Monday, March 10, 2014

A Critical Analysis on Dorothy Parker's 'Resumé'


Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live. 

-Dorothy Parker 

poem excerpted from: <>

Dorothy Parker's poem 'Resume' deals with the subject matter of suicide. Although a rather concise poem it speaks of a dark notion in an ironic tone. She makes the various means of committing suicide rather mundane than what the actual act would cause thereby making an understatement. 

There is shocking visual imagery evoked by the very first line ‘razors pain you’. Images of blood, death and despair run throughout this poem. At the same time razors does more than just cause pain; which is a huge understatement. Focusing on the last line “you might as well live’’, the poet could also bring into light that if anybody attempted suicide and didn’t succeed, he/she might have to live with the consequences of having attempted suicide in the first place. For example, the guilt associated with the ‘sin’ of putting an end to life by cutting through one’s veins, could be witnessed later through the scars. 

The concluding line of the poem also imparts the thought of suicide as ‘painful’, ‘unlawful’, and ‘awful’ therefore ‘you might as well live’; administering the fact that life must go on despite the tragedies that surround you. It is the ironical tone of the dark subject matter that makes this a dark comedy of sorts. The end rhyme continues the obnoxious thoughts of death by suicide underlined with sombre humour with the rhyming scheme ab-ab. The auditory images evoked by the line gas smells awful might remind the reader, although anyone can turn on the gas inside the house and light a match that would kill instantly, she would have to bear the rancid smell in the meantime. 

The title of the poem ‘resume’ denotes begin again or continue after a pause or interruption, which subtly brings out the theme ‘’despite all hazards and tragedies in life, continue to live it’. The momentary pain or fear caused before suicide is enough to choose between life and death. The pun on the word resume appears with the connotation as in ‘Resumé’ which states one’s qualifications and experience in a document. This reflects on the tragic life of Dorothy Parker whose three marriages failed and had impulsively attempted suicide several times. Therefore she is an omniscient writer who writes with experience quite similar to ‘Lady Lazarus’ by Silvia Plath. It is interesting to note that both these women lead tragic lives having their feelings and thoughts sagaciously reflected in poetry.

There is a question whether the overall message of the poem is a positive one or a negative one. In the concluding line 'you might as well live", the poet doesn't word it as 'you should'; there isn't a direct dictation but with the word 'might' she leaves the reader to decide which to chose: life or death. Looking further in to the title 'Resume', when Parker looks in to her recorded milestones in life, the highlights could be her failed attempts at suicide. Therefore there is a tone of resignation as we understand that committing suicide is a mode of escapism for those who want to avoid complexities of life. This is the negative aspect of suicide. It is probably the element of fear that made her decide it is better to live without resorting to suicide and she thus intends a positive message through this poem. 


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