Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type




First Advisor

Dr. Jeremy Green


This thesis explores the representation of the good and evil binary through the analysis of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Dave Cullen’s Columbine. The texts recount true murders in the history of the U.S.: the murders of 4 Clutter family members by Dick Hickock and Perry Smith in 1959 in Holcomb, Kansas and the school shooting massacre at Columbine High School by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in 1999 in Littleton, Colorado. These narratives open with the cities in which these murders occur juxtaposed with descriptions of the killers. In the event of the murders these two seemingly opposite entities merge, the beginning of the deconstruction of the good and evil binary. The deep exploration into each of the killers’ character, lives and sexuality furthers the deconstruction of the binary by establishing one man as sympathetic and the other as an embodiment of true evil. This stance taken by the authors is supportive of a spectrum of good and evil, rather than a strict binary. Through this perspective, the texts pose difficult questions for society amounting to: how do we treat different manifestations of evil, especially those that result from the experience of early tragedy? If we continue to robotically characterize men as either good or evil at the expense of true understanding, we risk losing what makes us human: empathy.