This passage uses many different types of literary devices including language and diction, that are used to develop the characters , explain their feelings and reveal important character traits of Perry Smith. Diction and word choice create contrast between Perry Smith and other people. This passage emphasizes themes such as family and mental illness present throughout In Cold Blood. Before Perry Smith and Dick Hickock were caught, the whole town viewed the “persons unknown” as evil and inhuman, monsters that killed a whole family without motivation, feeling that the killers couldn’t be considered “normal” people. When Dr. Satten talks about Smith’s past we find his family life in stark contrast to that of the Clutters. While he was abused by nuns and abandoned by his father, the Clutters had the “perfect” family life. Mental illness is also emphasized. Should Perry Smith be convicted of murder if he doesn’t understand why he killed the Clutter family is an underlying question brought by the Doctor’s psychological evaluation. Smith’s confession complicates the feelings of the town’s people; some even begin to feel sorry for him.
An important literary device denotation is used in the sentence “Maybe it’s just that the Clutters were the ones who had to pay for it”, the effect of this shows that Perry Smith really doesn’t care that much about the what he did to the family, they were just a casualty of his rage. Mr. Clutter, a “very nice gentleman” serves as a foil to Smith, a poor criminal. “right up to the moment I cut his throat”, uses imagery as well as understatement . The imagery of Perry killing Mr. Clutter is made even more shocking by how indifferent he seems to have been during the killing.
Diction and work choice reveal character traits about Perry Smith. Dr. Satten, sees him as a schizophrenic that couldn’t control his actions because of his terrible childhood. Smith has regret for killing Mr. Clutter, but at the same time doesn’t seem to be very affected by what he did. He doesn’t seem to understand how terrible it is to kill someone, and not just because they seem “very nice”. Word choice is also used to make Perry seem immature and childlike compared to the Doctor when he utters words like ‘very’ and ‘so’.