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First published in The New Yorker 72 (December 2, 1996): 86-90+

Posted by TCB on September 07, 2000:

In Reply to: T.C. evolving...but for the better? posted by Tony Powell on September 06, 2000:

Dear Tony, Al, Jim, Colleen, Mary: My last look at the message board for a bit, and I love the debate and its terms. Stick with me, folks--I just don't want to repeat myself. If I only wrote stories like those in Descent of Man, methinks you all would tire quickly of the work. And Tony, don't worry: to my mind, the story still takes precedence, and there are a bunch of them in After the Plague that should appeal to you. By the way, what do you think the message of "Killing Babies" is? To my mind it has something to do with violence breeding violence rather than being a statement about abortion rights--the younger brother could as easily have been on the other side. Isn't that the point? Further, there is no more "message" to Friend than there was to Tortilla. I'm giving you a scenario--you must figure it out for yourself. If I ever preach, please hit me with a hammer.  TCB. 

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Posted by marina poirier on October 26, 2000:

Dear Mr Boyle

I am a French student from the University of Angers, few months ago I sent you a letter about my translating Killing Babies. Thanks a lot for the names of translators you gave me to help me. Now I would like to discuss Killing Babies from a literary point of view. Indeed in order to obtain my Master's Degree I have to propose both a translation of the short story and a literary analysis. I don't really have the same perception of the protagonist Rick as the teacher who directs me for this work.

I think Rick is a paradoxical character full of contradictions. He is lost and he is even more lost when arriving in Michigan he doesn't find what he had expected ( Philip practicizes abortion, snow is not what he had imagined, he is called a baby killer...). Then he lacks of references and family values. To sum up he is in search of his own identity.

Do you think Sally could have been his "raison de vivre" as one says in French ? Could Sally have been the one who could have prevented him from doing his final gesture?

Are there any autobiographical elements in this short story ? Why have you created such a character ? How do you perceive Rick ? What do you think of his relationships with others ?

Recently I read The Tortilla Curtain. I liked it very much. It made me aware of lot of things as an example, in our societies we are so much preoccupied with materialism that we forget what really counts : humanity. Please continue writing such novels.

I hope to hear from you soon. 

Posted by TCB on October 29, 2000:

Dear Marina Poirier: I cannot interpret my own stories for you, but I do like your peceptions about Rick. I don't feel that there are political or autobiographical associations in the story. Read it deeply and all your questions will be answered. Amities, TCB. 
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Posted by Marina Poirier on February 19, 2001:

Dear Mr Boyle

Few months after our last e-mails I still require your help for my literary analysis of Killing Babies.

Firstly, Iwould like to know if the choice of "Killing Babies" has been inspired by erge Leclaire's "On tue un enfant". What did influence you in this work?

Then I think Denise represents a kind of father figure for Rick, am I right? Is she Rick's symbol of motherhood? Is this ironic in this context of abortion?  According to me Rick is inhabited by an inner conflict he needs badly to externalize. What that of protagonist does represent for you? 

If you have anything more to add concerning Killing Babies I would be very happy. I think having several views about a short story is very interesting.

Thanks a lot for accaepting to answer all my questions.  The more deeply I read and analyse Killing babies the more I enjoy it. I am waiting for After the Plague impatiently.

Posted by TCB on February 19, 2001:

Dear Marina Poirier: I like some of your theories, but cannot answer interpretive questions about my own work: that is verboten. You will find an answer to your question about what prompted the story in the Best American Stories volume, 1997 (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin) in the contributors' notes, where I do talk about this. TCB. 

© 2001 Sandye Utley, Cincinnati, Ohio

Last Page Update: 10 March 2001