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Andre Dubus’ Killings

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Andre Dubus’ “Killings” is a story that focuses on a couple, Matt and Ruth Fowler who are mourning the loss of their son whom was shot by Richard Strout, and wants revenge. Their son, Frank, fell in love with Strout’s wife, Mary Ann, while they were going through a divorce, which ultimately lead him to his death. Dubus presents the jealousy and rage of Strout and the resentment and vengeance within Fowler. There are also signs of deep sadness within the minds of the Fowler’s. Matt Fowler fought an internal battle, fantasizing of how he would get back at Strout. Dubus explains these thoughts when stating, “And beneath his listless wandering, every day in his soul he shot Richard Strout in the face; while Ruth, going about town on errands, kept seeing him” (601). Fowler couldn’t stand to see this man walk free after killing his son, and makes the decision to create a scheme that will get rid of Strout for good.

Richard Strout killed Frank after seeing how happy he made Mary Ann and their two children, something he wasn’t able to do. In their article “Gender Differences in Romantic Jealousy,” Ayala Pines and Ariella Friedman explain, “Partners with less power in the relationship are more likely to feel sad when jealous; partners with more power are more likely to feel anger” (Pines and Friedman 1998). Frank knew Richard would not be happy about his and Mary Ann’s relationship, but he genuinely cared for her and her children and wanted a life with her. In a conversation between Matt and Frank, Matt explained his concern with their relationship due to the fact that Mary Ann was still in the process of getting a divorce, had children, and he felt it was a lot for someone so young, like Frank, to take on. When Matt addressed his concern Frank responded with, “Sometimes it is. But she’s worth it” (600). Matt and Ruth Fowler feared something bad may happen as a result of the relationship because everyone knew the kind of man Richard was, but they allowed it anyways.

After having to bury his 21-year-old son because of Richard Strout, Matt Fowler and his good friend Willis, began plotting a scheme to get rid of him; they felt that the absence of his presence would finally bring him and his wife Ruth peace. In his article, Munahi Shary states, “Revenge is the first instinct of an individual who has been wronged or hurt in some way (Majumdar, 2009). It is a form of primitive justice that is usually assumed to be present or expected when there is a lack of rules and regulation its implementation (Raghaven, 2007)” (Shary, 2019). Matt shot Richard Strout in the back of his head, killing him instantly, and he finally felt somewhat of a relief. “In general, data from the Stanford Bereavement Project indicate that people unable to make sense of their loss within the first 6 months are generally unable to make sense of it later” (The Course of Making Sense). Forgiving Strout for killing his son was never an option for Matt. Shary states, “In contrast to this, when the person decides to forgive their transgressors, it is associated with reduced stress, lower levels of blood pressure and lower heart rate, which is comparatively a healthy outcome as there are fewer illness symptoms (Klausen, 2015)” (Shary, 2019). It is as if Matt killed Strout for his own sanity. When he got home after killing Strout, he began explaining to Ruth everything from beginning to end. To his surprise, Ruth began to comfort and hold him, rather than be angry and confrontational. This brought peace back into their lives after they had suffered a great loss. Dubus states, “Ruth sees him. She sees him too much. She was at Sunnyhurst today getting cigarettes and aspirin, and there he was.” (596). Killing Richard solved this problem.

“Killings” presents a couple of different but similar topics. The first topic is the feeling of betrayal and going to extreme lengths. Richard feels this betrayal with his wife, who before they were officially divorced, began to see another man. “Interestingly, recent research (Treas and Giesen 2000) has evidenced reductions in what were once believed to be immutable gender differences, and, in fact, in one study (Brand et al. 2007), women were more likely to cheat than men if they were unhappy in their primary relationship” (pg 23). When Matt had Strout at gunpoint throughout the story he said several times to Matt, “He was making it with my wife” (603), acting as if that would justify his reasoning for killing Matt’s son. Frank is the young man who steps in and is stealing Richard’s wife away from him. Richard is very angry when he sees Frank, his wife, and two sons in his own home.

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