Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tragedy upon Tragedy

I just watched the film Capote, a story about a writer who became obsessed with a tragic murder. The film details his journey as he goes to the community where the murders were committed, becomes friends with the people involved and then begins to forge a relationship with the killers, all so that he can write a book about the incident. Capote is shown to be a cold, single-minded man whose only desire is to finish the book, which he calls In Cold Blood.

But a problem soon arises. The killers are given a stay of execution. The book cannot be finished until they are dead. So Capote says he prays to God that they will be hung. Eventually they are, and Capote publishes In Cold Blood. It becomes the most sought-after book in North America. In the short blurbs at the end of the film, we are told Capote’s preface to the book includes the words, “More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.” We are also told that Capote was never able to finish another book. His alcoholism finally caused his death.

The film is chilling for many reasons – the murders, the sad picture of two young men whose lives were damaged from the beginning, the seemingly cold manipulation of a writer who would do anything to get his story. But the thing that chilled my heart the most was that last bit of information at the end of the film. A man who was obviously very talented never used his gift again. His work and his life were ruined because of the choices he made. Most tragic of all, he never, as far as was evident, received the forgiveness that could have freed him from his guilt and torment.

There are too many of us like Truman Capote. Too many who have made wrong choices but, for whatever reason, do not recognize that there is a way to put those wrongs behind us forever. A long-ago king knew the truth about this forgiveness that is available to all of us. His name was David. He too made wrong choices that resulted in death. Yet he wrote – “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him…” (Psalm 103:12-13).

God’s forgiveness is free because His Son, Jesus paid the price for us. The scriptures say that He ‘became sin’ and freed us from its grip. All we have to do is acknowledge what we have done and ask for the forgiveness that is available. Such a small step, yet it can free us to go on with our lives, to fulfill the purposes for which God created us, to move joyfully using the gifts He has given us. It is a great tragedy that Truman Capote did not make that small step. Perhaps no-one told him how. Perhaps he believed it was just too good to be true, that his sin was too great for God to forgive. Tragedy upon tragedy.

I pray that we will all turn to God and seek His forgiveness. The world needs men and women who are free, men and women who will use their gifts to God’s glory.


lindaruth said...

Yes, it's a sad story. I haven't seen the movie, but I read the book years ago.

We studied Psalm 103 last night in my Bible study group and once again I was reminded of the magnitude of God's grace and forgiveness. Too often, even we who are Christians, doubt God's ability to forgive. It's a good reminder that his love is everlasting!

Deborah said...

I agree with your take entirely.
Great post.

Fascinating movie. So many things one could discuss about it. For example, how he felt like he and one of the killers were almost like aspects of the same person, though the killer had more bad breaks. How he identified with him, yet, as you say, told people he wished they would get hung so he'd have an ending for his book. I rather doubt he literally prayed. Truman didn't seem like that kind of dude.

TL Hines said...

Capote's "In Cold Blood" was a brilliant book--still the best "true crime" book ever written.

The film captures the tortured struggle of Capote--the tortured struggle of us all. Part of him, I think, truly identified with Perry and wanted to help him. The other part (the stronger part), needed to use Perry for self-aggrandizement.

This is the most basic human struggle of all, isn't it? That constant tension between being selfish and selfless. Too often, we end up on the selfish side.

Dabbling Mum said...

Wonderfully said. That's the thing that give journalists bad names isn't it? Always going after the story no matter the cost...no matter who it hurts in the process...as long as the story is told.

Life is full of choices. We can choose to help and heal or we can choose to tear down in the process of self-preservation.

It's a lesson to all writers, isn't it? To be careful what you write because it may not just be the source that you hurt, but yourself as well.

Good observations in your post, thanks for reminding us of what's truly important.

Missouri Girl said...

A few things to bear in mind - first, Capote waited for a major murder to happen because he had conceived the idea of writing a novel type factual book about a crime. When word of the Clutter murder hit the wires, Capote headed for Kansas.

Second, he did write other things in addition to "In Cold Blood", some of which depict a very different side of Capote. One was "A Christmas Memory" which in recent years was chosen as the basis of a Hallmark Hall of Fame Christmas special.

Your view that Capote somehow squandered his God-given gift because he wrote about a murder, tried to manipulate the outcome of the case, and never wrote a major work again is narrow.

"In Cold Blood" spawned the entire genre of true crime fiction. You may not be aware that book store and library shelves are lined with accounts of murders, mass murders, and serial killers written by countless authors.

I doubt that Truman Capote would consider himself a failure. He did what many writers would give a right arm or even their soul to do - created a work that received major recognition, will stand the test of time, was made into a movie, received a Pulitzer, and spawned a new genre.

Maybe it's you who should broaden your horizons!

I've not seen the movie but I hope that it reveals that Capote was gay.

You might also be interested (or appalled) to know that his lifelong friend Harper Lee also wrote just one work of note. "To Kill A Mockingbird" is another classic.