How Capote's "In Cold Blood" and Lewis's "Main Street" discredit the typical western stereotype

Essay by duchello January 2007

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In much of literature the Midwest is portrayed as an abode to a wholesome family life, where young girls bake apple pies with their neighbors and married couples live in quaint happiness for the rest of their lives. In reality, as with all stereotypes, that is just a view of the surface, where underneath it all we find the darkest and most rebellious lifestyle. Truman Capote's narrative In Cold Blood and Sinclair Lewis' novel Main Street both give their own distinct interpretations of the people and lifestyle of the Midwest. Main Street portrays the drastic change that a sophisticated city girl, Carol, experiences when moving into Gopher Prairie with her husband, Will Kennicott, shortly after getting married. Lewis uses Will Kennicott's role in Main Street to act as the embodiment of Midwestern society and allow the reader to view the flaws that Lewis believes many of these characters have in contrast to Carol's personality.

Capote's "In Cold Blood" displays midwestern life in a darker story, using the crime and trial of Perry Smith and Richard Hickock as a backdrop. Unlike Lewis who provides commentary of his views of the Midwest, Capote simply gives the details of the crime and trial as well as the reaction in Holcomb and leaves interpretation up to the reader. Perry Smith in particular is an interesting character to analyze because in contrast to Will Kennicott, he is not viewed as a moral person in his environment, but yet his character just as effectively demonstrates the thoughts of those in the Midwest. Both Main Street and In Cold Blood might have the same setting, but the tales are very different and delivered in distinct styles, each giving a different analysis of the Midwest.

The greatest theme from both Capote and Lewis in their works is the...