Check It Out Category: Books

Book Discussion Questions: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood book cover

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.

Title: In Cold Blood
Author: Truman Capote
Page Count: 343
Genre: Nonfiction – True Crime
Tone: Bleak, Sobering

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2013 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1.    Did anyone look up the French epigraph at the beginning of the book? Francois Villon, “Ballade des Pendus,” translates to:

Human brothers who live after us,
Do not have (your) hearts hardened against us,
For, if you take pity on us poor (fellows),
God will sooner have mercy on you.

What do you think Capote meant, using this as the epigraph?

2.    Why do you think Truman Capote introduced the town first, then the Clutters and then the murderers?

3.    Do you like Mr. Clutter and his family when you meet them?

4.    What is your first impression of Perry and Dick?

5.    What about the Clutters? Did you feel like you knew them?

6.    On page 37, Dick boasts that nothing can go wrong. Was he prepared or naïve?

7.    When you read a quote like “Ain’t that what I promised you, honey – plenty of hair on them-those walls?” (p. 37) What does it make you feel towards Dick?

8.    How does Capote build suspense in In Cold Blood?

9.    Capote goes back and forth in chapters between the Clutters and the murderers. Then Capote goes back and forth from the police and the murderers. Why? Was this an effective way to tell a story?

10.    What did you think of Capote’s use of direct quotes?

11.    Did this read like other nonfiction books you’ve read? Why or why not?

12.    What does the term “nonfiction novel” mean?

13.    Do you think Capote gave a fair amount of time to all characters involved?

14.    Who seemed like the worse criminal, Dick or Perry? Do you think that had anything to do with Capote’s writing style?

15.    Perry admits to thinking that they are “wrong,” but Dick continually calls himself a “normal.” (p. 109) What do you think this says about each of the men?

16.    Who do you pity in this story?

17.    Does it change your opinion of Perry to know that he was a veteran (page 128) or to know that he was sexually abused (p. 133)?

18.    How did the police get their big break in the case?

19.    Do you think Floyd Wells felt bad about telling Dick about the Clutter family?

20.    What did you think of Dick’s family’s reaction to hearing that he was a murderer?

21.    When Dick and Perry are caught, who breaks to the cops first? Why?

22.    Was there a specific moment that scared you with either criminal?

23.    If a horrible crime happened in your town, would you talk to a dedicated writer about it?

24.    Was there a passage of this book that was harder to read than others?

25.    Do you believe that the farmhand Stoecklein didn’t hear the four gunshots next door?

26.    What did you think of the insurance man’s reaction to hearing of Mr. Clutter’s death? (p. 71)

27.    What did you think of Dick and Perry’s reactions to murdering four people? (p. 73 – 74, p. 91)

28.    Nye says, “Nobody would kill four people for fifty bucks,” (p. 87). Do you think this is true today? Do you think it was true then?

29.    What did you think of Josie and Wendle Meier? Josie showed calm and caring. Could you have showed that to either Dick or Perry? Would you have?

30.    Don Cullivan, an old Army buddy of Perry’s, comes to visit. Why?

31.    Perry changed his statement to say he murdered everybody. Why?

32.    Do you think there is a difference between reading a true crime book and reading a violent fiction book? Do you feel different while reading one as compared to the other?

33.    Was there a section that moved slower than others?

34.    Did you like where the book stopped at? Would you have wanted its ending to have come sooner?

35.    Do you think Capote did this town good or a disservice by writing In Cold Blood?

36.    Do you believe in the death penalty?

37.    Do you think Dick and Perry “got what they deserved?”

38.    Perry didn’t believe in the death penalty, he said, “I think it’s a helluva thing to take a life in this manner. I don’t believe in capital punishment, morally or legally.” (p. 340) How did this strike you?

