The “Killings” is a short story written by Andre Dubus. Andre Dubus’ short stories often reflect his portrayal of personal tragedies, violence, anger and even tenderness which Dubus has been confronted with throughout his lifetime. The author uses symbolism through the characters eyes to show perspective about his characters emotions. A person’s eyes can often show their exact emotions and feeling. Dubus does this through his characters eyes to show the reader an inside look in to Matt Fowlers’ emotions. The implementation of the eyes shows Matt Fowler’s morality towards humanity; the eye’s also show emotions of love and sympathy, and the feelings of anger and pain.
The story begins in a small town in America. The fowler family is faced with the burden, frustration and pain of having to bury their twenty-one year old son, Frank. The inward struggle faced by Matt Fowler, his wife, and family drives him to premeditate the murder of Strout, Frank’s killer, in order to avenge his son’s murder and bring peace to himself and his family. Dubus shows the morality humans show for each-other and loved one’s through the use of the eyes. Matt faced a life-time struggle to be a good father and protect his children from danger throughout their childhood. Dubus describes Matt’s inner struggle to cope with this tragedy, “he lost his son in a way no father expects to lose his son” (Dubus 105). The emptiness Matt felt was overwhelming, even when he was able to forget his trauma “the eyes of his clerks and customers defeated him” (Dubus105). Matt “wishing those eyes were oblivious and even cold” (dubus105) everyday in his soul matt shot Strout in the face, as Strout did to Frank, and put an end to his grief and pain. Matt’s morality towards humanity was transformed after the senseless cold blooded murder of his youngest son, Frank. The murder has blurred Matt’s morality of right and wrong inadvertently altering Matt’s moral judgment. Dubus conveys Matt’s moral consciousness by recalling events that occurred over the summer when Frank and Mary-Ann stopped by for a barbecue. “Matt recalled her eyes, the pain in them, and he was conscious of the circles of love he was touching with the hand that held the revolver.” (Dubus108) While pointing the gun at Strout, Matt aimed at his temple and did not look in to his eyes.” (Dubus105) Matt avoided looking into Strout’s eyes, for he would allow himself to see Strout as a husband, father, and son, not as a murderer.
Dubus continues to impose relevance through the eyes of his characters to show sympathy while also conveying the love his characters feel for each other. Dubus describes the love Matt Fowler’s feels for his wife, his children, and friends. The characters in the story show their expressions of sympathy for matt’s loss of his son, a love for him and his family while going through this tragedy. Matt note’s the “affection and courtesy” in each of his friends eyes (Dubus100) while playing poker with them. Suggesting matt’s friends feel sorrow for the loss of his son. Dubus also show’s the love matt feels for the emotional trauma his wife is going through, the love matt has for his family drove him to murder Strout so Ruth could be at peace and never have to see Strout walking around town again while running errands. Matt tells Strout a lie to make him believe he had to leave town “The trial, we can not go through with that, me and my wife”(dubus109). Matt and Willis take Strout to the woods where he and Willis dug a hole the previous week; matt ends Strouts life with a shot to the head, both matt and Willis drag his lifeless body and throw it in the hole, than they proceed to filling the hole. He hoped this will end his families’ internal suffering and also his own.
The author also shows pain and anger through his characters eyes. Beginning with the burial of Frank, Matt notes the pain he sees in Ruth’s eyes upon receiving the tragic news of her son’s death “beneath her eyes there was swelling from the three days she had suffered” (dubus100). Dubus continues to symbolize the pain Ruth feels a pain which angers matt. He tells Willis “she sees him all the time, it makes her cry”. (Dubus101) and continues, “She cannot even go to the store for cigarettes without seeing him”. (Dubus101) This symbolizes the effect it has on matt because his wife is not at peace. Matt’s older son feels intense pain and anger at his younger brother’s funeral, by stating” I should kill him” (dubus100) while wiping the tears from his eyes. Dubus describes the effect the murder has had on all the family member’s and continues to show further details of Matt’s inner struggle. Strout, Frank’s murderer, is granted bail and walking the street until his trial, Matt expresses to Willis “he walks the god-damn streets”. (Dubus100) This symbolizes the anger he feels for the injustice done to him by the judicial system for allowing Strout to walk the streets until the murder trial. Strout looks in the rear-view mirror at Matt and says “I’ll do twenty years, Mr. Fowler, at least; I’ll be
forty-six years old.” (Dubus110) Matt’s dissatisfaction is noticed when his reply is “that’s nine years younger than I am” (Dubus110). This further acknowledges matt’s anger, suggesting Strout would still be young enough to live a full-life; a chance frank would never have again.
Andre Dubus’ stories show the inner battle humanity is faced with in certain scenarios and the dilemma one has after his life is shattered. Through symbolism, the author describes the morality issue’s one person has to deal with hoping to bring closure to his family’s suffering and his own internal struggle to cope. His character accomplishes his goal of eliminating Strout, yet he feels no satisfaction. He feels in a way isolated, as if his actions have cut him off from all his time and history. Dubus, uses symbolism to show the love and sympathy through the use of the eye’s. The story gives a perspective of what matt is going through during this difficult time. Anger and pain are also symbolized through the use of the eyes. The eyes can reveal a lot about humanity; Dubus uses his own life experiences to tell the story.