Dorothy Parker’s Life
Dorothy Parker was an American short story writer, poet, satirist, and critic. Born in the West End village of Long Branch, New Jersey on August 22, 1893, Dorothy lived in a summer cottage with her family. Her father, Jacob Henry Rothschild, was of German Jewish descent, and her mother, Eliza Annie Rothschild, was of Scottish descent. Parker was hardly five when her mother passed away in 1898. Her father remarried in 1900, to Eleanor Francis Lewis. His second marriage jolted Parker. She never accepted the marriage and started hating both her father and stepmother. She turned against them to such a degree that she accused her father of being physically abusive and refused to accept Eleanor as her mother or stepmother; instead Parker referred to Eleanor as their housekeeper.
Despite her Jewish father and Protestant stepmother, Parker studied at a Roman Catholic elementary school. After just three years of marriage, Parker’s stepmother died in 1903, when Parker was only nine years old. Later, Parker went to Miss Dana’s School in Morristown, New Jersey and completed her high school education. She earned her diploma there in 1911 at the age of eighteen.
Following her father’s demise two years later, Parker started playing piano at a dancing school to make a living, besides working on her poetry. After a long struggle, Parker published her first poem in the magazine Vanity Fair in 1914. After a couple of months, she got a job offer as an editorial assistant for another magazine, Vogue. She worked there for two years, and also started working as a staff writer for Vanity Fair.
Sadly, Parker suffered from depression and took to heavy drinking. She had an abortion, which led to her first suicide attempt. Despite such unfavorable conditions, Parker married Edwin Pond Parker II, a Wall Street stockbroker, in 1917. However, they separated due to Edwin’s army service in the World War I. Parker was insecure about her Jewish heritage in light of the fact that critics disparaged her to the point of anti-Semitism during that period; she joked that she tied the knot with Edwin just to escape her religious heritage.
While working for Vanity Fair, Parker became acquainted with literary figures like Robert Benchley and Robert E. Sherwood. She successfully published her first collection of poems, “Enough Rope,” in 1926. She remarried to Alan Campbell,an actor, in 1934, but later divorced him in 1947. Parker also aspired to write scripts, and turned into a screenwriter. She worked as chair of the Joint Anti-Fascist Rescue Committee. In 1950, Parker remarried her former husband Alan. Following the death of her husband in 1963, she returned to New York from Hollywood. Parker died of a heart attack at the age of seventy-three on June 7, 1967.
Dorothy Parker’s Works
Parker published 300 free verses and poems in Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, “The Conning Tower” and The New Republic in the late twenties. She published her first poetry volume “Enough Rope” in 1926, which received impressive reviews; 47,000 copies were sold in the first year. In addition, she released two more volumes of her verses under the titles of “Sunset Gun” in 1928 and “Taxes” in 1931. She also published two short story collections, “Laments for the Living” in 1930 and “After Such Pleasures” in 1933. She worked with the playwright Elmer Rice on a play “Close Harmony” that received worldwide recognition. She also wrote lyrics and scripts for movies.
Dorothy Parker’s Style and Popular Poems
Initially, Parker’s style was somewhat non-serious, but gradually she developed it into seriousness and used themes of middle-class complacency and unrequited love. She expressed insightful humor, a sense of sadness, and serious attempts through satire. Her romantic lyrical ballads are rich with imagery and symbolism. Critics often described her poetry as sentimental, trivial, and melodramatic because of its sharp humor. Her popular poems are “A Fairy Sad Tail,” “A Portrait,” “A Dream Dies Dead,” “Autumn Valentine,” “Cherry White,” “Daylight Saving,” “Dilemma,” “Godmother,” and “Fulfillment.”
More about Her
In 1988 the NAACP claimed the remains of Parker and planned a memorial garden to keep them outside of their Baltimore headquarters. On the 99th anniversary of her birth, on August 22, 1992, the United States Postal Service issued a 29¢ postage stamp to pay tribute to Parker’s contributions to literature.