In Cold Blood

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The story of a shocking murder case where a family was killed by 2 psychotic young men.
Curriculet Details
90 Questions
92 Annotations
4 Quizzes

Written for students in grades eleven and twelve, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining legal terms, historical context, and regional history. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about flashbacks and parallel plots. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of crime and punishment, family relations, and justice. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension and vocabulary.

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Part One: The Last to See Them Alive

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The author uses poetic language throughout this book. The highlighted sentence contains  
Here is a map of Kansas; Holcomb is too small to be included, although you can estimate where it is by other markers given.  (This annotation contains an image)
Truman Capote is best known for being the author of In Cold Blood, one of the bestselling true crime novels of all time, and Breakfast at Tiffany's, which was made into an iconic movie starring Audrey Hepburn. While working on this novel, Capote moved to Holcomb for a time with his childhood friend Harper Lee, the author of the classic To Kill a Mockingbird. (This annotation contains an image)
Truman Capote, the author of this book, is a master of imagery. This video will help you focus your lens on this.  (This annotation contains a video)
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What early details about William Clutter help build sympathy for him? 
See the pictures of the Clutter family below.  (This annotation contains an image)
Mr. Clutter's views on teenage intimacy are fairly typical for his time. 
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What does the word "sedate" mean in the highlighted sentence? 
This photo of a field in western Kansas gives us an idea of the terrain.  (This annotation contains an image)
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What do the various anecdotes in this part of the book tell us about Mr. Clutter's character as well as how others think of him? Jot down a few examples. 
Now the author begins to weave in the story of the murderers. This video clip will help you appreciate the use of parallel plots which are developing.  (This annotation contains a video)
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How does Perry compare physically to Mr. Clutter? 
Still active today, 4-H programs have been especially popular in rural areas. 
Heathcliff refers to a character in Emily the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.  
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What have we learned about Nancy so far? 
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How does the author build tension with this paragraph? 
Here is a photograph of the Kansas State Penitentiary.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Why does Jolene wish for her mother to come? 
Religious beliefs and practices play a large role in the lives of many of the people we meet in this book. What do you think about this? 
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How does this anecdote of the encounter between Mrs. Kidwell and Mrs. Clutter contribute to our understanding of the latter? 
The highlighted quotation is from the Christian Bible, Mark 13:33. What do you think it means? 
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Why does the author include so much detail about the small town of Garden City? 
The area is orange in the map below is considered to be the "Bible Belt."  (This annotation contains an image)
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Which kind of irony do Mrs. Ashida's remarks exemplify? 
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Is it important that each of the Clutters is a likeable character? Why or why not? 
By following the link below, you can access different coyote sounds. How do you think these sounds contribute to the foreboding mood Capote is building?  (This annotation contains a link)
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In this context, the word "unorthodox" means 
The flashbacks of Perry's interactions with Willie-Jay tell us as much about Perry as they do about Willie-Jay. Watch this video to review flashbacks in general.  (This annotation contains a video)
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What do we learn about Perry's feelings for Willie-Jay in the highlighted passage? 
We usually think of freedom as something positive, but for Perry, freedom has negative repercussions. 
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Do you anticipate that after Mr. Clutter's death, some people will be suspicious of the timing of this insurance policy? 
Here you can listen to Mahalia Jackson singing this hymn.  (This annotation contains a video)
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Bobby's perception of Kenyon 
Did you notice how the author contrasts the image of the bountiful, pre-celebratory meal with the "two thick rolls of adhesive tape"? 
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How does this paragraph help us understand some of the underlying tensions between Dick and Perry? 
Can we infer that Perry has not told Dick about his pain, and if not, why not? 
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What does "sugar the pill" mean? 
It is interesting to note the different ways that people respond to the murders. In your opinion, what factors contribute to these differences? 
The Clutter house and farm became famous after the crime. It still standing and occupied today. It was used in the filming of the 1967 movie about the murders and is said to be haunted by the ghost of Nancy.  (This annotation contains an image)
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In what order were the bodies found? 
Torture, as opposed to "just" murder, suggests a more personal crime. 
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What makes Mrs. Clare a colorful figure? How does she compare to the other minor characters we have met so far? 
Kansas was, and still is, home to many different Native American tribes. Mrs. Clare's use of the pejorative word "redskins" reflects a deep-seated racism against Native people. 
"Groaning board" refers to a buffet table. 
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Why is Bobby the main suspect at this point? 
In Cold Blood - Quiz 1 
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What do you think about Perry and Dick going their separate ways at this point? Why do you think they are not together, and what does this suggest about their relationship? 

