How Is Tension Created in Truman Capote’s in Cold Blood


Truman Capote uses many different techniques and types of languages in order to create tension in order to prepare and engage the reader. In this chapter, the way Capote writes creates a definitive sense of anticipation, leading the reader to read on and preparing them for events that will occur in the future. At the very beginning of this chapter, capote begins with a description of the town of Holcomb setting a scene in order to create a dramatic atmosphere.

He does this in the first few pages by describing Holcomb at first as a very quiet, peaceful and insignificant town, using language such as “Holcomb too could be seen from great distances. Not that there is much to see”, gives the reader an immediate impression that Holcomb is not cared about by people outside the community. Another quote to strengthen this point would be when other Kansans outside of Holcomb describe the town as “out there”.

Capote uses this description in order to engage and prepare the reader using tension by using the quote “Until one morning in Mid-November of 1959, few Americans – in fact few Kansans had ever heard of Holcomb. ” This is a very strong sentence as it informs the reader of an event that is going to occur in the future, and the peaceful atmosphere shifts to one of tension. However, one of the most prominent quotes that capote includes in the first chapter in order to prepare the reader in my opinion is “four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives. This is the most effective piece of language used in order to prepare the reader for events, as it also creates tension effectively. By revealing the outcome of the event without any key details, Capote suspends and engages the reader effectively, forcing them to read on to find out more. By structuring In Cold Blood like this, Capote involves the reader more in the story as they are following the book in the order it occurs, preparing them in advance for what happens in the book.

In this chapter, Capote also uses varied paragraphs in order to build tension. At the beginning of the chapter, Capote begins to introduce the characters using large paragraphs and passages. However as the chapter progresses, the passages in which the time shifts become shorter and the paragraphs become less dense. This technique emphasises the mood and events that are taking place, gradually but effectively preparing the reader and building tension and suspense.

In this case, the mood of the book becomes much more frantic, creating a sense of panic and anticipation in reflection of events that are occurring, indicating to the reader something will happen soon. Throughout the book and in particular this chapter Capote has used the time shifts in order to structure and order events chronologically. As this chapter is written in two separate time shifts, Capote links them using sound in order to keep tension flowing and the timing clear.

An example of this would be when Capote uses the quote “A car honked. At last Dick… ‘Good grief, Kenyon! I hear you. ” By linking these two time shifts the tension is kept regular and the book flows smoothly. In this chapter there are many examples of the technique dramatic irony. After informing the reader that lives would be ended, Capote includes many hints which builds suspense and informs the reader that the event may soon occur, building tension very effectively.

An example of use of dramatic irony would be “He headed for home and the day’s work, unaware that it would be his last. ” Capote makes it clear that the event is going to happen but he leaves the reader in the dark as to when it will take place. Another example of dramatic irony used in chapter one would be the quote “take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye not know when the time is. ” This quote yet again is an example of capote applying dramatic irony in order to prepare the reader.

This, as a religious quote means that there is nothing that can be don’t to prevent death if the time is up, except look to god. As the reader is aware that the Clutter family is religious, this prepares them for an ironic death and encourages them to continue to read the book in order to find out their “fate”. In the first chapter, Truman Capote successfully prepares the reader for events to come, by effectively applying language techniques such as dramatic irony and structure. These techniques engage the reader and make them feel more involved in the story.