Passion and revenge are almost always the integral parts of each other. Where they meet, justice rarely is taken into consideration. The opposition between justice and revenge has become a rhetorical case for humanity.
There are no exact instructions what to choose as this choice is up to each of us. It’s a kind of personal responsibility. But all of us must remember that, unfortunately, personal revenge is rarely limited by involving only one person. More often it changes not only the person who realized murdering but the whole environment of this person.
Once having killed the person is not longer a man or woman that he or she used to be. “Killings” by Andre Dubus is a brilliant essay on revenge, passion and justice. This story dwells on love and murder at the same time. Matt Fowler lost his son who was killed by Richard Strout because he lived with Strout’s ex-wife.
Strout was killed then in return by Fowler. Who was the real killer? Whose fault was the most significant? Is that worth to avenge? Is revenge a way to solve the situation or it makes the situation worse? Each of us is free to find his own answers when reading Dubus’ story. The main thesis of the story is that people prefer to act according to their emotions mostly. And anger and hatred are among the strongest human’s emotions.
Below three characters from the story will be characterized and their notion of justice and revenge will be discussed in order to make a conclusion: whether the revenge is a solution for protagonists and whether people are able to avoid revenge and forgive.Matt Flower – victim and murderer at the same time. At the beginning of the story he is presented as a happy man who has a wonderful wife and three children. Matt has his own business and is doing his best to ensure the happy life of his family.
Being a loving father, the loss of his youngest and the most loving son became a horrible tragedy for him. A kind of great psychological change took place in his mind after his son’s death. It can be really said that there are two murders in the story committed by two persons but the real killer is only one –Richard Strout. Matt killed Strout by reasons of his deep grief and passion, powerful desire to avenge for his son.
It is practically impossible to treat him as a murderer. There had not been any evil in his soul before his son was killed. He was a good natured man. It can’t be said also that he decided to kill Strout immediately after his son’s death.
He just wasn’t able to bear that any more: “… he lost Frank in a way no father expected to loose his son, and he felt that all the fears he had borne while they were growing up, and all the grief he been afraid of, had backed up like a huge wave and struck him on the beach and swept him out to sea. Each day he felt the same…” (Dubus 1:20).Through Matt Fowler Dubus introduces in his story an element of revenge. When Ruth said that Mary Ann was still not divorced, Matt replied her that “Massachusetts has crazy laws-that’s all.
” (Dubus 1:8). After his son death he acted according to his own law when killing Strout. But this kind of revenge is not alleviation. It leads rather to even bigger discrepancies in person’s mind.
Revenge leaves indelible stains on person’s heart forever. The phrase “Don’t talk” pronounced by Matt when shooting Strout sounds as though it was told by a cruel murderer. But that was already other Matt Fowler. His cruel attitude was the result of a deep psychological change in his soul that was caused by his son’s death.
But as it was already mentioned, Matt can be hardly perceived as a killer. Dubus just shows how the desire of revenge corrodes human’s soul day by day. Matt didn’t consider revenge to be a solution but was not able to avoid it because his personal grief was too big.Contrary to Matt Fowler, Richard Strout had rather well-expressed negative traits from the verybeginning of the poem: “…those who simply knew him by face and name, had a series of images of him which they recalled when they heard of the killing: the high school running back, the young drunk in bars…as he tended bar, his dark eyes and dark, wide-jawed face appeared less sullen, near blank”.
(Dubus 1:6). The last words pronounced by him: “He was making it with my wife”(Dubus 1:16) are also not a strong argument in his favor. Moreover, they provoke anger and disgust directed against him. To kill a man who lives with his ex-wife – that’s a proceeding of a really aggressive and stupid man.
Strout provokes no condolence from the part of the readers. He killed a man in front of his own children. He is a killer. The Dubus’ story is called “Killings”, not “Killers” because the killer is only one and that’s Strout.
Dubus managed to create a very real character in Strout. He isn’t described as a pure killer. He is not deprived of human good intentions. Even Matt, despite of his anger, noted the neatness of Strout’s house, Marry Ann and children’s photo that meant that Strout probably loved them.
These factors make Strout’s image a little bit more human and demonstrate the unhappiness of his fate. Probably the murder committed by him was rather an eventual than planned and he did that out of passion but, unfortunately, nothing can be changed after having killed. Strout became a victim of his own emotions. He couldn’t cope with that huge animal anger and killed Frank.
It is hard to note some development in Strout’s character. From the very beginning he was a negative protagonist. “Justice” is hardly a familiar word to him. Regarding the revenge, Strout often resorts to it.
Killing Frank can be treated as jealousy action but at the same time that’s rather a dirty revenge.Matt’s wife –Ruth is a stable and positive protagonist of the novel. She is a good mother and loving wife. So, her notion of justice is simple: she wants her children to be happy.
Killing is a horrible thing for her. When Matt killed Strout she understood that her other children would suffer if they know that Strout has just gone away. But she wasn’t able to say them that their father killed someone. She said: “We can’t tell the other kids…It’ll hurt them, thinking he got away…But we mustn’t” (Dubus 1:22).
Ruth’s opinion symbolizes feminine kindness and care of children. That’s why her notion of Justice is the most correct. Revenge can’t be correlated with Ruth. She lost her son and she knows that revenge isn’t able to make Frank come back.
Her feminine nature doesn’t permit her to be aggressive. Though she is aware of that Matt is going to kill Strout. She sees that in his eyes. But she can’t and don’t want to stop him.
That’s a kind of silent revenge of a mother who has lost her son. But this revenge can’t be compared with that dirty revenge by Strout.Revenge and Justice are almost always antonyms. It is difficult to analyze them together as revenge usually takes place where justice is refused.
“Killings” by Andre Dubus proves that very well. It is practically impossible to give some instructions or recommendations how to not avenge and respect Justice. Of course, it is well known that revenge is not a good solution and that it only makes the situation more difficult. But those are the cold mind’s meditations.
When someone like Matt looses his son, it will be in vain to talk to him about justice because he is sure that by killing Strout he created his own justice. And there are few who can object something to him. That is the main answer: each of us has its own Justice. In the majority of the occasions people are not able to cope with their emotions.
One’s choice of Justice or Revenge depends on the particularities of his personality: events of childhood, education, religious beliefs. According to this aspects one make a choice what is justice for him. The unique thing that can be recommended here is that each of us must remember that there exists also another notion of justice which must be common for all of us, justice given to us by God. The main thing which is to be aimed by humanity is that justice, whatever it is for different persons, never must be reached by means of revenge.
We have to instruct our hearts every day and such books as “Killings” by Andre Dubus are a good manual for that.Bibliography1. Dubus, Andre. In the bedroom.
With a preface by Todd Field. Killings. New York: A vintage contemporaries original, 2002.;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;