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Literary Analysis of “Killings”

January 13th, 2020
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Literary Analysis of “Killings” by Andre Dubus

Literary techniques are the special methods a storyteller uses to convey the intended message. They are considered a significant element of creative writing as they make the whole process of communication easier and more effective. There are many different literary techniques, ranging from those pertaining to the theme, style, plot, setting, and genre. However, this paper will concentrate on the literary techniques relating to the theme, style, and narrative perspective.

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In the story ‘Killings’ by Andre Dubus, a few literary techniques that touch upon the theme can be distinguished. It is important to note that theme is defined as the subject matter of any work of art or literature. In the story, the author addresses the theme of violence. The book is heavily enriched with mentioning the acts and plans to commit acts of violence. It can be exemplified by Steve Fowler’s loud statement to the effect that Max and Ruth should consider addressing their evil thoughts on the issue of killing Richard Stout. In addition, the Fowlers, who are a good family, are upset by the murder of Frank. The crime causes so much suffering to Matt and Ruth. Matt internalizes Ruth’s feelings and merges them with his own. The emotional heat explodes into something awful enough to cause his contemplating and justifying the murder of Richard Stout. In addition, the author presents Richard Stout as an embodiment of violence by extending his affiliation with a violent game – football – to his post-schooling days. He thinks of the outside world in the same way he used to of his opponents while on the field and feels free to punch and hurt people as much and freely as he desires. In addition, the character frequently argues with his wife, reinforcing his alignment with the theme of violence.

The second literary technique revealed in the story ‘Killings’ by Andre Dubus is deception. The notion means lying or portraying what is untrue to someone seeking the truth, and the story illustrates many incidents that exemplify this vice. Matt’ decision to kill Richard is an act of singular deception. While his wife thinks that he is suffering silently like her, Matt is secretly planning to kill Frank and does not intend to inform or involve his wife in this. In addition, another image of deception is illustrated when Willis, Matt’s friend and accomplice in the plot to kill Richard, deceives his wife on the night of the act. He sets up some scotch and ice in a way that, when Martha, his drugged wife, wakes up, she would think that he has brought Matt for extra entertainment and man-talk. The deception is also presented in Matt’s and Willis’ treatment of Richard. When they accost him, they promise to assist him to get a bail and get another job in California. However, this pretension could not be further from the truth.

The third aspect of the theme is nature. The author succeeds in introducing several features of nature into the plot. He uses it to compare its purity and beauty and contrast the vices of the society. The nature unfolds and matures in line with the deployment of the events in the story. The best example of this peculiar approach is the use of geographical interconnection of The Charles and Merrimack Rivers with the two exclusive events. This literary technique has the effect of reinforcing a reader’s emotions as they proceed through the plot. The stylistic devices are also applied by the writer to translate his intended message to the reader. He widely applies symbolism. The first example here is the author’s representation of the Fowler family. They are obviously not congregated for a happy reason, and a number of symbols illustrate that emotional suffering such as pallbearers, the minister, the casket, and the limousine. It is through these symbols that the audience can understand what had happened and share the feelings of the family. A beautiful artistic description of the trees, neatly lining the funeral pathway on either side helps to create a vivid image and a sense of deep aching for the sad demise of the boy. The trees signify a numb and unconditional conformance of human life to the rules of death and immortality. Everyone alive will one day perish, and nothing can be changed. The nature is speechless yet inexorable, just like the trees at the funeral pathway.

The second example of a stylistic device used in the narration is irony. Andre Dubus uses a rather strong example of irony when Steve, the Fowler’s eldest son, says to his father that he should kill someone while standing next to the fresh grave of his younger brother. Suspense is one of the techniques used by the writer to attract and hold the attention of the reader. It is achieved through the creation of tension when the audience is left wondering what is supposed to happen next. In fact, they are left yearning for more. In the story, Dubus manages to create a feeling of anxiety through the fact that Frank’s murderer is out on bail, and the parent keeps on running into him. This technique sets the reader on the edge of wanting to know if the killer will meet his destiny that befits him or whether he will face justice. However, the story ends without the direct answer to this question. The suspense is heaved further and is worsened by Matt actually buying a gun. While this fuels the reader’s emotions and anticipation, this weapon is not mentioned again in any constructive manner until the plot matures and ends.

One more literary technique to be discussed is narrative perspective. It pertains to the point of view of the person narrating the work of literature. It is an important technique in developing the readers’ perspective. The reader is enabled to feel the narrator’s emotions, which, in turn, allows a better understand of the message intended to be conveyed. In the story, the method of the omniscient narrator is applied. The reader assumes the point of view of Matt throughout the story and is put in the head of one of the main characters. However, the main disadvantage of this kind of technique is the possibility of bias. There is a risk that the reader, so engrossed in one character’s perspective, might fail to grasp the themes, messages, and important occurrences conveyed through the other characters. Though there is a small possibility of such occurrence in the relatively simple plots like that of Dubus, the tendency for confusion exists in more complicated and longer stories.

In conclusion, Andre Dubus’ short story is written in a concise manner while delivering the main message to the reader through the use of the above-discussed literary techniques. However hard the critics might shun the simplicity of the short story, it meets its main objectives successfully. The author manages to create the atmosphere of sorrow and pain of the family, deception, tension and desire to revenge through the successful use of the stylistic devices. Suspension set throughout the story and the open ending make the plot of the story catching and interesting to read.

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