Essays Telephone Call Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker’s best-known stories are “The Waltz,” “A Telephone Call,” and her masterpiece, “Big Blonde,” winner of the O. Henry Memorial Prize for the best short story of 1929.

“The Waltz”

“The Waltz” and “A Telephone Call,” both dramatic monologues, present typical Parker characters, insecure young women who derive their social and personal acceptance from the approval of men and who go to extremes, whether sincere or hypocritical, to maintain this approbation. The characters, anonymous and therefore legion, elicit from the readers a mixture of sympathy and ridicule. They evoke sympathy because each is agonizing in an uncomfortable situation which she believes herself powerless to control. The waltzer is stuck with a bad, boorish dancer—“two stumbles, slip, and a twenty-yard dash.” The other woman is longing for a telephone call from a man she loves who does not reciprocate her concern: “Please, God, let him telephone me now, Dear God, let him call me now. I won’t ask anything else of You. ”

These predicaments are largely self-imposed as well as trivial and so they are ludicrous, unwittingly burlesqued through the narrators’ hyperbolic perspectives. Both women are trapped in situations they have permitted to occur but from which they lack the resourcefulness or assertiveness to extricate themselves. The waltzer not only accepts the invitation to dance but also hypocritically flatters her partner: “Oh, they’re going to play another encore. Oh, goody. Oh, that’s lovely. Tired? I should say I’m not tired. I’d like to go on like this forever.” These cloying words mask the truth, which she utters only to herself and to the eavesdropping audience: “I should say I’m not tired. I’m dead, that’s all I am. Dead and the music is never going to stop playing. ” Enslaved by an exaggerated code of politeness, therefore, she catches herself in the network of her own lies: “Oh, they’ve stopped, the mean things. They’re not going to play any more. Oh, darn.” Then she sets herself up for yet another round of hypocritical self-torture: “Do you really think so, if you gave them twenty dollars? Do tell them to play this same thing. I’d simply adore to go on waltzing.”

“A Telephone Call”

Like the waltzer, the narrator in “A Telephone Call” is her own worst enemy. Suffering from too much time on her hands—she is evidently not occupied with a job or responsibility for anyone but herself—she can afford the self-indulgence to spend hours focused exclusively on the dubious prospect of a phone call. She plays games with God; her catechism is a parody: “You see, God, if You would just let him telephone me, I wouldn’t have to ask You for anything more.” She plays games with herself: “Maybe if I counted five hundred by fives, it might ring by that time. I’ll count slowly. I won’t cheat.” She is totally preoccupied with herself and her futile efforts to fan the embers of a dying love; having violated the social code by phoning her former admirer at his office, by the monologue’s end she is desperately preparing to violate it again by calling him at home. Nevertheless, she is ludicrous rather than pathetic because her concern is so superficial (although her concentration on the anticipated phone call is also a barrier against the more serious reality of the...

(The entire section is 1392 words.)

Patricia Lane

Face to Face with Obsession In “A Telephone Call,” Dorothy Parker uses diction, tone, and point of view to expose obsession and give it a voice.  Parker reveals the deep feelings of a woman experiencing an infatuation.  The language usage and tone help keep a high-paced unstable feeling throughout the story.  Point of view focuses on the thoughts and agitations of the crazed woman.  To highlight the theme Parker sensibly uses these specific literary tools.
Parker takes advantage of diction as a literary tool in “A Telephone Call.” Her use and choice of words continuously help display her theme.  The reader assumes that the presence of incomplete or run-on sentences reflects the unstable thoughts of the obsessed woman.  Parker uses short interjections to convey the desperate pleading and incoherent contemplation.  Repetition is another effect of obsession. The woman repeats the short hopeless phrase “Please, God” numerous times and usually follows it with frantic condemning or pathetic begging.  Commas, hyphens, and semi-colons connect these various streams of mixed and confused thoughts.   The obsessive woman uses aggressive and almost violent language toward the telephone, God, and even the man she adores.  Diction is an important tool that Parker uses to suggest various symptoms of obsession.
Throughout “A Telephone Call” the tone keeps the reader’s focus on the woman’s obsession.  The run-on sentences and short outbursts create a fast frantic pace.  The woman asks God for help, because she can no longer control herself.  In a sense, the story itself seems out of control. The rising action commences at the beginning of the story and strangely does not end within the story. The reader remains at the edge of their seat, listening to her frequently shifting thoughts and waiting for some kind of appeasement for her infatuation.  The tone keeps the story on the same unstable level as the woman.
Though diction and tone help display obsession, point of view seems to be the most influential literary tool used in the story.  “A Telephone Call” has an interior monologue narration.  Parker purposely uses this narration to focus on a specific point of view, the woman with the obsession.  Hearing the thoughts inside her head, the reader could not be any closer to obsession itself.  Throughout the story, the reader tries to empathize with her feelings and practically experiences her aggravation.  Most people know how it feels to want something, but few suffer such extreme and sometimes sadistic feelings of attachment.  More importantly, the story would have little substance if “A Telephone Call” was not written in interior monologue.  Someone sitting in the same room as this woman may see her as an average impatient person, who is just waiting for a phone call.  She waits for a long time, but the person in the room could think it is an urgent call.  Their knowledge would be limited and they would only see her staring at the clock or phone, and maybe pacing the room.  Surely if Parker focused on the thoughts of the man on the other side of the anticipated phone call, there would be less reference to this woman at all.  The reader would never come face to face with obsession without the narration and point of view of the woman.
Dorothy Parker’s purpose in “A Telephone Call” is to display a close view of obsession, and basically provide it with a voice.  She accomplishes this objective by using literary tools that make the theme more obvious to the reader.  The choice and arrangement of words depict how the woman’s thoughts are unbalanced and incoherent.  The tone makes the woman sound hysterical and out of control.  And without the point of view of the woman, the impact of the story would not be as significant.

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