Killings: The Price of Vigilante Justice

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Throughout the tale of time, thoughts of revenge have corrupted even the most innocent of minds. In Andre Dubus’ “Killings”, Matt Fowler is conflicted by two opposing forces: his own desire and his wife’s demand for the death of their son’s murderer. Through her manipulative words and her emotional meltdowns, Matt Fowler ultimately succumbs to his wife’s request and commits the gruesome act, which causes the audience to reevaluate the appropriateness and cost of vigilante justice.

Through her emotional breakdowns and extensive grief, Ruth Fowler provokes her husband into committing homicide in order to appease her. During the weeks after the death of their son, Matt Fowler sees the pain and torment his wife goes through dealing with the fact that their son’s killer still walked the streets not persecuted for his crime. When talking to his friend Willis Trottier about his family after a night of poker, Matt Fowlers affirms, “She can’t even go out for cigarettes and aspirin. It’s killing her. […] Every day since he got out. I didn’t think about bail. I thought I wouldn’t have to worry about him for years. She sees him all the time. It makes her cry” (Dubus 2). In Matt Fowler’s recount, he describes his wife as being perpetually afflicted by the presence of their son’s killer, and he even goes further to claim that Richard Strout’s existence is resulting in the deterioration of Ruth Fowler’s health and wellbeing. Although it is too late for Matt Fowler to protect his own son, he feels obligated to guard his wife from the suffering inflicted by presence of their son’s murderer. Because of this marital responsibility brought about by Ruth Fowler’s teary performances, Matt Fowler kills Richard Strout in an effort to end his wife’s emo...

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... experienced by his wife Ruth Fowler. This story is a tragic tale of how love for another person translated into murder, and there is no moral distinction between these acts. Since there is no explicit difference between these two murders, the audience understands that vigilante justice reduces an individual into a criminal – blind to ethics in an effort to attain retribution. Vigilante justice also comes at a hefty emotional price – loneliness and regret. For example, after Matt Fowler kills Richard Strout, he experiences a great deal of isolation and hidden shame, which is evidenced by his inability to make love with his wife and his internalized sadness. Matt Fowler will forever have to live on knowing that he compromised his morals to commit the gruesome act of murder to appease others. In an effort to please others, he became the murderer he sought to end.
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