The joy of reading the marvellous modern In Cold Blood, and the period piece, Sense and Sensibility (Truman Capote, Jane Austen), both which masterfully depict two worlds so different to each other, came from the diving into the psychologies of two pairs of antithetical characters—two women, two men—and their respective stories, that, in all, offered accounts of the tensions inherent to existence within the odd limits of gender.
On the one hand, we have Marianne and Elinor, on the other, Dick and Perry. Marianne and Elinor operate in the morals of nineteenth-century Victorian England, while Dick and Perry in those of Modern twentieth-century America. Marianne, a rebel resisting the conventions of courtship in Essex, whom allows her sensibilities to dictate her passions, defends her spirit from a society wanting to take it away from her; Elinor, fully in sync with the norms of the time, has to make up for her sister’s ‘wild’ behavior, and indulges in the utility of building up her character and status via the traditional means: character and status, she is convinced, are the ultimate goals for a woman in a patriarchal world geared toward men having the first and final say in the topics of marriage and the heart. Dick, a mammoth of a man, a brute, wholly deviant and perverse, unravels in the sadism of his abuse of women, finds himself reaching the heights of his manhood, in his mind, by overpowering the body of the female form; but, in his perverse ascendance, this sociopathic man realizes just how much of a coward he is, and how far he was willing to go to justify, however hypocritically, his perversions; Perry, more akin to the sensibilities and intelligence of a man capable of analysing his existence beyond the mores of society, but in possession of a fractured mind, due to the unwavering punishment directed at him from those closest to him, breaks up into pieces by commiting his own brand of punishment, alongside Dick, by pulling the trigger of a shotgun at the faces of the Clutter family, in Holcomb, Kansas.
The tensions which these two pairs of characters inhabit, demarcated by the expectations of their own conscience, be it healthy or psychopathic, and by the expectations of their societies, void of congruence with the appetites of the spirit, pave the way to a deeper understanding of the complex contradictions existing within man and woman: Austen shows his audience through the line of satire, the mocking of tradition, the rebellion, however ironic, of a vision beginning to reach the surface, against the suffocating patriarchy of the eighteenth-century, adding a voice to the substratum of womanhood demanding to be heard: Capote depicts with realism the rise (if one can be thought of) and downfall of two men, products of the indigenous American berserk, whom in an attempt to reach the apotheosis of manhood (however terrible, violent, vengeful and sullen), die by the ropes of the very society they waived their fists at, but which, curiously enough, sow the seeds for their violent means.
The advent of womanhood, then, connects with the downfall of manhood in these novels, as terrible reminders of the too often ignored war between the sexes. With the whispers of rebellion, uttered by man or woman, in favor of women’s liberation; with the silencing of that rebellion, enforced by man or woman, to keep the Patriarchy safe and sound. (One of such battles, has now sprung most noticeably to the fore with the incessant claims of sexual harassment in Hollywood, and it is leaning toward toppling some of the powerful, to finally bestow a sense of justice to those who have endured their sadistic, misogynistic wrath.) The battle has to end, these authors seem to say, if there is to be any hope at redemption for our crimes: and like Dick and Perry’s swan song, the end is resolute and terrible.