In July of last year I read and posted on a short story by Dorothy Parker (1893 to 1967-New Jersey USA), "A Telephone Call".. (There is some background information on Parker in that post). I am really glad I decided to read another one today and I have no good reason for waiting so long.
"Arrangement in Black and White" is a searing look at the racism in the heart of a well meaning white woman who would have identified herself as a strong progressive in race relations. The entire narrative of the story is in the conversations of the woman to a friend of her husband. The setting is at a party for a well known black musician. The woman's husband refused to go to the party as he feels it is not right to socialize with blacks as equals. The woman's attitude is a bit more complicated but in fact might be worse as at least the husband is not in bad faith with himself. Here is a good illustration of that as well as an excellent example of the prose style of Parker.
“I am,” she said. “I know I am. Poor Burton! Now, me, I don't feel that way at all. I haven't the slightest feeling about colored people. Why, I'm just crazy about some of them. They're just like children – just as easygoing, and always singing and laughing and everything. Aren't they the happiest things you ever saw in your life? Honestly, it makes me laugh just to hear them. Oh, I like them. I really do. Well, now, listen, I have this colored laundress, I've had her for years, and I'm devoted to her. She's a real character. And I want to tell you, I think of her as my friend. That's the way I think of her. As I say to Burton, 'Well, for heaven's sakes, we're all human beings!' Aren't we?”Under the woman's patronizing attitude we find a vicious racist person whose sense of self worth comes from being able to look down on others do to their race.
"Arrangement in Black and White" is funny, wicked, and brilliant. It is totally worth the few minutes it will take to read it.
You can read it online HERE.
I will be reading more of her stories this year.
I haven't read much by Dorothy Parker but this story is fascinating and I'm definitely intrigued. Without your commentary, the passage you quoted could be that of a woman who is sweet and a bit brainless or it could be that of someone who is patronizing and feels superior but is masking that. We know which it is, but the writing is brilliant. And so I am off to read the entire story!
I loved this one too. Parker's wit and acidic sense of humor get me every time. I read a massive collection of her work (The Portable Dorothy Parker) a couple years ago and have been a huge fan ever since.
Parker could slice a person to bits with her words and they'd never feel a thing. I love her work, but I can't recall this story. Will fix that. Thank you Mel!
Amy-I hope you enjoyed the story
ds-yes Parker is just brilliant-
Avid Reader-I just started reading Parker recently-I hope to read four or five more soon
Well i was searching it for final exams of 4th semester. Visited many sites but your analysis looks good and i will use it in my papers for sure. Thankyou
Wasseem, good luck on your exams and thanks for your comment
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