’s obsession with getting some quick cash. He’s annoyed at Perry’s insistence that they pick the two misfits up, but his attitude does a 180 when he realizes the boy’s proclivity for bottle-snatching. Secondly, the boy’s kindness for his grandfather and maturity makes Dick and Perry’s selfishness and violence all the more apparent. In one corner we have a twelve-year-old who is willing to help his grandfather walk the better part of Texas in the winter, all the while maintaining a positive attitude. And in the other corner we have two middle-aged men who think only of themselves. And that, my friends, is what we call juxtaposition.

Perry’s Confession: This was so great, am I right? I think the single best moment in this entire book happens on pages 232-233 when Perry realizes that Dick has ratted him out:

Dewey, not anticipating any exceptional response, says, “Hickcock tells us you’re a natural-born killer… Says one time out there in Las Vegas you went after a colored man with a bicycle chain. Whipped him to death. For Fun.” To Dewey’s surprise, the prisoner gasps. He twists around in his seat until he can see, through the rear window, the motorcade’s second car, see inside it: “The tough boy!”… “I thought it was a stunt. I didn’t believe you. That Dick let fly. The tough boy! Oh, a real brass boy. Wouldn’t harm the fleas on a dog. Just run over the dog… So Dick was afraid of me? That’s amusing. I’m very amused. What he don’t know is, I almost did shoot him.”

In this moment, I feel like we see the true nature of both Dick and Perry. Dick, always looking out for number one, makes impulsive decisions that are always made to better his own situation, no matter what it does to anyone else. Perry, on the other hand, seems to value loyalty above all else, even above his own fate. He proceeds to tell Dewey exactly what happened that night at the Clutters’, sparing no detail. He doesn’t care that he incriminates himself. Part of this, I think, comes from — and I hate to admit Steve was right — his unfailing arrogance. While he’s been loyal to Dick and followed most every instruction Dick gave him, he still believes he’s better than Dick, and wants Dewey to know it.

So, what did you think, readers? Were all your burning questions answered in this section? Mine were. Which left me wondering, what could possibly be left for Section 4: The Corner…

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