|The story can be read in its entirety here: "Pumpkinhead" by Joyce Carol Oates|
But this time, strangeness struck on page one, when our widow answers a knock to find a man with a pumpkin in place of his head. Lonely after the death of her husband, she invites him in for a drink, and we find out that he is not a stranger; she knows him as one knows a foreigner, cataloguing his attributes in terms of misprononciations and failures to assimilate. You have to believe that he can sense her disdain; as open as she is to us, these thoughts can not be far from her every action.
In that sense, it functions as a metaphor for hegemonic power - and the dangerous lengths that the powerless might go to obtain some semblance of control.
There is one lingering mystery though - a throwaway line almost: "She was a widow who had caused her husband to be burnt to ashes and was unrepentant, unpunished." The story offers no explanation for this, but I welcome the interpretation of others.