List of Characters

Cathleen Fowler
She is the middle child of Matt and Ruth Fowler. She is married and lives in Syracuse. She attends the funeral for Frank and returns to her home with her husband.

Frank Fowler
Frank is the son of Matt and Ruth Fowler. He is a graduate student in economics at a local university. He is dating Mary Ann Strout and is four years her junior. Frank offers a light-heartedness when talking with his father about the increasing tension between himself, Richard, and Mary Ann. He is murdered at Mary Ann’s home with her two sons present. Richard Strout shoots him in the chest and in the face.

Matt Fowler
Matt is a store owner in a small town in Massachusetts. He is Ruth’s husband and the father of Frank, Steve, and Cathleen. Matt feels increasing pressure to respond to Frank’s murder. He and his wife are frustrated by the presence of Richard Strout when they see him on their small town streets as he is out on bail.

Ruth Fowler
She is Matt’s wife and the mother of Frank, Steve, and Cathleen. Ruth shares her deep fears over Frank’s relationship with Mary Ann. She also shows considerable anguish as they await the trial for Richard Strout.

Steve Fowler
He is the twenty-eight-year-old son of Matt and Ruth Fowler. He is married and lives in Baltimore where he manages the branch office of a bank. At the funeral, in reference to Richard Strout, Steve says, “I should kill him.”

Richard Strout
Richard is a twenty-six-year-old man living in the same area as the Fowlers. He was a high school athlete who won a football scholarship to the University of Massachusetts. After quitting college just before being expelled due to poor grades, Richard returns to his small town and works as a bartender. He had rejected an opportunity to follow in his father’s construction business, and he...

(The entire section is 504 words.)


Matt Fowley
Matt is the main character of the short story. He is a man in his mid-fifties with a wife and three children: Steve, Cathleen, and Frank. Matt acts as a prism of emotions that run from his family members and through him in the aftermath of Frank’s murder. He and Ruth have been together for thirty-one years and have a relationship that allows them to cut directly to the heart of the matter. They are very close and devoted to one another. Ruth’s anxiety and pain over Frank’s death is a part of Matt’s every day. At the funeral, Matt’s older son Steve also expresses his wish to kill Frank’s murderer. As the head of the family, Matt feels a sharp responsibility for his wife and children. Frank’s death tugged on Matt’s entire experience of being a parent: he reviews the efforts he made to keep them safe, secure, and alive from the time they were born and as they became adults. Readers get the sense that Matt is experiencing a sense of failure in the premature death of his son. In his listless state after Frank’s death, Matt imagines himself shooting Richard in the face. As he travels through his town, there are constant reminders of their family’s long life there. When he sees Strout, he cannot hold his family and sense of place together anymore. As a means to unload this unbearable grief, stress, and pressure, he finds a like-minded partner to commit a crime that otherwise would be unthinkable for this loving and attentive father and husband.

Ruth Fowley
Ruth is the dutiful and loving wife of Frank and the mother to three children, Frank, Steve, and Cathleen. Her despair over Frank’s murder is a palpable part of the story. The intense emotion required to kill Richard is through Ruth. When Matt describes his .38 gun to Willis he notes “Ruth would shoot him herself, if she thought she could hit him.” Readers sense the weight of her person in every scene in the story. She expresses all of her deepest feelings with Matt in bed including her fears about their children. She feared the situation with Mary Ann would only be a problem for Frank. As a mother, she saw this coming. During one visit with Mary Ann, Ruth attempts to offset any judgment. She encourages Mary Ann to bring the boys to their home. After learning that Mary Ann had been married for six years, Ruth says that she expects that Mary Ann would have had some children. The short story does not mention a tight hold on religion; however, Dubus presents Ruth as a “weighty” character who holds her grief, despair, and emotions in check, and tries to keep her judgments to herself as well. She is trying to be a good person. There is a moral compass in her that is steady, strong, and an instrument that her husband is entirely tuned into.

Richard Strout
Richard is the estranged husband of Mary Ann Strout. He was a high school athlete who gained a football scholarship to the state school. He quit college before he was kicked out...

(The entire section is 1221 words.)