Stolpestad Essays


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 –

[8] Wikipedia. (2014). Second-person narrative –

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

[10] Wikipedia. (2014). Postmodern literature –

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a.     An example of a ’funnel-introduction’ to ’Shooting an Elephant’ by George Orwell:
“Is it possible to execute a reckless deed solely for the fragile purpose of avoiding humiliation? The mysterious ways of human behaviour and development is the focus in the short story “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell from 1936 that is set in British Burma during the colonial time. The story is centred on a British police officer and an elephant at large, and through a modest gallery of characters we are consumed by a view on humanity in revolt.”

b.    Example from “Stolpestad” by William Lychack:
““[...] This is your life, Stolpestad.” (p. 2, l. 5). That is it, deal with it. A clearly negative second person narrator takes the reader through the life of the policeman Stolpestad; a non-motivated and truly stagnated husband and father from a small town in America. Stolpestad’s life is just passing by, and he is letting it. William Lychack takes us through the inner monologue of Stolpestad’s mind in the short story of the same name, written in 2008, describing Stolpestad’s battle of facing up to the truth of his life, sadly failing, losing his battle to Goliath symbolized in having to put down a dog for a young boy”.

c.     Another example from “Stolpestad” by William Lychack:
“Most people have an everyday routine. In most cases this is comfortable and gives you a feeling of structure and makes it easier to cope with life. However, there is a fine line between a well-planned and secure everyday life and a life of boredom and predictability that mechanically takes its course and distances you from life. This is exactly what the story “Stolpestad” by William Lychack from 2008 is about. It is about how the narrator’s day-to- day routine is so predictable that his life has become a condition of numbness.”

d.     Finally, an example from ”Elephant” by Polly Clark:
How are we going to be remembered when we leave this earth? Are we going to be remembered at all? What about all of us normal people who are not Michael Jackson, Copernicus, or Shakespeare? Their names will live forever because of their huge achievements, but not many are going to be remembered like them. Most people grow up, get a job, start a family, and pass away. Big achievements create huge acknowledgement, and most people want to be acknowledged, but maybe it is not always that easy. Many people are sure they are going to turn out great and be remembered for a good job, but what if that is not the case? What is the point of living a life not doing what you thought you were supposed to do?”

2.    BODY

a.     Paragraph no 2 from example d) above:
“The search for acknowledgement, but also the search for a meaningful life can be seen in the extract of the short story “Elephant” by Polly Clark from 2006. Here we meet William, who is a writer of biographies, which is not really what he wants to write about. The story starts right in media res where William has a writer’s blockage. He is thinking about ‘his girls’, who are the pop singers that he has written about. Suddenly his wife calls to let him know that she will be there in twenty minutes, because a test had shown that it was the right time to try make a baby. The twenty minutes makes William think back at his childhood where he waited for his mother for twenty minutes for her to come home with a present. Suddenly his wife comes home, and they make love to each other. Afterwards, William again finds himself in front of the computer, now writing his own endings of the singers’ lives, which creates an elated feeling”.

b.     Example of transitional phrases between paragraphs: 

The dog does not die immediately, and when the owners of the dog, father and son, want to bury her, they find her alive. In the ending when this is revealed, it gives the reader a great shock and allows him to gain insight into the thoughts and feelings of the policeman who is at the same time surprised.

Another feature to gain insight is the second person narration that the text is written in and which means that the personal pronoun “you” replaces the more commonly used “he/she”.

c.      Another example of transition between two paragraphs:
“These things make the text seem fragmented and support the colloquial style, but also they make it sound like an enumeration supporting an impression of a dull and boring town and a monotonous life.

The owner of this seemingly monotonous life is the main character of the story and policeman in the town. One might assume that it is a man given the fact that he has a wife and two children.”


a.     Example from the conclusion of example c) above:
“Everyday routines can easily become a habit and make you forget to question what you want out of life. This is seen in the story “Stolpestad” where the main character lives a trivial and predictable life to such a degree that the outcome is a mental numbness that eliminates him from life in the end”.

b.    Example from the conclusion of example d) above:
“All in all the plot of this story is based on William’s conflict, which is present within him. He does not want to write biographies of pop singers, but he does it anyway. He does not pursue his dreams of becoming an acknowledged writer and is living in an empty space. We see a man who is living like a philistine. He does not really relate to his life, but only does what is expected of him, which makes him believe that he is living a pointless life. His job is not exactly his first choice, and the entry of the elephant shows that he has a need for living on after he has died. Living like William in an empty space, living a pointless life without all the things that are important to him, like the elephant, does not help him get acknowledged and remembered”.




a.      An example of a ’funnel-introduction’ to ’Not the Queens English” by Maria Ampa:
When living in a world where everyone is trying to succeed and get ahead in the world, it is good to have something that can tie us together. It would not be ideal if the person you want to do business with did not understand you, or if you could not talk to the person who wanted to do business with you. That is why it is remarkable that there is one language that can connect everyone and open up a whole new world where the sky is your limit. This is the message that Maria Ampa is trying to convey to the readers of Newsweek in her article of “Not the Queen’s English” from 2007.”

