Death In Life And Love In Dorothy
Parker’S Poetry Essay, Research Paper
Dorothy Parker, an accomplished American poet, exposes the darker side of human behavior through her epigrammatic style of poetry. She believed that a writer must say what he feels and sees. She specialized in the hard truths, particularly about death, in both life and love. Some major motifs present in Parker’s work include loneliness, lack of communication between men and women, disintegration of relationships, human frailties, and the affectations and hypocrisies of a patriarchal society. Parker’s wit is largely autobiographical reflecting the tumultuous years of her youth that included alcoholism, romantic disasters, and attempted suicides. The three poems provided in the text exemplify how Parker utilizes poetic devices such as irony, satire, and sarcasm to address the human frailties involved with searching for meaningful relationships and suicide.
The first poem “DeProfundis” provides a glimpse of Parker’s cynical attitude toward men and relationships. De Profundis, which translates in Latin as out of the depth, is curiously ambiguous. Reference the poem shown here in it’s entirety.
Oh, is it, then, Utopian
To hope that I may meet a man
Who’ll not relate, in accents suave,
The tales of girls he used to have?
This verse succinctly posed as a question asks if it is idealistic to have a relationship with a man who is not “suave”. Suave, which means “smoothly affable and polite though often without deep interest or sincerity” (Webster’s – 2272, emphasis added), could imply that men are De Profundis, or shallow.
In “Resume”, Parker employs irony to humorously relate a tragic human situation, suicide. On the surface this irony seems to be that the poem advocates suicide but says the opposite. Further analysis shows that the irony is not so direct and is again hidden in the ambiguity of the title. The poem sarcastically offers incomprehensible and mocking reasons to not commit suicide and continue to live. Regarding the title of the poem, the word resume, without accents, means “to take up after interruption” (Webster’s – 1937), which is appropriate to the poem. Resume, with accents, means “a summary, particularly a brief account of one’s education and professional experience” (Webster’s – 1937), as if the poem summarizes the speaker’s experiences in the area of suicide. In fact, Parker attempted suicide four times. (Breese – xxxv)
In “General Review of the Sex Situation”, the speaker contrasts attitudinal differences between the sexes regarding intimacy. Parker again has utilized the title of the poem in an intentionally sarcastic manner. The statement “General Review of the Sex Situation” represents a detached, emotionless commentary of an emotional human ideal, intimacy. Parker employs double consciousness to provide insight about how men and women feel about relationships. In the final two lines of “General Review of the Sex Situation”, Parker reveals her disparaging view of relationships:
With this the gist and sum of it,
What earthly good can come of it? (7-8)
By comparing Parker’s three poems in the text it is apparent that her poetry is rich with irony and satire. Irony can entail humor, and often there is a serious edge to or point behind the humor, as in the title and development of these poems. Parker’s poetry undeniably provides a window into her life and a social commentary of the 1920s and 1930s. Her major themes of love, loneliness, and death are not only presented in the three examples cited in this paper but are consistent with all of her work. Parker’s attitude toward human folly was satiric; her poems make readers pay attention to who is speaking and the implications of these messages. Parker forces readers to read behind and between the lines of her deceptively simple situations in order for the reader to appreciate her art fully . Parker held true to her conviction, of which she stated, “The purpose of a writer is to say what he feels and sees.” (Breese – xxiii)
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam Company, Publisher, 1981
Breese, Colleen. Introduction for Dorothy Parker Complete Poems. New York: Penquin Books, 1999