Killings, and How To tell A True War Story: A Comparison of Two War Stories

Pages: 2 (1206 words) Published: October 30, 2014

Andre Dubus’ “Killings” and Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story” both deal with violence and the moral ambiguity surrounding it, although the authors employ different approaches based on the emotional response they are trying to create in the reader. Because the stories are set in dissimilar environments, the way in which the authors depict violence is geared to the setting in which it occurs. However, the harmful effects of violence on the human psyche are portrayed in similar ways in both stories. In “Killings,” the setting is a small town in which family ties and community are very important. Dubus uses domestic conversations and straightforward, matter of fact language to describe the Fowler’s struggles and the resulting incidents of violence, which are presented in an objective manner, without exaggeration or emotion. By contrasting pleasant descriptions of family togetherness with the horrific act of murder, Dubus makes the violence seem even more shocking. “Richard Strout shot Frank in front of the boys. They were sitting on the living room floor watching television, Frank sitting on the couch, and Mary Ann just returning from the kitchen with a tray of sandwiches. Strout came in the front door and shot Frank twice in the chest and once in the face with a 9mm automatic” (p. 570). By highlighting Matt’s desire to protect and defend his family after his son’s murder, Dubus causes the reader to sympathize with him despite the violence of his revenge. The author creates moral ambiguity in the mind of the reader, who understands Matt’s motivation for revenge but also realizes that his actions are unconscionable. His son’s murder has caused Matt to lose his moral compass and to view the killing of the murderer as the only way to protect his family from further trauma. As Matt carries out the murder, he loses touch with reality, feeling “isolated, in a nimbus of sound that cut him off from all his time, all his...
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