The Sepulchre

Oates, Joyce Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin
  • Date of entry: Dec-31-1996


A frantic phone call from an elderly mother to her middle-aged daughter opens this somewhat surreal and menacing short story. What follows is the daughter’s search for her father who has been missing for one and one-half days. Is he lost because of the stroke he had suffered or merely being wickedly mischievous as his wife suggests? Or is he hiding in anger or seeking revenge? Or, is he dead?

The menacing tone to this story is a result of the author’s skillful use of the second person voice: "Dad? Daddy? you whisper. You imagine you hear low, throaty laughter--unless it’s the wind . . . the door to the closet is open, your mother preceded you here, desperate in her search; you know no one is hiding inside but you can’t stop yourself from peering in, holding your breath. Then you switch off the closet light, you switch off the lights in the room, shut the door and walk away."


This story appears in one of the early issues of a new journal published by The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University (1317 Pettigrew St., Durham NC 27705). The journal is co-edited by Robert Coles and is worth a look--featuring both story/essay and photography.

Primary Source

Doubletake, Vol.2, No.2 (pp. 38-44)


Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

Place Published

Durham, N.C.