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Dorothy Parker’s “A Certain Lady”

Dorothy Parker’s short poem, A Certain Lady, is a detailed poem of a flow of thoughts regarding a woman in a relationship with a mysterious man. It takes the form of a monologue expressing the ability of the woman to make herself appear happy and excited around the man. At the same time, he cannot entirely understand or gauge her true feelings for him. The man is constantly bragging about his exploits with other women, unaware of what he narrates to, his exploits feel about him. This essay is an explication of the poem examining the terms used and their contextual meanings while reviewing their tone, diction, and context. It also explores the themes of the poem.

The theme of the poem is expressed consistently throughout as being emotional turmoil. It portrays a person’s struggles and emotional turmoil who has fallen in love, but the lover does not reciprocate the love. The whole monologue is expressed in a tone of sadness and despair. Her attempts to try and show concern or love go unrecognized as the lover is too intertwined in a web of adventures whir different women. After every adventure, he always comes back to narrate to the poem’s persona, not minding if her emotions are involved or hurt by his actions. The person is thus left in stitches as her lover continues hurting her without his knowledge.

The primary target of this explication is the symbolism and irony employed by the narrator. The poem is filled with incidence and points of symbolist events and word use. In numerous encounters and statements, the words used express more profound affection, ironical use of words, and deeper desires test are masked below pretentious joy and happiness. She displays persistence and resilience that makes the audience sympathize with her, depicting and mocking the image of ancient tales of happiness in love. Both stanzas end in the phrase “You’ll never know,” depicting that her lover will never feel what she feels or realize what she goes through due to loving him.

One of the vocabularies that strike an image in a reader’s mind is the description of the narrator drinking the words of the man she loves with eager loops (Line 2). This depicts that the narrator still keeps listening to the words and stories despite the hurtful nature that she is forced to listen to. She showed that she cherished the tales and was eager to hear of them. This description is followed by her stating how she laughed heartily whirl her heart ached for the unaware and unconcerned man’s feelings for him.

The narrator also can lock her emotions and control them, not displaying or imposing them in line (19). She states, “Thus do you want me — marveling, gay, and true “This statement reaffirmed that she displayed whatever emotions the man wanted to see. Despite her feelings, she did not show how genuinely disappointed or heartbroken she was, but the tales she listened to hurt her, with him rumbling on and on without regard for her emotions. The narrator is presented in sympathetic depictions portraying a desire suppressed by her control of emotion and love for a man who does not recognize her emotions.

The lady kisses him blithely whenever the lover leaves, searching for novelty and new adventures. “Oh, I can kiss you blithely as you go …” (Line, 22). The term blithely is used to portray the irony of her emotions. Blithely means cheerful feelings. However, this is a stark contrast to what the lady feels. Her love for the man makes her wish she would retain him longer, that he would not leave her side, and she would have to stay with him. Despite the cheerful goodbye, she is left in pain, which depicts her suppressed desire to please her lover. The emotional control she shows clearly shows how hurt she is by falling in love with a person who is not caring and is a womanizer in constant pursuit of other women.

Another ironic aspect arose in her expression of her emotions to and showed her lover. She describes herself as being “True.” The truth, however, is quite the opposite. To herself, she was never true to the man she loved because she never told him the truth. On the other hand, the man loves this depiction of her where she portrays herself as being happy. She even acclaims that he likes her for “That I am gay as morning, light as snow, (Line, 10)” This statement is immediately followed by “And all the straining things within my heart you’ll never know.” These two portray entirely different personas. One is happy and truthful, while the other struggles to suppress their emotions. They keep their feelings to themselves despite the suffering they undergo inside them.

Another clear depiction of inner emotional pain and desire is when she states, “And trace your brows with tutored finger-tips. (Line, 4)” This clearly shows a deep desire to express herself romantically. The term tortured fingers represent the torment she had undergone for not being loved back. She wants the opportunity to have to lie close to her lover, talking to him and telling him what she felt about him. She wants to express her love for him and touch him. However, it is not bound to happen as the lover is too preoccupied with telling her the narrations of his escapades with other women and the happiness he had while doing it. Her desire is likely never to come true.

The narration portrays a relationship where the man is selfish and constantly seeks new adventures with other women and enjoys their company. However, he always comes back to her at the end of it all. The narrator depicts a false sense of joy and happiness that pleases the man. Their relationship is built on and grows like a proud bragger and a joyful listener. The listener is not allowed to express or say anything but rather marvel at his exploits and even complements him where necessary. The differences in emotional expressions and feelings between the two are vast, showing a need to understand them to close the emotional gap.

In conclusion, the poem employs irony and phrases that indirectly infers and show the nature of the relationship between the two livers. The poet’s choice of words is relatively straightforward and depicts an overall image that leaves an impression among the readers. This explication has analyzed the phrase and words and gives a deeper understanding of the poem. It has also created a deeper understanding of what message is being sent across by the poem.


Parker, Dorothy. The Collected Poetry. A modern library, 1936.


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