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Longview - In Cold Blood - Common Read Project

How to Teach In Cold Blood

What Your Students Will Love About In Cold Blood
  • The fast-paced narrative of a crime thriller that is written about true events
  • Coming up with their own opinions on who committed the crimes and whether they were guilty
Potential Student Struggles With In Cold Blood
  • The chilling descriptions of four gruesome murders that are not fabricated but taken from what Capote investigated.
  • Believing the book is entirely factual. There are holes throughout the novel and losses of time that students will have a hard time piecing together themselves.
  • The nonfiction novel — it may be a new genre to your students.
Learning Objectives for Teaching In Cold Blood
  • Define nonfiction novel and explain how In Cold Blood fits that genre.
  • Study the qualities of and the values held by the Holcomb community, and explain why setting is integral to the plot of the story.
  • Discuss the relationship between Dick Hickock and Perry Smith and how the combination of their personalities led these men to commit murder.
  • Explain the evolution of and the reasons for the use of the death penalty in Kansas in the 1960s.
  • Describe how a traumatic event affects a community.
  • Debate the ethics of publishing books that are about real-life crimes.
  • Consider how Capote artistically manipulates the story to create a compelling work of literature.
Literary Elements in In Cold Blood
  • Characterization
  • Foreshadowing
  • Irony
  • Metaphor
  • Nonfiction Novel
  • Omniscient Narrator
  • Symbol
Major Themes in In Cold Blood
  • Crime — The book revolves around the murder of a family and the steps taken solve and understand a heinous crime.
  • Ethics — In the book, Capote implicitly questions the ethics of the death penalty. Capote also published this novel six years after the murders, which poses the question of whether the content is verifiable, or if it is exaggerated for storytelling purposes.
  • Justice — The novel is all about uncovering the truth of these gruesome deaths and bringing the murderers to justice.

Related Works

Related Works: Crime

  • And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
  • Arsenic and Old Lace, by Joseph Kesselring
  • Monster, by Dean Walter Myers

Related Works: Justice

Related Works: Ethics