Dorothy Parker

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Explain the theme of the poem "Solace" by Dorothy Parker. There was a rose that faded young; I saw its shattered beauty hung Upon a broken stem. I heard them say, "What need to care With roses budding everywhere?" I did not answer them. There was a bird brought down to die; They said, "A hundred fill the sky-- What reason to be sad?" There was a girl whose love fled; I did not wait the while they said, "There's many another lad."

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The short poem, "Solace," by Dorothy Parker explores the theme of loss through its title, Solace. By definition, solace means to give comfort or to console. In this first person narrated poem, the speaker witnesses three events of loss. The first event is the "rose that faded young." Parker uses the imagery of a rose that dies too soon because of a broken stem to symbolize youth that dies too quickly. The consolation given to the narrator is that there are many more roses, so do not grieve for this one loss.

The second event of loss is "the bird brought down to die." Again, the same words of comfort are used, many more birds "fill the sky," so do not be sad. Lastly, the poem shifts to a more personal loss. This loss concerns a girl "whose love fled." The same advice is given as a means to console the narrator; that is, there are many more young men out there so don't grieve. However, for anyone who has ever been left with a broken heart, it is little solace that another love may someday come along. In this manner, the title becomes ironic. For those who have lost what they cherish, there is little solace in simply knowing more exist.

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Certainly, one of the themes that comes out of Parker's poem is the collision between individual and society.  The individual is shown to be poised and positioned against the wishes of the greater social order.  When the unique beauty of the flower is gone and the flower dies, the rationalization that society offers is that there are many more.  When the unique individuality of the bird's flight is taken down, there are rationalizations offered to show that there are many more.  Individual beauty and distinctiveness is set aside for social expectations and norms.  This becomes a theme in the poem, one in which Parker as the poet makes clear that individuals seeking social embraces might not be entirely fortunate.  There is a social conformity that detracts from the individuality of the person.  This theme is seen in the closing of the poem, where the speaker herself flees from the clutches of a normalizing social order.  The theme of individual against society is something that occupies importance in Parker's poem, speaking powerfully to how there can be a mutually exclusive condition between both forces.

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