Part Two: Persons Unknown

As you delve into Part Two, consider the pacing of this, and subsequent parts of the book. The video referenced below provides a refresher on this technique.  (This annotation contains a video)
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What do we learn from this paragraph? 
Dewey plays an important role in this tale. Watch the video and consider if he is a static or a dynamic character.  (This annotation contains a video)
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For which office does Al Dewey work? 
How do the Clutters' reputations contribute to the pursuit of justice in this story? 
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What does the phrase "full of whiskey courage" mean? 
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This paragraph is replete with literary devices. Make a list of at least three, and jot down some ideas of how they contribute to the narrative. 
It is worth noting how differently each of the murderers relates to news of his crime. As we learn more about them, evaluate whether or not this is reflective of other differences. 
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Dick's quick mood changes 
Perry's dream gives us much to think about; what do you think the different parts might represent?  (This annotation contains an image)
It has been rumored that during the research and writing of In Cold Blood, Capote, a gay man, fell in love with Perry Smith. The exact nature of their relationship is unknown, although the two spent much time together while Perry was in jail and a friendship undoubtably formed. Some critics have claimed that because of this, Captote wrote Perry far too sympathetically. Look for evidence of this bias as you read.  (This annotation contains an image)
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What do you think of Susan's long narrative? How does it help us understand Nancy better? 
Below is a photograph of the church service.  (This annotation contains an image)
Here is another example of a racial epithet. How does this language make you feel? What does it say about the time period in which this was written?  
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What does the highlighted text suggest about Dick and Perry? 
One of the strengths of Capote's writing is his ability to weave in so many examples of regional expressions. Below is a map of the different "Englishes" spoken in the U.S.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Given what we know so far about Dick and Perry, do you agree or disagree with Dewey's thoughts about their probable intentions to "make Mr. Clutter more comfortable"? 
Why do you think the author includes so much information about Dewey's home life? 
While the online archive does not go back to 1959, you can see how the paper looks today on the Internet.  (This annotation contains a link)
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What can we surmise about the binoculars? 
Consider the author's timing as he shares this part of Perry's background. Do the stories of his family members give us clues about Perry himself? 
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Whose point of view is represented in this passage? 
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The author uses _______________ to describe Mrs. Warren-Browne. 
The next few pages are populated with minor characters. Think about their role in the narrative. 
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What does countenance mean in this context? 
Perry's fish was probably not this big, but here is a photo of a man with his catch. Why do you think this was so important to Perry?  (This annotation contains an image)
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How does the discovery of the contents inside the car build tension in the narrative? 
Perry is a man with many superstitions. Do you believe that his newest one is what keeps him with Dick, or are there other reasons? 
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As you read this letter from Perry's father, think about how the information included, albeit from the dad's perspective, helps you understand Perry better. 
The author uses a particularly rich, extended metaphor here. This video provides a helpful refresher on similes and metaphors.  (This annotation contains a video)
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Perry claims his father was ignorant of many of Perry's talents. Which talents have we seen evidence of so far? 
Do you imagine their lodge would look like the one pictured below?  (This annotation contains an image)
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The highlighted text suggests that Perry sees himself as  
As you read the letter from Barbara, evaluate her opinions of Perry and her advice to him. 
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Compare and contrast Perry's feelings about his sister's letter with the response to it written by Willie-Jay. Do you believe Perry's sister really understands him? 
Images of the letters are seen here.  (This annotation contains an image)
This is the cover of the referenced magazine.  (This annotation contains a link)
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Why does Perry value the quotation by Chief Crowfoot more than the others? 
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What is the purpose of bringing up all of these past murders? Does it shed any light on the Clutter murder? On any of the characters? 
Part of the Muscogee Nation, the Creeks are based in the state of Oklahoma. 
In Cold Blood - Quiz 2 
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What do you think about this celebratory closing paragraph for Part 2? What might it forecast or reflect? 

