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LITR221 – American Literature from Civil War to Present


Submission Instructions: Your main discussion post should be substantive (at least 300 words). Use quotations to support your points, but make sure to balance them with your own original ideas. Please engage two of your classmates in their forum posts to help further our conversation, responses to classmates should be in at least 100-150 words each.


This Week’s reading:

Read one of the following pieces from “Other Perspectives” in American Literature Since the Civil War.

“The Wrysons” by John Cheever

“Going After Cacciato” by Tim O’Brien

“Somewhere for Everyone” by John Grisham

“Good Country People” by Flannery O’Connor

“Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin

“The Angel Esmerelda” by Don Delillo


Part I: Unlike many of our authors in this class, video footage of Truman Capote abounds. Find a video of him. Post the link in the forum, and tell us a little about your perception of him. How might he have fit in 1960s Kansas, and how might the cultural differences, for better or worse, affected his ability “to get the story”?


Part II: As Truman Capote got to know many of the characters involved in the story behind In Cold Blood, his depictions were undoubtedly influenced. Select one character from the movie that you believe was portrayed in a different light and discuss why you think this character was skewed. Keep in mind that there are a lot of possibilities to consider. Capote’s own feelings could influence the work, the character may be too distasteful (for a variety of reasons), or the exaggeration could simply make a better read. Since we are dealing with a film, the possibility is also there that the change translates better to film. You are welcome to investigate this possibility as well. Please support your ideas. In this assignment, you may want to read other reports of the crime or excerpts from the book.


Part III: Choose one of the literary pieces this week (found in the “Other Perspectives” section of your text). Tell us about the point of view. Do you get the feeling that you are hearing from someone within the society being represented, or are you seeing what an outsider sees? It could even be a mixture, but whatever your conclusion, you will need to support it with examples from the text.


Student Response #1 – Jared

Part I:  Truman Capote was a very interesting character to say the least.  He seems like a fun loving guy, but at the same time blunt and to the point. He also seems very compassionate about the work he does.  However, I also got the impression from listening to him speak, he was a little full of himself.  His personality suggest that he couldn’t be trusted either.  Of course, this is just what I have perceived in viewing the short films presented over the internet.  As far as him fitting into Kansas during the 1960’s, I don’t think this went over to well.  The most obvious reasoning being his sexual orientation.  This was a time when rights were being fought for African Americans, and were no different for the rights of Gays and Lesbians.  Capote was also thought of as a liberal.  I believe these definitely negatively affected his ability to “get the story”. FYI, his voice drove me crazy!


Part II:  After reading a few excerpts from the story, as well as reviews, I would say that both of the main characters of the book, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith were greatly skewed. I say this, because some of the recounts of the occurrence were completely different and exaggerated from what actually took place.  The reasoning for this, is undoubtedly the financial gain.  This book raked in nearly 60 million bucks during the 1960s.  This is an insane amount of money during this time.  By doing so, this also may have made for a better read.  However, I don’t agree with publishing things known to be false.


Part III:  The literacy piece I chose to discuss is “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin.  This story depicts  the life of a young heroin addict.  Reading the story, I felt connected to the problems and issues that addicts face.  I felt the story was very descriptive and as if I were looking in from the outside.  I appreciated that the story was told from a family member who has to witness the destruction of his brother.  This somehow made the story more believable and appealing to me.




Student Response #2 – Jonathan


Part I:  My perception of Capote is a respectable one. I can relate to his early child hood as he paid attention and did well in the courses that interested him and more or less ignored the others. I did find it interesting that his mother sought to make him more manly by sending him to military school. I found this to be a testament of the times that his mother carried such interest. We later learn of Capote’s first writing to carry a homosexual theme at times. And we further understand that he was quit the gossip within social circles. 


Truman’s personal culture may have affected his ability as a writer to get the story right. Truman, a good writer who was able to write within the confines of different genres, created his own celebrity before much material about himself even existed. He was quite the character indeed. Truman could be found in the company of the rich, the social elite and he fancied himself a popular addition within his exclusive clicks. So it should come as no surprise that when he ventured to Kansas to begin his work on the non-fiction title In Cold Blood, Truman struggled to connect with the small farm community to which he was communicating with. Despite the fact, Truman’s novel In Cold Blood, produced notoriety and wealth for the writer.




Part II:  Truman’s depiction of the characters and the events that unfolded during the crime that laid the foundation for his non-fiction title In Cold Blood are largely disputed. While no one denies the years of labor that Truman slaved or the countless notes taken by the author as he drudged through the murderous events, some do dispute the novels classification. The genre of non-fiction is the accounts of events believed to be factual. However, far too many individuals have spoken on behalf of Truman’s alleged story construction for the sake of the arts. In spite of the book making millions and receiving top honors in the literary world, critics have challenged the story’s authenticity. 


There were several false claims made to the stories structure of scenes and changes in dialogue. The characters were also individually addressed as falsely depicted via Truman’s view. For example, Bonnie (Clutters wife) was communicated as a woman struggling with depression. This characteristic was disputed by Bonnie’s own living relatives. The one character that I personally believe was given a skewed character explanation was Smith. Smith was one of the two murderers involved in the Clutter’s families deaths. Upon further research of Smith I found that his character was explained as being intelligent and artistic. I believe that Truman’s exaggeration of a murderer made for a better read (It should also be considered that this is how Truman was described). In the theatrical art form such a character could leave the audience confused and looking for answers. I believe that Truman’s homosexual feelings that were alleged towards Smith affected the portrayal of this supposed non-fictional character. 


Peele, Thomas. San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved December 22, 2104 from http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_22621968/new-documents-raise-more-doubts-about-credibility-truman


Part III:  The point of view from John Grisham’s work Somewhere for Everyone is one of compassion. Grisham examines the often overlooked lifestyle of the homeless. Grisham’s examining point is that of a mixture. It is not a mixture, in the literal sense of this weeks question which states, “a point of view from a member within that society” but in my opinion it is recognizable as a mixed point of view because while Grisham is not homeless, he did attempt to understand their life via personal experience. Grisham explains his childhood experiences with the homeless, an unsettling personal experience with one particular homeless individual during Grisham’s adulthood and lastly he attempted to communicate with the homeless society citing a few purposeful personal encounters. Grisham explains the encounters as he cites, “I almost froze on a park bench one night as I tried to strike up a conversation with a homeless man who suspected I was from the IRS. I talked politics with a panhandler near the Capitol” (Grisham, 143). However, in the most literally sense of the question it is clearly communicated that Grisham’s view is that of an outsiders. As he states, “In the spring of ’97 my research took me into the world of the homeless. I made the two-hour drive from my comfortable home in the Virginia countryside to the streets of D.C.” (Grisham, 143). 


Grisham, John. Somewhere for Everyone. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from http://online.vitalsource.com/#/books/1259391094/epubcfi/6/58%5B;vnd.vst.idref=chap21%5D

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