Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Prowler” does not build through plot but through layers of careful description. Attention to descriptive detail is a critical aspect of this story. Elizabeth Tallent describes Dennis’s house and later Christie’s apartment with an eye for details that say something about the personalities of the characters.

Dennis’s house is sheltered and private, hidden by trees. Though he lives in New Mexico, in a place full of bright sunlight, not a lot of light comes in through the windows. His family is secreted upstairs, which is lit by a single candle, and Christie does not feel allowed to see her son Andy’s room. It is Dennis’s house, his private life. Andy’s room is a reflection of his personality. Tallent describes the realistic paintings Andy does of fast motorcycles, juxtaposed with a small photo of the European author Franz Kafka.

When Dennis prowls in Christie’s apartment, he sees a side she might not reveal to him. As a reflection of Christie’s personality, the apartment is disorderly, and Dennis originally wants to begin arranging things, putting them in their place. However, as he looks about, he is struck by the warmth of the home she has created. When Dennis looks into what will be Andy’s room, he finds she has created an interesting and imaginative room for Andy, a place in which to dream. The room enables Dennis to finally relax.

This story contains an underlying motif of fairy tales. It is structured...

(The entire section is 449 words.)