Stolpestad Essay About Myself

Stolpestad

The feeling of being stuck in a meaningless life is a terrible feeling. You follow the same routines day in and day out without having a higher purpose and this monotonous lifestyle is hard to change. It is a dull feeling of triviality and indifference, and it will by time subvert a person’s passion and joy for life. That is if the person does not realize the problem and break free of the purposeless lifestyle. This feeling is portrayed in the short story Stolpestad by William Lyshack from 2008, which is about the police officer Stolpestad.

It is towards the end of his shift, when Stolpestad is called to take care of a problem involving a boy and his wounded dog. It turns out he has to put down the dog. He is quite reluctant to start off with, but in the end he decides to shoot the dog. After a few beers at the local bar, he heads home to his wife and kids, where he sees the boy from earlier and the boy’s father. They have come to tell Stolpestad that the dog had survived the shot, and they had been forced to order a vet to take care of the dog.

At first the story comes across as mundane and ordinary. But if you dig into the text, you realize there is a deeper meaning to the story, which is about a man, who has reached a low-point in his life and cannot break free of his monotonous lifestyle. This will be elaborated later on, but first Stolpestad and the setting will be described.

Stolpestad is a burnt-out and incompetent police officer. He lacks backbone and authority as a simple no from the boy’s mother makes Stolpestad shoot the dog instead of doing the right thing and calling a vet.[1] His subsequent incompetence can be seen as he fails to kill the wounded dog with a gunshot, because he shoots the dog in the neck instead of the head.[2]

The story takes place in two different settings; the poor environment of the boy with the dog, and Stolpestad’s middle-class neighbourhood. The poor environment is described in the following way: “(…) you and the boy wading out into the grass and scrub weeds, the sumac, the old tires, empty bottles, paint cans, rusted car axle, refrigerator door.”[3]All these little signs such as the empty bottles and the rusted car axle give an image of the house as being poor and dilapidated.

This house stands in contrast to the environment in which Stolpestad lives. His house is described as having a driveway, a lawn and a porch, which indicates an average, middle-class house.[4] Furthermore he has a decent job as a police officer, a wife and two kids, which adds to the image of Stolpestad belonging to the middle-class.

In spite of that, Stolpestad lives a life in idle, and the description of the weather in the introduction is a metaphor for this: “(…) another one of those long slow lazy afternoons of summer – sun never burning through the clouds, clouds never breaking into rain (…)“[5] This description is a metaphor for Stolpestad’s life, which is as never ending average as a long slow lazy afternoon. Nothing really happens; it is not sunny, it is not rainy, it is just grey, boring and trivial.

The following quotation confirms his life-weary attitude: “Your whole life spent along the same sad streets.”[6] This quotation shows that Stolpestad never has moved on in his life and that he still lives his live along the same sad streets as he puts it.

This life situation is substantiated by the narrative technique in the short story in which the second-person narrator is used. This narrative technique is quite unusual, but it is very conveniently used in this text. It creates a more distanced relationship to the protagonist Stolpestad as compared to the first-person narrator, just as Stolpestad is distanced to his own life. In a way he tries to escape the reality for example by going to the local bar instead of going home to his family. This is not a one-time occurrence as his wife calls the bar, because she assumes he is there: “(…) couple of drinks turning into a few (…) the next thing you know being eleven o’clock and the phone behind the bar for you. It’s Sheila.”[7]

The second-person narrator is typical for postmodernism, and there are plenty of aspects of the short story, which are very postmodernist.[8] It is very postmodernist to view life as a constant seek of meaning and purpose. This emptiness and constant search for meaning can be seen in the following quotation, where the darkness is a metaphor for the emptiness, and the signs of life are a metaphor for meaning and purpose: “And in the silence, in the darkness, you stand like a thief on the lawn – stand watching this house for signs of life.”[9] Furthermore there is the ending, which is as following: “(…) Sheila arriving to that front door, eventually, this woman calling for something to come in out of the night.” This ending is very open, which is also a typical postmodernist character trait.[10]

To conclude the essay it can be said that Stolpestad is a postmodernist short story, which portrays the incompetent police officer Stolpestad, which life is a constant search for meaning and purpose. It is monotonous and trivial, and this empty lifestyle will probably continue to the day of his death. The short story is written with the second-person narrative technique, which creates a distanced relationship to Stolpestad, just as he

[1] Lyshack, William. (2008). Line 64-65

[2] Lyshack, William. (2008). Line 84-86

[3] Lyshack, William. (2008). Line 23-25

[4] Lyshack, William. (2008). Line 160-161

[5] Lyshack, William. (2008). Line 1-3

[6] Lyshack, William. (2008). Line 11

[7] Wikipedia. (2014). Second-person narrative – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second-person_narrative

[8] Wikipedia. (2014). Second-person narrative – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second-person_narrative

[9] Lyshack, William. (2008). Line 159-160

[10] Wikipedia. (2014). Postmodern literature – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodern_literature

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