b.     Another example of a ‘funnel-introduction’ to “Not the Queens English” by Maria Ampa:
“”It is repeatedly said that English is a living, changing language. We do need new terms for technology or new phenomena, and English has such a large vocabulary because it has absorbed words from many languages.”1 The language is, moreover, rapidly growing all over the world, which means that the non-native English-speakers now outnumber the native speakers. The new English speakers are shaping the language, and it is changing the way we communicate. This interpretation is being explained and stated in the Newsweek article Not the Queen’s English (Oct. 16. 2007), written by Maria Ampa, in which she throws light on the matter by using several examples and opinions from experts”.

c.      Yet another example of a ‘funnel-introduction’ to “Not the Queens English” by Maria Ampa:
“Through colonization, the English language was spread out in several of the British colonies. Though British imperialism, the English language became a world language, because of the many British settlers who lived in the colonies. The settlers also transferred their culture to the colonies. Now the English language has developed in another direction, because there are now more foreign people speaking English than native English speakers. That is the main topic in the article “Not the Queen’s English” published by Newsweek on the 8th of October 2007.”

d.    Another example from “Not the Queens English” by Maria Ampa:
“Will the Queen’s English disappear? In the 21st century, English has become a worldwide language – a language that is almost necessary to know to be able to engage in a globalized world. But with so many people learning English in different ways, some people think that the original English might disappear. Is this “problem” a part of the globalization, and is it even a good or a bad thing?”

e.     An example of a ‘funnel-introduction’ from “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” by Hillary Clinton:
“In the last century, the progress of women taking their place in society has evolved drastically. Women vote, women decide for themselves, women are far more emancipated than before – this is at least true in the western part of the world. There will always be aspects that are untouchable to us, such as records in sports, being able to conceive without any man playing a part, however, there are aspects where we can prosper and where we have prospered. The sad story is, though, that women in less developed countries are still being oppressed and inhibited, perhaps not by men, but by society and its conventions. This is something Hillary Clinton touches upon in her famous speech “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” from the 5th of September 1995”.

2.    BODY

a.     Paragraph no 2 from example d) above:
“Women’s rights are exactly what Hillary Clinton speaks about in her speech “Women’s Rights are Human Rights”, which she held in Beijing, China on September 5th 1995. In her speech, she talks about the importance of women, and how big a role women play in the world. She states that standing together and gathering creates attention and focus, and she emphasizes the importance of this, as women need to keep gathering and fighting for their rights. She talks about all the different jobs that women do, everything from giving birth to running countries, and how many do not appreciate this. One of her main points is that everyday women get their human rights violated, but the important thing is that women’s rights should not be discussed separately from human rights. When women are getting raped or baby girls denied food just because they are girls, it is not a matter of women’s rights – it is human rights that are being violated”.

b.    Example of transitional phrases between the paragraphs in your body:
“Furthermore, the journalist gives the impression that the expansion of the English language is a change that is unstoppable, but in a good way. “Governments, even linguistically protectionist ones, are starting to agree” (p.4, l. 120). This sentence gives the reader an image that even all of the opponents now agree. Furthermore, even France as being the most opponent country of this development is almost giving in. The message of the text is that learning English is the only way forward in a globalized world.

In connection with globalization of the English language, some of the concerns in the text are that the native languages of various countries might vanish if the spoken language all over the world is English: “In France, home of the Academie Francaise, whose members are given swords and charged with defending the sanctity of the French language...”(p.5, ll.121-123). “


a.     Examples of discussions:
Even though the significance of the Commonwealth in international politics is enormous, Oborne believes there is one big problem with the Commonwealth, and the mentioning of this problem raises his ethos at best while it is the only place in the article where he seems to be able to raise himself above his opinion and look at the problem from another perspective. The problem is centered around the Queen but for obvious reasons, it is the loss of the Queen that will be the biggest problem really: “She is the talismanic figure at the heart of it all, and has been present at every Commonwealth Conference for the past 60 years. She knows most Commonwealth leaders personally, and many of them are now old friends. When she dies, the Commonwealth will be thrown into crisis. Handled in the wrong way, the institution will swiftly collapse.” (l 52-56).

b.    Example of conclusion from example c) in the introduction:
“Hilary Clinton’s speech has the point of view of all women in the world; Hilary Clinton often uses the pronoun “we”. She also refers to that we should do something, to overcome these obstacles. She uses many parallelisms, which is a common tool by politicians to emphasize their message through speeches. But the parallelism creates a sudden rhythm in the speech, which also makes the message stand out. When Hilary Clintons says, “I have met.., I have met... I have met...” it makes it easier for us to put ourselves into her place because we (in the Western part of the world) have a great amount of knowledge that can help us see it from other perspectives. But Hilary Clinton also uses this parallelism “It is a violation...” several times which as mentioned before emphasizes that we have to continue to fight for equal rights for women all over the world.”

c.     An example of a possible conclusion to example d) from the introduction:
In conclusion, Maria Ampa has written a very convincing article, especially because of the use of logos as a mode of persuasion, which has created a very trustworthy and convincing argumentation and a formal level throughout the text. Furthermore, it is clear that the receivers are native-English- speakers, but it is still possible to reach the rest of the world, and the fact that the message, moreover, is that English as a language will revolutionize, is also unmistakeable.



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