A large part of In Cold Blood includes Capote’s description of the landscape, the town, and the people in it. Since In Cold Blood is non fiction, all the people involved must be described as is but it is the way in which Capote applies details with his characterization that gives a true sense for who the people are.
“The master of River Valley Farm, Herbert William Clutter, was forty eight years old, and as a result of a recent medical examination for an insurance policy, knew himself to be in first rate condition. Though he wore rimless glasses and was of but average height, standing just under five feet ten, Mr Clutter cut a man’s man figure. His shoulders were broad, his hair had held its dark color, his square jawed, confident face retained a healthy hued youthfulness, and his teeth, unstained and strong enough to shatter walnuts, were still intact…”
“Sitting, he had seemed a more than normal sized man, a powerful man, with the shoulders, the arms, the thick, crouching torso of a weight lifter-weight lifting was, in fact, his hobby. But some sections of him were not in proportion to others. His tiny feet, encased in short black boots with steel buckles, would have neatly fitted into a taller than twelve year old child, and suddenly looked, strutting on stunted legs that seemed grotesquely inadequate to the grown up bulk they supported, not like a well built truck driver but like a retired jockey, overblown and muscle bound.”
The image created of Herb Clutter is calming and likeable and of someone you might already know. If you saw him on the street, you would maybe notice him, maybe not because he would fit within your perspective on “normal”. Perry, on the other hand, is described in ways that one might imagine looks like the average criminal. Capote’s word choice-stunted legs, grotesquely inadequate, bulk-all create a distaste in your mouth and raises the hair on your back. You want to steer clear of him. Although both are described as they were in reality, Perry’s menacing physical status creates the tension of the event when compared to the “upstanding Herb Clutter” and his death seems all the more upsetting.