“The Dinner Party”by Mona Gardner
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The Dinner Party by Mona Gardner is a short story which is able to condense a fairly complicated issue and resolve it within minutes, within the context of the dinner at which guests are enjoying a formal meal. Stereotypes feature and are quickly dispelled in a humorous but unmistakably obvious way.
The conflict arises from the discussion between the girl and the colonel. The girl suggests that women have moved on since the time of " jumping-on-a-chair-at-sight-of-a-mouse." Traditionally, however, according to the colonel, women are likely to over-react to "any crisis." Unbeknown to the guests, a crisis is taking place as they speak and the hostess is managing it, defying any such stereotype.
Had the American not witnessed the hostess's behavior, it is possible that the event would have gone unnoticed and the colonel would have been believed, as the snake would have gone after the milk and left the party. However, the American, to support the hostess's efforts and to ensure that no other person over-reacts and causes the snake to strike, adds to the drama and, whilst the main conflict is the discussion about women's propensity to be melo-dramatic in most crises, an additional conflict is introduced reinforcing the inner conflict that the hostess is experiencing as she shows little outward emotion.
As all is revealed only after the snake has been safely removed, and there are screams, it seems that the colonel is to be believed. It is the American who makes the observation about the hostess's total control and management of the crisis. Appearances can certainly be deceiving and, it is the woman's smile that reveals the irony and the fact that the snake was actually "lying across my foot” dispelling any such claims against a woman's character.