We all live a life filled with everyday procedures and routines. Anything from brushing your teeth in the morning, to picking up your kids on your way home. The human being is a creature of habits, and it is by doing these tasks that we feel safe and secure. Without them, what would our lives look like? Yet, some people are so affected by their everyday routines that they end up being a spectator of their own lives. This is what the policeman, Stolpestad, experience experiences in the short story “Stolpestad” written by William Lychack in 2008. He gets so caught up with his daily schedule that every single day ends up feeling like exactly the same.
The story begins in medias res, and we do not get an immediate presentation of the main character, Stolpestad. Instead we follow along on his workday, where we get to know a little bit about him. The events of the short story are presented in a chronological way, and the text does not jump back and fort forth in time. However, at one point, he does reflect on his childhood when driving by his neighborhood, “back to all the turns you were born, your whole life spend along the same sad streets”(p.1 l.10-11). The events of the story all happen in the time between the end of his shift and late Saturday night.
As the name indicates, the main character of the story is the policeman Stolpestad, and even though we do not get at a complete and precise description of him, we still learn a few things throughout the text. It is told to the reader that Stolpestad is a father of two and has a wife called Sheila. However, the reader does not get an impression of an extraordinary extraordinarily caring father. This is illustrated in the way he thinks about going home to his family, “Wife and pair of boys waiting dinner for you, hundred reasons to go straight to them, but soon you’re an hour away, buying a sandwich from a vending machine, calling Sheila from a payphone to say you’re running a little late”(p.3 l.89-92), It might be an overstatement to say that he is a careless parent, but it seems clear that his family is not the number one priority to him a Saturday night.
As mentioned above, we are reading the story from Stolpestad’s point of view, and we follow along his day of work. Nevertheless, the narrative technique is quit quite unusual. The reader is does not only understanding understand the text from his point of view, we are actually reading it, as if we were the main character, Stolpestad. This is the effect of using a second person narrator, who is speaking directly to us and calling us Stolpestad. “And what’s she think you look like now, you ask, town dogcatcher? Oh, you should be so lucky, she says and gives the address and away we go,”(p.1 l.8-9) it says in the beginning of the text, when he speaks with the dispatcher. This way of writing is, as mentioned before, very unusual and it results in giving the reader a completely different perspective on the story.
The story takes place in a small town, and we know that the main character has been living in this place for many years. Furthermore, we learn that Stolpestad does not have very high thoughts of his childhood neighborhood, “your whole life spend along the same sad streets”(p. 1 l.11) It is obvious that he does not enjoy living and working in this area, and this is one of the most important reasons for Stolpestad to perceive his life as boring and trivial. In the beginning of the story, the narrator talks about his day of work driving around the town, “The coffee shops, the liquor stores, laundromats, police, fire, gas stations to pass—this is your life, Stolpestad”(p.1 l.4-5) Especially the last part, “this is your life, Stolpestad” is important because it symbolizes a life that cannot be changed, as if he is determined to live this way, for the rest of his days.
The main event of this story is obviously the intentional execution of the little boy’s wounded dog. To the reader this seems like a very bizarre and tough task for a police officer to handle, and we get the feeling that he is not very fond of having to do it, too, “you with this hope that the boy will be running any moment to you now, hollering for you to stop”(p.3 l.81-82) This is, of course, a very natural way to think, when having to do such an unbearable task. Also, it is understandable that he decides to hide the wound from the gunshot, to protect the young boy from a terrible sight. However, what is surprising is his reaction, when the boy and his father come to his house to confront him. When driving home, Stolpestad thinks about this situation as something he has gone through before, “the deja vu of a pickup truck in the driveway as you pull around to the house, as if you’ve seen or imagined or been through all of this before, or will be through it all again, over and over.”(p.3 l.102-104) It seems to the reader that he already knew what was coming, when he chose to shoot the dog in that way.
It can be difficult to find an overall theme of this story. “Everyday life” might be the closest we can get to determine a central theme. It’s It is because of Stolpestad’s somewhat boring and predictable life that he no longer seems to care about anything and finds that he has seen it all before.
As far as I can see, there are some strong signs of postmodernism in this text. The way that William Lychack has chosen to write his story is, in my opinion, with a sold called “loss of grand narratives”, which basically means that the text has no major purpose or center. In addition to that, you can also se see signs of “death of the author” in the way that the narrator does not tell a simple story that we have to understand. Instead, this story is only what we bring to it ourselves, and it has no deeper meaning.
Last but not least, the way that Stolpestad is portrayed in the story could, to me, be a symbol of dehumanization. Understood in the sense that he becomes, as said before, a spectator of his own mechanical life. An example of a dehumanization of Stolpestad is to be seen in the last part of the text, where he goes out in the woods, “Sheila arriving to that front door, eventually, this woman calling for something to come in out of the night.”(p.4 l.162-164) It is the word “something” that I find significant. Stolpestad changes from a “someone” to a “something” and because of that he looses loses his individuality to his boring everyday life.