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Summary and Analysis Essay on Killings by Andre Dubus

Summary and Analysis of Killings by Andre Dubus

The story “The Killings”, written by Andre Dubus, is about the crimes committed by the two characters, Richard Strout and Matt Fowler. A short story about father’s love for his son to exact revenge by killing the murderer, but soon is caught up with the action that lead to his own destruction.

Richard Strout commits a crime of passion: he murders the man who is having an affair with his estranged wife. He is incensed when he finds out that his wife was seeing another man while the divorce is still pending. After the killing he feels to be quite justified and do not feel a bit of remorse of what he has done. He never seems to mind the consequences but continue the life he lives. Strout is depicted in the short story as an amoral and man of passion.

Matt Fowler is a man of great moral fortitude. He is faced with the questions of morality when his son is murdered, and seeing his wife suffering for the loss of their son he is motivated by private revenge-on the part of the child-, and protection for the safety of his wife.  Fowler performed the act with his friend Willis Trottier, and they both killed Strout. Instead of feeling a sense of satisfaction and justification over his son’s death he is overcome with a profound sense of isolation. 

The title itself defines the whole story. Revenge is hinted at right at the beginning of the story. The writer uses the third person point of view, where the reader is able to see the family’s ways of coping through the loss. Dubus provide a conventional plot pattern where the characters are confronted with a problem, reached into the climax then finally came to a resolution in the end. Dubus adds in flashbacks so that the reader can fully understand the actions and behaviors of the characters. Matt Fowler and Richard Strout are both the murderers and victims of the story. The writer wanted to set the mood at the start of the story – a mother with a broken heart and the father who is torn between contemplating crime and doing what is morally right. The story began to get a little predictable in the rising action but as the plot thickened Matt Fowler begins to question the plan on how Robert could be taken care of.  The couple decided to take revenge on their own hands on the basis they are concerned that the system will not punish Strout enough. After murdering Strout and burying the body, Matt returns home. Ruth is aware of what Matt has done, and is relieved and desirious of her husband after learning of the revenge. But Matt became a different person  (Dubus, 1979) (Johnson, 2011). 

Andre Dubus uses symbolism to describe the person’s confrontation with morality has to deal with hoping to end his family’s suffering and his own internal struggles to stop.  Dubus uses the eye as a symbol of showing love and sympathy, anger and  pain.

In popular movies, the main characters who are wronged or have their family killed, money and property are taken away shot, stab, massacre those who injure them or take law into their own hands and the watchers feel that the justice has been done. What makes Matt Fowler different from revenge heroes portrayed in film is he knows that killing Richard is morally wrong. After Matt finally accomplishes his goal of killing Strout, his own internal struggles escalates and couldn’t find satisfaction so he went to isolation, cut out from his family, time and history. He could not tell to his children what he did to Richard, thus he will continue to live in pain.  Matt is a sympathetic character, completely blameless with the events in the story until his son was killed.
Works cited:
Dubus, Andre. "Killings." The Sewanee Review (1979): 197-218.
Johnson, Daniel, and Susan Bandes. "ELICITING AN EMOTIONAL RESPONSE: An Analysis of Revenge and the Criminal Justice System." (2011).

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Related Topics:
1. Essay on Killings by Andre Dubus
2. Critical Analysis Essay of Killings by Andre Dubus


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  2. wow! This is a great and remarkable analysis essay i read you can find more here .It is like a synopsis that compose all what happened in the story. Work cited are all good and great. Thanks for this post we will now have a reference on how to build this simple yet unique essay analysis.

  3. Very Useful summary about the Short story Killings. The story is interesting and focuses on revenge and justice!
    Thanks you