Dorothy Parker Analysis

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Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

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How does Dorothy Parker create the sardonic humor and wit in her works?

What is the role of the repetition of lines, images, and events in Parker’s works?

To what extent do social forces oppress or victimize the speaker or female protagonist? To what extent do these speakers or protagonists set themselves up for destruction or make themselves victims?

How do the end stanzas, lines, or scenes demonstrate a reversal of what came before?

How does the tone of voice change or shift in Parker’s poetry and fiction?

What are Parker’s attitudes toward romantic love in her poems and stories?

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

ph_0111207205-Parker.jpg Dorothy Parker. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Dorothy Parker’s principal writings, identified by Alexander Woolcott as “a potent distillation of nectar and wormwood,” are short stories and verse—not serious “poetry,” she claimed. Her poetic volumes include Enough Rope (1926), Sunset Gun (1928), and Death and Taxes (1931)—mostly lamentations for loves lost, never found, or gone awry. She wrote witty drama reviews for Vanity Fair (1918-1920), Ainslee’s (1920-1933), and The New Yorker (1931); and terse, tart book reviews for The New Yorker (1927-1933) and Esquire (1959-1962). “Tonstant Weader Fwowed Up,” her provoked, personal reaction to A. A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner (1928), typifies her “delicate claws of superb viciousness” (Woolcott). Parker’s major plays are The Coast of Illyria (about Charles and Mary Lamb’s tortured lives) and The Ladies of the Corridor (1953; three case studies of death-in-life among elderly women).

Achievements

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Dorothy Parker’s career flashed brilliantly out in the 1920’s and early 1930’s and then faded equally quickly as the world she portrayed in her stories and poems disappeared into the hardships of the Depression. Her stories are sharp, witty portraits of an age when social and sexual conventions were changing rapidly. Her dramatic monologues, usually spoken by unself-confident women, her sharp social satires, and her careful delineations of scenes and situations reveal the changing mores of the 1920’s. They also, however, portray the attendants of rapid social change: anxiety, lack of communication, and differing expectations of men and women on what social and sexual roles should be. These problems continue into contemporary times, and Parker’s incisive writing captures them well. Her writings are like herself—witty and sad.

Her stories, verse, and reviews appeared in, and helped to set the tone of, the newly founded The New Yorker, which began publication in 1925, and she remained an occasional contributor until 1955.

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

In addition to Dorothy Parker’s verse—not serious “poetry,” she claimed—her principal writings, identified by Alexander Woollcott as “a potent distillation of nectar and wormwood,” are several collections of well-crafted short stories: Laments for the Living (1930), After Such Pleasures (1933), and Here Lies: The Collected Stories (1939). These stories focus on the superficial, pointless, barren lives of middle- and upper-class Manhattanite women of the flapper and early Depression times, unhappily dependent on men for their economic support and emotional sustenance. Parker also wrote witty drama reviews for Vanity Fair (1918-1920), Ainslee’s (1920-1933), and The New Yorker (1931); and terse, tart book reviews for The New Yorker (1927-1933) and Esquire (1959-1962). “Tonstant Weader Fwowed Up,” her provoked, personal reaction to A. A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner (1928), typifies her “delicate claws of . . . superb viciousness” (Woollcott). Parker’s major plays are The Coast of Illyria (pr. 1949, with Ross Evans), about Charles and Mary Lamb’s tortured lives, and The Ladies of the Corridor (pr., pb. 1953, with Arnaud d’Usseau), three case histories of death-in-life among elderly women.

Achievements

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Dorothy Parker’s poems, stories, and reviews, wisecracking and wary, were the toast of New York in the 1920’s and early 1930’s. She presented a brittle, world-weary, cynically urban view of life...

(The entire section is 1,261 words.)