Killings: Short Story and Ranch Hand Archie

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In Brady Udall’s short story, “He Becomes Deeply and Famously Drunk,” the young ranch hand Archie proclaims:

“Growing up, I used to read a lot, mostly Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour, and in those books if someone killed a member of your family or even a friend, it was pretty much your duty to pay the son of a bitch back. It’s what anyone who had any courage or sense of justice did; it’s what cowboys did. It’s what my father would have done.” (558)

In the past week, we have discussed issues of revenge and morality as they relate to the characters of Udall’s story and Andre Dubus’s short story “Killings.” Your third essay will compare and contrast these stories and arrive at a conclusion about the theme of revenge as it is shown in these stories. Optional: Though we did not read it in class, Ed Vega’s short story “Spanish Roulette” also describes a character pondering revenge. If you would like to use this story in addition to the other two that is fine. It may give you more material to include in your essay.

The focus of this essay will be to make an argument about the nature of revenge using the two short stories as evidence. The key to this essay will be not only to describe what happens in the story, but to also investigate the stories in great detail to describe how and why things happen as they do. What makes one character succeed where the other fails? Is there even such a thing as “successful” revenge?

To arrive at these conclusions, you should analyze the characters and other circumstances (setting and context) that contribute to your interpretation of the stories. Naturally, the revenge plots of the two main characters, Matt (in “Killings”) and Archie (in “He Becomes Deeply and Famously Drunk”), offer a lot of material to examine, but you may wish to discuss the roles of the other characters as well. What do Ruth, Willis, and Jesus show us about revenge? What can we learn from examining the characters of Cal Pulphiser and...