Part Three: Answer

Here is a photo of President Eisenhower with Dr. T. Keith Glennan and another administrator.  (This annotation contains an image)
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What do we learn about Mr. Clutter from Floyd Wells? 
Floyd Wells' dilemma (of whether to inform or not) reminds us that most humans are complex, driven by an array of motivations. 
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What frightens Marie Dewey the most when she sees the photographs of Perry and Dick? 
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"Spurious" means 
The views of Dick shared by the farmer's wife provide a stark contrast to those of his father. 
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What do the Hickocks' responses to Nye's questions tell us about their relationship with their son? 
Do you think this explanation by Mrs. Hickock serves as a premonition of her future behavior with the authorities? 
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Why does Perry use the word "miracle" here? 
While it was less developed in 1959 than it is today, Las Vegas has attracted people in search of thrills for many decades.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Why are the contents of Perry's box important? 
Also known as Circle, Circle City is about as remote as one can get in Alaska.  (This annotation contains a link)
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What is the significance of the highlighted lines? 
Weather is a prevalent motif in this book, and here the fog is used to help us understand Mrs. Johnson's mood. Compare this use of fog with Sandburg's poem, available through the link.  (This annotation contains a link)
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Does this rant shed any light on Perry's character? How is it consistent with what we already know? 
It is likely Perry appears in one of these uniforms in the photograph that Mrs. Johnson views.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Why does the topic of the death penalty come up now? 
Does it seem that Dewey approaches the question of the missing radio with more logic than it merits? 
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In this sentence, the word "cavalcade" refers to 
What do you think of Perry's characterization of Dick's voice as a drug? 
As you read the following dialogue, consider how the author uses it to set the mood for the next several pages.  (This annotation contains a video)
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Do you believe that Dewey's character is dynamic or static? Write two reasons to defend your point of view. 
Can you think of other examples of Dick's constant envy of others? 
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An antonym of "pubescent" is 
This personification of grief helps us understand Bobby's feelings. 
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What is the purpose of this flashback? Jot down a few ideas. 
Texas is an enormous state.  (This annotation contains an image)
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This anecdote, about the boy and the old man, 
You can hear a rendition of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" here.  (This annotation contains a video)
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At this point in the narrative, do you find yourself with any sympathy for Dick and/or Perry?  Explain your thinking. 
See if you can appreciate how the author lets us feel the detectives' growing excitement. 
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What does "hanging paper" mean here? 
Once a very popular chain in the South, there are a few Zesto Drive-Ins left today, but they are independently owned.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Which of the following qualities impress Detetcive Nye about Dick? 
By using direct dialogue, Capote is able to heighten the tension for the readers. 
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From a dramatic viewpoint, what role does Duntz play here? 
As you read this interior monologue, think about how Perry's stream of consciousness enables us to better imagine his anxiety. 
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What is the principal way that the detectives build tension with Dick? 
Considering the pace of the narrative, does it feel like seven weeks? Longer? Shorter? 
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Why don't Dick's parents welcome Perry into their home? 
Is Perry's version of the events here as you remember it from earlier in the book? 
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Can you imagine how Perry feels when he realizes that there is no safe? Why didn't the men turn around and leave? 
What do you think of Mr. Clutter's demeanor here? Is it consistent with what we already know about him? 
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"Reconnoitered" means to 
How does this fit with your image of Perry? 
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What role, if any, do Perry's positive feelings about Mr. Clutter play in your understanding of Perry? 
Do you share Dewey's sympathy for Perry? 
In Cold Blood - Quiz 3 
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Which of the book's motifs is present in this closing to Part 3? 

