The reader’s opinion of Richard Strout may change through the story even though the readers see him always through the eyes of Matt Fowler. At first, Fowler presents Strout as a murderer deserving of being murdered as he describes how his wife Ruth must see their son’s killer on the streets. Strout’s background of privilege and partying also causes the reader to view Strout as undeserving of justice or empathy. When Strout pulls the trigger and kills Frank in front of Mary Ann and the children, the reader’s opinion of Strout is at an all-time low.
Yet as Matt proceeds with his plans to end Strout’s life, the reader begins to see Strout differently: as a father, as a husband whose wife had “slept around,” as a significant other to a new girlfriend. Matt affords Strout the dispensation of not telling him he will die but pretends to be taking him to the airport, protecting Strout as Matt did his own children. As Strout packs his clothing in a suitcase, Matt looks around the apartment and sees the signs of daily life, including a photo of the children. The reader is reminded that Strout is still a human being, despite the fact that he murdered in cold blood. When Matt pulls the trigger on Strout, the explosions “isolate” him, changing his life and history. The reader can see the terrible cost of Matt’s revenge killing and feels that Strout deserved better.