39.    What did you think of each man’s last words?

-Perry p. 340
-Dick p. 339

40.    Do you think Capote believed in capital punishment? (Answer found here.)

Other Resources:

Truman Capote Wikipedia entry
Lit Lovers’ book discussion guide
George Plimpton interview with Truman Capote
Paris Review interview of Truman Capote
Original New York Times article that inspired Truman Capote to write In Cold Blood

If you liked In Cold Blood, try…

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
Columbine by David Cullen
The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil book cover      Columbine book cover     the Executioner's Song book cover

And! Please speak with one of our friendly reference librarians about finding original articles from 1966 about the Clutter family killings in our Chicago Tribune Historical database. The pictures alone make the articles good handouts for book discussion groups.

Book Discussion Questions: Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound book cover

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.

Title: Mudbound
Author: Hillary Jordan
Page Count: 328
Genre: Historical Fiction
Tone: Compelling, Haunting, Thought-provoking

Questions composed by MPPL Staff

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2013 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1.    Whose point of view (P.O.V.) was most interesting to read?

2.    Was there a main character in this book?

3.    What was the main story?

4.    Whose story did you want more of?

5.    Would this book be different if you got to hear Pappy’s story from his P.O.V.?

6.    What did you think of the love affair between Jamie and Laura?

7.    What do you think that act meant to Jamie? Do you think it meant something different to Laura?

8.    Did you want their relationship to last?

9.    Was the sex scene written well?

10.    Laura realizes that she doesn’t truly love Jamie. Why?

11.    What did you think of the relationship between Laura and Henry?

12.    What about between Florence and Hap?

13.    Who had more equal footing in their relationship, Laura or Florence? Why?

14.    Given the times, did Laura have a choice if she was going to move to the country or not?

15.    Would you have moved?

16.    What did it say about Henry that he didn’t even tell Laura he bought a farm?

17.    Do you think Henry noticed Pappy’s bickering, unhappiness and how Laura felt around him?

18.    Who had the better relationship with their father, Henry or Jamie? Why?

19.    Do you think Pappy loves his sons? How can you tell?

20.    When the children get sick at the farm, Henry gets Florence to nurse them. What is his reaction when she gets in the front of the truck with him?

21.    Does being a racist make you a bad person?

22.    Is there such thing as being “only a little racist”?

23.    Do you think Laura would have considered herself a racist?

24.    Would Florence have considered Laura a racist?

25.    Why do you think Laura was more attractive and interesting to her family once she “had a man”?

26.    What was your reaction to when Ronsel came home with enough money to buy his parents a new mule?

27.    What was Henry and Laura’s reaction?

28.    There is strong foreshadowing in Mudbound, did you mind? Ex:  Jamie talks about Ronsel’s fate being sealed on page 212. Do you mind knowing that something awful is about to happen?

29.    Why did the men “only” cut out Ronsel’s tongue?

30.    Is there symbolism in Ronsel’s tongue being cut out? What does it mean?

31.    Why did Jamie kill his father?

32.    Do you think Jamie would’ve been a different person is he was able to talk about the traumas he experienced during the war?

33.    Is there any other way that you would have killed Pappy?

34.    What do you think happens to Ronsel?

35.    What about Jamie?

36.    Do you think Henry and Laura go on to live happy lives?

37.    How can authors writing outside of their own culture sometimes be problematic? (Re: cultural appropriation)

38.    Mudbound won the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, which awards $25,000 to a work of socially responsible literature that gives support to social change. How do you think Jordan’s book did this?

39.    Is the setting a character in this book?

40.    Do you think that this story could have been told in a different, non-southern setting?

Other Resources:

Hillary Jordan’s website
Bellwether Prize website
Lit Lovers’ book discussion guide
NPR interview with Hillary Jordan
Goodreads reviews (watch out for spoilers)
Hillary Jordan author talk

If you liked Mudbound, try…

Bloodroot by Amy Greene
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Sula by Toni Morrison

Bloodroot book cover      the Kitchen House book cover     Sula book cover

Donna S.’s Pick: The Orchard

Donna S. staff picks photoThe Orchard by Theresa Weir tells the story of a street-wise girl who marries into an old and well-respected farm family. Insight is given on farm traditions, the standard use of pesticides, its effect on the land, and dealing with the iron will of a family matriarch.