Part Four: The Corner

This setting provides a study in contrasts. It will be interesting to see how the dual purpose of the building plays out in the coming pages. Below is a photo of the Courthouse today.  (This annotation contains an image)
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What part of speech is "gemutlich"? 
Here are two photos of Perry Smith from 1960.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Why does Perry want to change his statement? 
Mr. Hickock believes his son is innocent, even now. What has contributed to this denial? 
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Compare and contrast Perry's family with Dick's family. What do you see as the key differences? 
This is probably what Dick's shiv looked like.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Perry has some mixed impressions of Judge Tate. Which of the following quotes do you think is of utmost importance to Perry's characterization of the Judge?  
The M'Naghten Rule is to determine if a person was sane at the time that a crime was committed. Follow the link below if you would like to learn more.  (This annotation contains a link)
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The three doctors conclude that neither Perry nor Dick suffers from any mental disorder. What does this suggest? 
Decades later, this memorial to the Clutters was erected in Holcomb.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Why was the jury pool all-male? What do you know about the laws governing jury selection in the United States? 
"Voir dire" refers to an oath taken by prospective jurors to tell the truth. The phrase, which comes from French, literally means, "to say what is true." 
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Before you read Dick's statement, can you anticipate how it will differ from Perry's? Make a list, including elements of both style and content, and compare the two statements after finishing Dick's. 
Here is a news photo of Perry with Don Cullivan during a recess.  (This annotation contains an image)
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How do the sharing of the photographs impact the people in the courtroom? 
Do you imagine that this moment in the trial was truly comical, or is the author including it for some comic relief? 
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The word closest in meaning to "vicissitudes" is 
Cullivan, like some others in this story, is deeply motivated by a deep faith in his religion. 
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This is the first time we see Perry with a friend. What do you think it means for him? 
Does this agree with your impression of Dick in his years prior to the accident? 
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Logan Green's tone with Mr. Hickock can be characterized as 
Here is a photograph of the painting by Perry.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Who was not called as a witness as part of Perry's defense? 
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Do you think the author's inclusion of such a lengthy excerpt from the psychiatric journal is effective? What did you learn from it? 
If you are interested in reading the entire article by Dr. Satten and his colleagues, you can purchase it through the website listed below.  (This annotation contains a link)
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Opinions among people in the courtroom during the trial are 
Here is a magazine cover featuring the talented Doc Savage.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Does the description of the train sounds add or subtract from the decisive moment for you? Explain how. 
Here is a clip from the 1967 film made of this book, depicting Perry and Dick's arrival to the Penitentiary.  (This annotation contains a video)
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Which of the following statements is not true? 
Here is a photo of Lowell Lee Andrews.  (This annotation contains an image)
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What do you see as the pros and cons of the M'Naghten Rule? And of the Durham Rule? Make a short list to compare them. 
What do you think of Dick's assertion regarding Perry's fasting? 
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Which event plays an important role in having Perry abandon his hunger strike? 
Why do you think the author has inserted the highlighted text, without sharing what happened during that time period? What effect does it have on the pacing of the narrative? 
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How are Latham and York similar to Perry and Dick? 
How is this remark consistent with what Dick has said all along? Does it reveal anything about him in a new way? 
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Who is Russell Shultz? 
Here is a photo of the gallows where Andrews and the others died.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Which statement is not true about Lowell Lee Andrews? 
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Which of the book's themes does Dick touch on in this paragraph? 
Why do you think the author describes Governor Avery as a "rich farmer"? Is he making a statement about justice and social class in the U.S.? 
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How does this description contribute to the tone? 
Do you believe Perry's apology is sincere? What motivates him to make it at this moment? 
The Clutter gravestone is depicted here.  (This annotation contains an image)
In Cold Blood - Quiz 4 
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How does this ending compare with the beginning of the book? What feelings does it leave you with?