Friday, 5 April 2013

Significance of telephone in "A Telephone Call" by Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker was an american short story writer, poet and critic. She wrote book reviews for The New Yorker. In 1930s Parker moved to Hollywood.

"A Telephone Call" by Dorothy Parker is an interesting short story that lends itself beautifully to a feminist perspective. The plot deals with an extremely honest and candid insight into the most intimate and private feelings of a woman who is infatuated with a man. It is interesting to read the story as it provides psychological insight into homicidal tendencies that result from an infatuation which is more of a mania obsession. Dorothy Parker has used diction, tone and point of view as literary tools to reveal the extent to which an obsession can make a woman become a victim of emotional dependence on a man.

The story deals with dating etiquette and what society expects of women. She wishes to call the man but she can't do that because she has been taught that men don't like it if you keep telephoning them. Since the guy hasn't called she feels unwanted and undesirable and she can't call because if she did the guy wouldn't like her anymore. This torments her and she begs God to let the man call her. The situation displays the role of telephone in this situation. She can easily connect with him with just one call but she doesn't have the power to make that call. She is in agony and she experiences various mood swings where sometimes she is begging, sometimes she is angry and sometime she feels pathetic and wishes that she could stop obsessing over the call while at other times she threatens and wishes to kill the man.

This could be seen in the following lines,
"Please, God, let him telephone me now. Dear God, let him call me now."
"This is suffering, God, this is bad, bad suffering."
"I must stop this. I musn't be this way."

A time comes in the story where telephone is personified and it represents the man. She says, "You damned, ugly, shiny thing. It would hurt you to ring, wouldn't it? Oh that would hurt you. Damn you, I'll pull your filthy roots off the wall, I'll smash your black face in little bits. Damn you to hell."

Even though she is talking to the telephone she truly wants to hurt the man for making her wait for his call and putting her in a state of desperation. She hates him for taking her dignity and making her feel desolate.
"I wish he were dead. That's a terrible wish. That's a lovely wish. If he were dead, he would be mine. If he were dead, I would never think of now and last few weeks. I would remember only the lovely times. It would be all beautiful."

She is so much emerged in her desperation and her obsession that she prefers that the man is dead than the idea of him not desiring her. She keeps on looking at the telephone hoping and wishing it would ring. It becomes the center of her life and she keeps on looking at the telephone willing it to ring.

The telephone is suppose to connect people but due to social norms even though she is so close to the man, she is very far away from him. She keeps on referring to the phone calls she could easily make to any of her girl friends but it dismays her that her relationship isn't big enough to overcome petty rules and silly mind games imposed on her by the society.

Telephone gives her hope and yet shatters her dream at the same time.

Arushi Raj


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