In Cold Blood


Describe Mrs. Barbara Johnson's trip down Memory Lane. What does she think of her father, her brother Jimmy, her mother and Fern?  How has her view of Perry changed?  What are some of the differences between Perry's upbringing and the upbringing of the other children?

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Barbara, Perry’s sister, admits to being “afraid” of her brother. As children, she relates, they were inseparable, but she became fearful of his “wild” tendencies as he grew into adulthood. Perry, for his part, resents the education that Barbara and their two other siblings received while he was confined to trapping furs with his father in Alaska.

Barbara, Perry’s sister, has made a life for herself that resembles the Clutters’, and she dreads the encroachment of the other world that Perry represents, a world of savagery, resentment, poverty, and self-destruction. She and Perry are divided on the question of their father: Barbara respects and admires Tex John, but Perry harbors deep resentment, blaming him for stunting his intellectual development: “I happen to have a brilliant mind. In case you didn’t know. . . . But no education, because he didn’t want me to learn anything, only how to tote and carry for him. Dumb. Ignorant. That’s the way he wanted me to be” (185). The fact that Perry missed this chance in life has left him bitter, frustrated, and transient; the fact that Barbara did not has enabled her to settle into comfortable and respectable living. The association between Barbara and the Clutters is established in a thoughtful moment of Perry’s: “One fine day he’d pay her back, have a little fun—talk to her, advertise his abilities, spell out in detail the things he was capable of doing to people like her, respectable people, safe and smug people, exactly like Bobo”.