Character List and Analysis Perry Smith


One of the two murderers of the Clutter family, Perry grew up under difficult circumstances. He was abandoned by his family and severely abused by nuns (who he develops a life-long aversion to) and other caregivers. He has a reoccurring dream about a large bird that saves him from bullies, abusers, and anyone who might cause him harm. Perry is described as a small man, but very muscular in his upper arms and chest. His feet and legs, however, are small and delicate. This is one of Perry's many contradictions. He never passed the third grade, but as an adult he has an incredible thirst for knowledge, vocabulary, and literature. He is calm and gentle, and he seems to want love and acceptance, but he is eventually revealed to be the more brutal of the two men. One of his main motivations is to take Dick to Mexico, and to hunt for treasure and go skin diving. After the murders, Perry seems unable to reconcile his personal opinion of himself with the crimes he has committed. Perry also appears to have homosexual tendencies, which are revealed via his affections for both Dick and a former cell mate by the name of Willie-Jay.

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