Dorothy Parker

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Critically analyze literary devices present in "Just a Little One" by Dorothy Parker.

In "Just a Little One," Dorothy Parker uses literary devices like repetition, shifting characterization, metaphors, imagery, allusions, slang, and creative insults to develop a fascinating little story with excellent characterization.

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Dorothy Parker's short story “Just a Little One” uses some creative and interesting literary devices. Let's examine some of those devices.

We'll start with the narrative point of view because Parker does something especially effective here. The story is told by a single narrator, but she doesn't exactly tell...

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Dorothy Parker's short story “Just a Little One” uses some creative and interesting literary devices. Let's examine some of those devices.

We'll start with the narrative point of view because Parker does something especially effective here. The story is told by a single narrator, but she doesn't exactly tell a story in any traditional sense. Rather, what we get is the narrator's half of an extended conversation. The narrator is on a date at a speakeasy (a place where illegal alcohol was served during Prohibition) with a man named Fred. The narrator is a chatty person, and she carries on an almost one-sided conversation with Fred. He responds to her comments, but we never hear him speak. We can infer what he says by her remarks back to him.

As the narrator continues to talk, she asks repeatedly for “just a little” drink, and the more she drinks, the more she talks and the more her character shifts. This is another of Parker's techniques. The character reveals more and more of her actual opinions about things the more Scotch she consumes. The speakeasy goes from being filled with atmosphere (so much atmosphere that she would like to cut off a “nice little block” of it and take it home for her memory book) to being dark and horrible. Edith, Fred's other “friend,” shifts from a delightful, lovely person to someone with a dreadful taste in clothing. The narrator's claim that Fred is her best friend dissolves into the declaration that she has no friends at all. We can clearly see the effects of alcohol on this woman. It loosens her tongue and gets rid of her inhibitions so that she says exactly what she means.

Parker also includes some appealing expressions and turns of phrase in this story. At the beginning, the narrator is amazed at Fred's easy entry into the speakeasy, and she notes that he could probably “get into the subway without using anybody's name.” This is ridiculous, of course, because no one needs to give a name to get onto a subway, only purchase a ticket. By this nonsensical (yet entertaining) statement, we get the idea that the narrator is a rather silly person. The narrator's remark that she would like to take a knife and cut out a “nice little block” of speakeasy atmosphere to save in her scrapbook is a fun metaphor because it gives us a feeling for what the speakeasy is like. It's probably so filled with smoke that one almost could cut it with a knife!

Further, the narrator remarks that she has some Scotch at home in her cupboard but adds that it has “probably eaten its way out by now.” This makes us scratch our heads a bit as we try to figure out what the narrator is talking about, but it adds to her characterization. She also asks for “cambric Scotch,” a phrase that alludes to cambric tea (a very weak tea, really more milk and sugar than tea, often served to children).

A while later, and a couple drinks later, the narrator's speech becomes more slangy and more nonsensical. She remarks how the light in the speakeasy would be flattering to Edith's “pan” (i.e., head), and she says that people think Edith is good looking and then remarks that Fred must have “a wide acquaintance among the astigmatic.” She means that people who think Edith is good looking must not be able to see straight. Later on, she actually calls Edith a “big louse,” a highly unflattering metaphor.

We can see, then, that Parker's use of all these literary devices makes for a delightful story that is out of the ordinary and quite fun to read.

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