In the last part of the story, did Eckels shoot himself?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't see the ending of the story as one in which Eckels shoots himself.  I don't see this because I see him as primarily denying that his actions could have resulted in a cataclysmic change in the future.  He fails to understand how the death of the butterfly on the bottom of his shoes would or could actually result in so much fundamental change.  Eckels does not show himself to be one that grasps the full implications of what he has done.  At the same time, Travis understands this in too full precision.  He fully understands what happens, and while Eckels is struggling to make sense of the reality that he has helped to cause, there is much in way of Travis knowing what he must do.  His raising the gun to Eckels is where I think that one can conclusively see that Eckels does not shoot himself.  Rather, he becomes victim to the same reality that he has helped cause.  This vision of the future is one in which there is not the creative power of redemption within the touch of human beings.  Rather, there is destruction and a sense of ruin that becomes intrinsic to human beings, something that Travis understands and Eckels only begins to grasp, if only for an instant.  It is here where I don't see him as shooting himself, rather falling victim to a reality that he has helped to cause.