Enough Rope By Dorothy Parker DOROTHY PARKER ENOUGH ROPE Nafisa Rebello SYBA ROLL 338 It was Prof. Eunice Dsouza who at the beginning of the year introduced us to the poems of Dorothy Parker. It was just a brief glance, something not from within the syllabus and forgotten the next day. But Resume and War Song would not get out of my head that easily. Intrigued by the woman who famously said Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses, I took the first opportunity to find out more about her. Therefore this internal assessment project focuses on Dorothy Parkers first set of published poems, Enough Rope (1926). America of the 1920s Enough Rope was published in December of 1926, and by the spring of 1927 it was making publishing history by becoming a best seller, an almost unprecedented achievement for a volume of poetry. Its poems became a mantra of sorts for the new American woman.
The new American woman who was voting for the first time and was not afraid to be seen drinking, smoking, sniffing cocaine, bobbing one’s hair, dancing the Charleston, necking and getting ‘caught’. Victorianism and the turn of the century Gibson Girl were out, and in her place was a saucy, booze-drinking, cigarette-smoking, knee-length-dress-wearing flapper. In fact the loosening of restrictions on women was one of the most significant legacies of the 1920s. Young women were wearing dresses and shockingly tight bathing suits that showed leg skin from the knee on down–an unprecedented flaunting of flesh. They were caking on makeup, rouge no less, with the aplomb of streetwalkers–and mothers despaired. Talking about Freud and sex were signs of hip ness. While showing feminine flesh women also sported an androgynous look, cutting their hair like boys (bobbed hair), but adding a feminine touch through shingling.
This was the era of prohibition, Al Capone and Jazz music. Overall, the decade is often seen as a period of great contradiction: of rising optimism and deadening cynicism, of increasing and decreasing faith, of great hope and great despair. There were great upheavals in the cultural and societal foundations of America. Writers, musicians and artists no longer attempted to extol the virtues of 19th Century rural America, but instead embraced a hedonistic, individualism that was personified in the quickened pace of the 20th Century American city. The poems of Enough Rope gave glimpses of the age of anything goes and its heavy cost in terms of one’s emotions.
These verses, which became something of a national rage, were thought to be strong stuff: brusque, bitter and unwomanly in their presumed cynicism. They gave the impression of asserting a woman’s equal rights inside a sexual relationship, including the right of infidelity. They fitted perfectly into the pre-depression era, when it was fashionable to be irresponsible and bitter. And American women everywhere wanted to be smarty like the poet and short story writer Dorothy Parker. Dorothy Parker In American literature, many writers of the past years faced at some point the duty of silencing personal opinions, feelings, and emotions. Although many accept this duty without a moments hesitation or guilt, some who do not accept this openly create a voice of disgust and doubt that arises eventually in their work.
In the twentieth century, no one epitomizes this very voice more than did Dorothy Parker. Dorothy rebelled from her creativity block, in her early years, by releasing a series of works, which examined herself and her society, as she knew it to be. Dorothy Parker took offence to a world that she saw as mindless and lacking of any chaotic bliss. John Taylor Dorothy Parker was born in West End, New Jersey on August 22, 1893. She held many positions of work in a grand career that spanned over thirty years.
She began her career in the New York area near her home as a drama critic for the magazine Vanity Fair. From the years 1917 to 1920 she held the position at the magazine till she moved on to another publication, New Yorker, in which she reviewed book publications and theatre performances from 1927 to 1933. Dorothy Parker’s legacy as an objective writer began to take shape in the late 1920’s when she released her first light verses, which were titled Enough Rope in 1926, Sunset Gun in 1928, and Death and Taxes in 1931. Although she went on to, possibly more successful, careers in her life, the period of these verses by her were the most honestly evaluating works of her lifetime. A lifetime that was filled with her own alcoholic depressions, ill-fated love affairs and attempted suicides.
All of which have a bearing on Dorothy Parker’s views of truth, which come to light in the form of poems that are long, short, detailed, vague, but always intuitive. Dorothy parkers contribution to the humour of the period was a combination of classical practices with her own very personal tone, a tone of the carefree but victimised little woman, which gave to her work its special profile, its recognizable hallmarks. She was determined from the start to write satire from her womans point of view-to exaggerate reality through stereotype, repetition, cataloguing or hyperbole-rather than to write nonsense verse. She also wanted her work to be simple, as colloquial as possible, for that way she could extend her satire to those who spoke as her lines speak. Her work observes social facts and customs, sees them representatively rather than in particularities, and then invites the happy or scornful laughter of criticism.
Structurally her poems often began with a hyperbole, develop by antithetical ideas, or end with a surprise, a twist. To locate Dorothy Parkers unique flavour, it is simplest to keep in mind her short poems where, despite the compactness of the form, all her attitudes and techniques are in play. Here she concentrates on a specific situation or moment, the foreground sharply focussed in time and space. Often but not always, she extends her canvas by burlesque, pun or paradox; often too the wit is reflexive, and irony becomes irony of the self (and even of the poem, of poetry). By restricting her scope, her concentration on the paraphernalia of life never clutters her line as it never clutters her point of view.
What she strives for in her poems is an elegant casualness. The discrepancy between the seriousness of her aim and the playful tone of her presentation provides not only a kind of cool satire but also a forceful constricted irony. Indeed her work is so cool in its fundamental bitterness that she has from the first appealed to a very wide audience-both those wishing simple amusement and those who recognise her sardonic wit. Enough Rope Here is poetry that is smart in the fashion designers sense of the wordMrs. Parker has her own particular field of frank American humour. She is slangy, vulgar, candid and withal subtle, delicate and sparkling.
The soul of wit distinguishes most of her piecesfor all their pertness and bravado they mirror, in most cases, quite genuine and profound experiences. Of Enough Rope in Poetry, April 1927 Enough Rope appeared from Boni and Liveright for two dollars, in a grey dust jacket with yellow lettering-A woman supplies enough rope to hang a hundred Egos-and a dangling rope for illustration; it went through eight printings, a phenomenal bestseller. Therefore from the title itself Dorothy Parker suggests her conscious adoption of the role of satirist, one bemused by the human situation and sufficiently superior to poke fun at it. The themes that run through the volume are those with which she was by now identified: unrequited love, loneliness, death and hypocrisy. To appreciate the peculiarly successful poetic of Enough Rope, we must see how Dorothy parker starts with the briefest possible situation, catches it at a split moment, and dramatises it through a voice unaware of the clichs on which it rests.
Anecdote So silent I when Love was by He yawned, and turned away; But Sorrow clings to my apron-strings, I have so much to say. Dorothy Parkers poetry is dramatic not ruminative. But by puns, clichs and unhappy word choices, her poems invite us to reflect on the sharp difference between poet and persona. It is this implied contrast, which provides point and force, as with Interview The ladies men admire, I’ve heard, Would shudder at a wicked word. Their candle gives a single light; They’d rather stay at home at night.
They do not keep awake till three, Nor read erotic poetry. They never sanction the impure, Nor …