Write a brief, effective paragraph of 4 or 5 sentences describing the first-person speaker in the poem “A Certain Lady” by Dorothy Parker.

The speaker of "A Certain Lady" appears besotted with the man to whom she talks, and even encourages him to talk about his love affairs. However, since her heart has died a "thousand little deaths," (8) she is cold and indifferent. She also hints that her own love life is at least as scandalous as his.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The first-person speaker of Dorothy Parker's poem "A Certain Lady" begins by describing her apparent amiability and interest when the addressee (presumably male) talks to her of love, even when he boasts of his affairs. She has prepared herself to play this part by painting her mouth "a fragrant red" (3) and appears to be listening "rapturous-eyed" (6) with an attitude as "gay as morning, light as snow" (10). While she appears besotted with the man in question, the speaker is happy to trade licentious stories, which in his case involve him, but in her case do not directly concern her but the exploits of other "ladies delicately discreet" (15), so that she encourages his romantic confidences without giving away anything about herself. Beneath the surface, however, the lady says that her heart has died a "thousand little deaths," (8) leaving her cold and indifferent even as she appears so beguiling and beguiled. At the end of the poem, the lady reveals that not only is her breathless show of infatuation a complete sham, but that he will never know anything about "what goes on, my love, when you're away," (23) suggesting that her exploits are much more scandalous than those about which he tells her, or those she slyly attributes to other ladies when she is encouraging him to talk.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on July 8, 2020
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial