Résumé Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

This little eight-line poem, rhyming ababcdcd, is one of Parker’s most famous, based on her first experience in attempting suicide when she cut her wrists in 1923. The last line (“You might as well live”) is exactly what her friend Benchley said to her at the time. It serves as the punch line or the reversal “point” of the classical epigram, with a switch to a resigned or unconcerned tone of voice which contrasts with the methodical catalog of suicide methods. Addressing a “you” which may be herself or the reader, the speaker casually lists various methods she has tried in committing suicide.

The list is grammatically parallel, so that with the exception of the fourth line (“And drugs cause cramp”), each method is named first, as a noun. Then the problem or obstacle with each method is given. The catalog, objectively stated, appears to be a summary of the person’s qualifications or achievements—as the title indicates—as if she were applying for a job. The title also puns on the word “resume,” which may underscore the end line as a resigned sense that trying to commit suicide is too much trouble in all these ways already tried, and the speaker might as well “resume” her life. This switch in the last line is also highlighted as different by its shift to a five-syllable line, with an accent on the second and fifth syllable—in contrast to all but one of the other lines, which have four syllables and virtually all with an accent on the beginning word.

Résumé Bibliography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Capron, Marion. “Dorothy Parker.” In Writers at Work: The “Paris Review” Interviews, edited by Malcolm Cowley. Reprint. New York: Viking Press, 1979.

Frewin, Leslie. The Late Mrs. Dorothy Parker. New York: Macmillan, 1986.

Gill, Brendan. Introduction to The Portable Dorothy Parker. Rev. and enlarged ed. New York: Viking Press, 1973.

Keats, John. You Might as Well Live: The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1970.

Kinney, Arthur. Dorothy Parker. Boston: Twayne, 1978.

Meade, Marion. Dorothy Parker, A Biography: What Fresh Hell Is This? New York: Villard Books, 1988.

Melzer, Sondra. The Rhetoric of Rage: Women in Dorothy Parker. New York: Peter Lang, 1997.

Pettit, Rhonda S. A Gendered Collision: Sentimentalism and Modernism in Dorothy Parker’s Poetry and Fiction. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2000.