Andrew Dubus, a fiction writer from Louisiana, explores in his short story "Killings" jealous, loss, ineffective justice, emotions, psychology, revenge, and consequences before and after Frank's murder. Dubus presents Matt Fowler, an ordinary man married to Ruth and father of Frank and two other children, becomes a killer by taking Richard Strout's life as a desperate act of vengeance. Although Matt is a normal, not-violent person, and a "fearful father" (104) always worrying about his children's safety, Debus make his transformation in to a vengeful killer believable by revealing the factors that motivate him to kill Richard.
One factor that Dubus pointed out in "Killings" is the necessity for Matt to relieve his wife Ruth's suffering for the loss of their son Frank, lifeguard and "graduate school in economics" (102), he met Marry Ann Strout at the beach quite time ago, before he got killed. After Frank's funeral, Matt notices on Ruth's face the pain she is going through and how she is suffering since her son was killed. At that moment, Matt knows he needs to do something to make Ruth feel better. A month after the funeral, Matt goes to Willis Trottier's house to play poker and have fun with some other friends. After everyone was gone, Willis invited Matt to have another drink and they start talking about how Ruth is feeling by knowing Richard Strout, her son's killer, is free walking around the same streets she walks with no restriction. Matt says, "she was at the Sunnyhurst today getting cigarettes and aspirin, and there he was. She can't even go out for cigarettes and aspirin." Every time she sees him "It's killing her" (100). Matt full of emotions and filling psychology obligated with his wife and family initiates his transformation in to vengeful killer.
An additional factor Dubus emphasizes in "Killings" is how Richard, twenty-six years old, school athlete, and had won a football scholarship to the University of Massachusetts, appears a brutal person before killing Frank and even when he executes Frank. One night at the Fowler's house, Matt and Ruth were watching TV when Frank came home after he had driven to the hospital; He had stitches over his right eye and both lips swollen. Richard beat him up. This situation has Ruth and Matt wondering whether Frank should be in a relationship with Mary Ann who is still married to Richard Strout and is mother of two young children. That night Matt suggested Frank to "press charges" (102) against Richard for aggression but Frank refused to do it. Furthermore, Matt recalls when "Richard Strout shot Frank in front of the boys. They were sitting on the living room floor watching television, Frank sitting on the couch, and Mary Ann just returning from the kitchen with a tray of sandwiches. Strout came in the front door and shot Frank twice in the chest and once in the face with a 9mm automatic. Then he looked at the boys and Mary Ann, and went home to wait for the police" (104). Richard Strout, a jealous, frustrated ex- football player young man, aggressive and hard-hatted strikes again with violence.
The last but not less important factor Dubus reports in his short story "Killings" is how Matt feels guilty for his son Frank's death. Matt always appeared relaxed and confident about his children. He never spoke about his fears which he controlled within his heart. Matt knows "He had always been a fearful father" (104), he also remembers the start of each summer when Matt's children were young, he imagined them drowning in a pool or the ocean, he could only be relaxed when he got back home after work and he saw his children were safe; it was only a signal of how worried he was about his kids. During winter Matt was less afraid about his children, he always "brought them or sent them to places where they could sled without ending in the street so he and his children had survived their childhood" (105). Now Matt lost Frank in one of the most horrible ways a father can lose his son. Somehow, Matt feels guilty about Frank's situation because he could talk to his children about his fears and how terrified he was through their childhood. Matt knew Frank was getting in a relationship with Marry Ann, but Matt never talked to his son about Matt's concerns as Ruth did a couple of times. Matt didn't prevent his son about getting between Richard and Mary Ann relationship; instead, he supported Frank to continue with Marry Ann and their romance.
Dubus writes in "Killings" innumerable reasons why someone like Matt could become violent and kill when his feelings are hurt. I place myself in Matt's position and agree how horrible it would be if I have near me a person that had caused me such pain, but I totally disagree with taking justice into my own hands and doing the same things back to anyone. Matt killing Richard may give him a sense of revenge but it didn't help at all how he was feeling about Frank's death; instead "he shuddered with sub that he kept silent in his heart" (112). Matt tries to make justice for him and his whole family; instead he becomes a killer. After reading "killings" by Andrew Dubus I realize how important it is to allow the justice system apply the laws and not become a criminal by taking justice into my own hands.
- Meyer, Michael. The Bedford introduction to Literature. Boston, New York: Bedford / St. Martin's, 2005.