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Themes

Passivity is condemned in "The Killers." The story’s arguable hero is a man of action who attempts to save a defeated man of inaction. The notion of passivity is largely contrasted with masculinity; real men should be decisive and resolved, the story seems to argue.

Questions About Passivity

  1. After the killers leave the diner, Sam believes that Nick should leave himself out of it. When Nick comes back, Sam shuts the door to the kitchen and doesn’t want to listen to it. How does Sam’s passivity in response to the killers differ from that of Ole, whom we see lying on his bed with his face to the wall?
  2. What is the difference in "The Killers" between heroically accepting fate and cowardly running from it?
  3. What is the relationship between innocence and action, between age/experience and passivity?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In "The Killers," Ole Andreson is emasculated by his refusal to fight against his impending death.

In "The Killers," Ole Andreson is emasculated not by his acceptance of his death, but by his refusal to leave the boarding-house.

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