Although Oates has tried many techniques in various genres during her prolific career, she stated in an interview that she has “done a good deal of experimentation with very short stories—’miniature narratives,’ I call them. I would like some day to assemble them into a book. They are, in a sense, ’minimalist’; in another sense a species of prose poetry.” “Stalking” is barely more than eight pages long, yet the realistic depiction of the suburban wasteland—striking because of its exactness of detail and haunting familiarity—is only the facade for the disturbing psychological repercussions to this environment as they are demonstrated through the character of Gretchen.
Gretchen is an adolescent from an upper-middle-class family, yet she spends her November Saturday in a bizarre game of stalking the demon: her own Doppelgänger, her other self. She is a product of the American Dream, and she is also heir to the liabilities that can turn that dream into a nightmare. With her characteristic use of italicized thoughts and feelings, Oates, as always, demonstrates a great fidelity to the American condition, both as it is described realistically and as it is portrayed through those thoughts and feelings that lurk below consciousness. It is the image of the muddy boots that leave their footprints throughout the story with no sidewalks that remains: “Entranced, she follows the splashes of blood into the hall, to the stairs . . . forgets her own boots, which are muddy . . . but she doesn’t feel like going back to wipe her feet. The hell with it.”