" KILLINGS " BY ANDRE DUBUS
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Killings by Andre Dubus
The story of “Killings” by Andre Dubus looked into the themes of crime, revenge and morality. The crime committed in the story depicted the father’s love for his son and the desire to avenge his son’s death. However, his own crime led to his own destruction as he was faced with questions of morality. The character found himself in a difficult position after taking his revenge. He failed to anticipate the guilt associated with the crime he committed. Feelings of anger and righteousness are illustrated by the character throughout the story.
Primarily, “Killings” concerns a crime and its consequences. The lead character,
Matt Fowler goes one step too far and identifies with the evil that tragically
marred his life-the murder of his son. Matt and his friend Willis Trottier
executed Richard Strout, the man who killed his son. This murder was more of a
private revenge than of protection but the character’s act was partially
motivated by his wish to protect his wife who suffered every time she encounters
their son’s murderer ( & , 2000, ). As Dubus wrote, “Ruth can’t even go out
for cigarettes and aspirin....She sees him all the time. It makes her cry” (
). While it is obviously too late to protect his son, Fowler experiences his
son’s murder as an assault on his fatherhood and on his wish to protect his
children. Matt could no longer tolerate watching his wife deteriorate before his
eyes simply because she cannot cope with the loss of their son. Finally, he
decided to bring grief resolution to both of them by killing Strout.
Fowler is extremely saddened by his act. In the story, Strout, the man who is shot, is clearly guilty but he is also a human being and that knowledge was suppressed by Fowler to kill him. At the end of the story, fowler think of Strout’s girlfriend imagining her sleeping and still unaware of his boyfriend’s death. In carrying out the deed, Fowler became isolated even to those sympathize with his violence. As a reader, one can sympathize with the part of him that desired nothing more than killing Strout and the part of him horrified by his own desire.
Indeed, the killings linked the original slaying of Fowler’s son and his retaliation. It suggests that there may be no important moral distinction between the two acts and that it may further imply the effect on Fowler himself. At the end of the story, Fowler became isolated by his own act. He could not tell to his children and he cannot even make love to his wife.
The revenge he has taken that resulted to the same act of killing became a sad issue in the story. The murder depressed him and he was confused between the clear guilt of Strout and the knowledge that despite the apparent guilt, he was still a human being. At the end of the story when Strout is murdered, Matt is left with guilt and a feeling of isolation. As Dubus wrote, “The gun kicked in Matt’s hand, and the explosion of the shot surrounded him, isolated him in a nimbus of sound that cut him off from all his time, all his history, isolated him standing absolutely still on the dirt road with the gun in his hand” ( ).
Eventually, the story is unsettling because of the desire to take revenge and
the feeling of isolation brought by the murder. The first consequence of his act
was the profound isolation he had to suffer himself. Fowler suffered for his
cruelty. There is not even a moment’s satisfaction of vengeance for him. While
his act is rational to eliminate Strout from their world and end his wife’s
pain, a lifelong isolation awaits him as the result of the premeditated murder.
Thus, the story creates sympathy with his desire to kill his son’s murderer and
the horrifying feeling associated with that desire. The story is ironic because
it shows the dark side of the
character with his desire to kill and at the same
time the sympathy with his horrifying feeling of death and the fact of killing a
The character depicted the power of love as a motivating tool to commit crime. With the story revolving on the theme of crime, passion and morality, the readers are confronted with either sympathizing with the characters and the moral justification associated with their acts. Indeed, the love of a father for his son was the motivation of the character in ‘Killings’ to execute his son’s killer. The character of Matt Fowler was ironic in nature. He depicts anger by avenging his son’s death but ended up with self death as a result of his own crime.
Matt committed a kind of self murder by killing Strout. He is the judge, jury and the executioner which invites the readers to feel the anger and righteousness of the character. It also makes the readers think whether the cleanly executed revenge murder is morally justified. Even though his son’s murderer admits his guilt and is sentenced for his crime, the character’s fixation on revenge identifies him with a dark side of the murderous revenge.
The story concludes not only with two physical killings but the moral death of the character as well. The character was apt to take the law into his own hand to avenge and protect his family. There is no abstract moral judgment but it is clear that the psychic price of the action comes high.
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