Capote/Krakauer Comparison Essay
The most important thing any writer can do is to give their characters a feel of
dimension to make them seem real. Although Capote and Krakauer do that in very
different ways in In Cold Blood and Into Thin Air, they both reached the same end result:
characters you believe. They give them thoughts, faces and personalities. They dont
portray everyone as flawless, they display the faults and the little quirks. They give them
life through words, making these stories believable. Despite the fact both incidents
happened years before each book was written, the use of detailed facts and personality
profiles make each story seem incredibly realistic. But while Capote chooses to write an
entirely objective piece, Krakauer relies heavily on personal opinion and experience,
creating two very distinct frames of mind and causing the reader too see the characters in
each book very differently.
In 1959 the Clutter family was murdered in a tiny Kansas town called Holcomb.
Six years later Truman Capote wrote a very detailed book about the whole case, from the
day of the murder to the court case prosecuting the two murderers, Dick and Perry.
Although he wasnt there when the four murders happened, through word choice,
description and characterization he creates an accurate portrait of the many intense events
surrounding such a tragic story.
In comparison, in 1996 esteemed climber Rob Hall led an expedition of
moderately experienced climbers attempting to climb Mt. Everest, only to result in
disaster and the loss of nine peoples lives. Jon Krakauer was a member of that
expedition, and wrote a piece about the misadventure for Outside magazine. Feeling there
was more to be said, soon after he wrote a book. Krakauer takes a similar approach as
Capote, yet inserting more opinions and less of a feeling of objectiveness to his
characters. This is most likely since Krakauer was living Everest first hand, as opposed to
Capote who put himself into the environment years later, picking up details here and there
instead of relying solely on memory and friends.
One of Capotes greatest strengths is to create thought for his characters, making it
almost appear as if he knows what they are thinking.
All summer Perry undulated between half-awake stupors and stickly, sweat-drenched
sleep. Voices roared through his head; one voice persistently asked him, Where is Jesus?
Where? And once he woke up shouting, The bird is Jesus! The Bird is Jesus! (381)
This selection almost creates a feeling that Capote is talking about himself as opposed to
a man he never met. Although this type of detail may seem unimportant to the overall
story, it creates an amazing sense of believability. That ability is one of the main reasons
Capotes book is so believable. By seeing Perry suffer through his horrible nightmares its
easier to believe his character. It makes him very real and lifelike to the readers.
Krakauer also gives voice to his characters, yet his interpretation of them seems to
be constantly influenced by his own opinions of their personality and actions.
Stuart Hutchinson, thirty-four, attired in a Ren and Stimpy tee shirt, was a cerebral,
somewhat wonkish Canadian cardiologist on leave from a research fellowship. (37)
By implying that he pictured Hutchinson as wonkish (i.e. behavior seen as crazy,
humorous, or amusingly perverse) he is putting an idea in the readers head which
otherwise might not have been there. It is Krakauer stating his view on the mans
behavior that provides a different tone, basing that on the fact that other people on the
expedition may not have felt the same way.
One area in which both authors excel is description. Both stories have a sense of
reality, with all the fabulous description of scenery it is easier to picture what is
happening. For Capote, it wasnt hard to get people to relate to a small town in the
At one end of the town stands a dark old stucco structure, the roof of which
supports an electric sign –DANCE– but the dancing has ceased and the advertisement has been
dark for several years. (13)
That is a sight which many people have seen in one form or another in their lives,
making it even easier to understand the town of Holcomb and its small population.
Krakauer has a harder task, trying to relate readers to being on Mt. Everest,
something very few people have ever done. To make up for that fact, he uses great detail
to help create a picture in his readers mind.
Cinders, coarse gravel, and granite boulders covered much of the ice, but every now and
then the trail would cross a patch of bare glacier- a translucent, frozen medium that glistens like
polished onyx. (58)
Although Capote and Krakauer each have a different style, different opinions and
different ways of making the truth story like, both are wonderful storytellers and have
created great examples of true stories.
Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood. New York: Random House Publishing, 1966.
Krakauer, Jon. Into Thin Air. New York: Villard Books, 1997