Dorothy Parker

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Dorothy Parker’s book of poems is entitled Enough Rope, which is based on the common phrase "Give someone enough rope, and they will hang themselves." Does the poem “The Choice” belong in this book? Does it extend or support the ideas behind the title, or does it seem to go in a different direction?

The speaker in this poem has been given enough rope and regrets her choice of the poor man over the rich one.

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The title of "The Choice" immediately suggests that it is related to the notion that people given enough rope are likely to hang themselves, since this idea is all about making bad choices. Rope in this idea is analogous to freedom, the great American obsession, but Dorothy Parker is as cynical about freedom as she is about everything else, nowhere more so than in the arena of romance. The poem uses the trope of a woman who choses the poor man whom she loves over the rich one who offers her prosperity and comfort. The references to "a lilting song" and "a melody, happy and high" in the first stanza suggest a poet or a musician, whom she chose over the man of substance, the landowner who would have showered jewels upon her.

The same contrast is repeated in the second stanza, in which the poor man has only to whistle for her to follow him, a rather more disturbing and degrading image in which the man seems to be the master and she the faithful hound. Even this image, however, does not prepare the reader for the bathos in the last line:

Somebody ought to examine my head!

The speaker has been given enough rope and now regrets her choice. If she had not been free; if, for instance, her parents had chosen a spouse for her, they might have selected more wisely. She may well have regretted their choice just as much, but at least she would have been able to do so in the lap of luxury. The poem therefore supports the idea in the title and gives a specific example of how it might work in practice.

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