“Killings” by Andre Dubus is a short story about a father who seeks out vengeance for the murder of his twenty-one year old son only to learn that revenge will only make things worse. The father, Matt Fowler, is haunted by the tragedy that has befallen his youngest son. Retribution is a common human desire because people feel that it offers the truest form of justice; however, this action is against the law of the land and is thought of as reckless to pursue.
The author uses foreshadowing, imagery, and dialogue to illustrate a tone of prudence when thinking of taking vengeance into one’s own hand. In the story the literary element of foreshadowing is used. The desire to get even is an emotion that is felt by all people and is not biased as to who feels it. That desire is displayed at the beginning of the story. This is shown when the author writes, “Matt’s older son, Steve, turned to him as the family left the grave and walked between their friends, and said: ‘I should kill him’” (1203).
This ominous statement shows how the feeling of revenge causes the character to not think of the consequences when pursuing vengeance for what is thought of as true justice. The writer further establishes how the feeling of retribution clouds cautious thinking through foreshadowing when he writes, “‘I’ve got a . 38 I’ve had for years, I take it to the store now…She knows I started carrying it after the first time she saw him in town. She knows it’s in case I see him and there’s some kind of situation. ’” (1204).
This indicates that not only is revenge to be sought out but also the means by which Matt Fowler plans to exact his vengeance without any thought of consequence. The author’s use of imagery creates a picture of how the father’s vengeance for his son’s murder takes place when Matt waits on the murderer to get off of work so that he can take the killer and his car back to the killer’s house. The author describes the scene with vivid detail when he writes, “…he stopped and aimed over the hood at Strout’s blue shirt ten feet away…They drove across the empty front lot and onto the road.
Willis’s headlights shining into the car; then back through the town, the sea wall left hiding the beach, though far out Matt could see the ocean; he uncocked the revolver: on the right were the places, most with their neon signs off, that did so much business in summer…the street itself empty of traffic…” (1209). The description of the abduction of the killer creates a mental picture to the reader of how the father planned to obtain the murderer and exact his revenge. The use of magery is also evident when the author describes the preparations taken for getting even when the author writes, “Beyond the marsh they drove through woods, Matt thinking now of the hole he and Willis dug last Sunday afternoon…as they dug into the soft earth on the knoll they had chosen because elms and maples sheltered it” (1210). The prose writer not only creates a picture of how the father obtains the murder to exact retaliation but also where the killer would be disposed of.
The author uses imagery to show that the character had plenty of opportunities to have second thoughts of seeking vengeance but used no caution and thought only of revenge. The author’s use of dialogue enhances the tone of caution when thinking of taking vengeance outside of the legal system. This is apparent in the father’s reply to the murderer when the author writes, “‘You’re not going to jail’” (1212). Matt Fowler’s response to the killer not going to jail through dialogue shows that he has no intentions of letting the justice system handle Strout’s punishment.
The author further reinforces the tone through dialogue when he show’s the father’s distaste with the legal system. This is illustrated when the scribe writes, “‘I’ll do twenty years, Mr. Fowler; at least. I’ll be forty-six years old. ’ ‘That’s nine years younger than I am,’ Matt said…” (1214). The father’s response gives the reader insight to Matt’s thoughts of true justice and how no caution was used when pursuing this course of action. In conclusion, the author uses foreshadowing, imagery, and dialogue to set a tone of caution when thinking about taking vengeance outside of the legal system.
This desire for reprisal is all too common, especially to those who have been victimized, to feel that if one wrong is committed that another wrong will cancel it out. Revenge is ill advised by most as people who say two wrongs don’t make a right and the memories will never fade. The story, “Killings” by Andre Dubus, illustrates how a father seeks out revenge for the murder of his twenty-one year old son and takes matters into his own hands only to discover that revenge only makes matters in his life worse.
You may also be interested in the following: what is passion killing