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by Dorothy Parker

Lines 5-8 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Line 5

Guns aren't lawful;

  • Now that the author has run through five different ways to put an end to one's life, it seems a little silly to quibble over something like the illegality of guns, doesn't it? After all, if she dies, she won't be sent to prison, will she?
  • That doesn't seem to occur to our speaker, though – she's concerned about maintaining her clean record.
  • So, we've either got a very law-abiding citizen on our hands, or our poet has a dark sense of humor.
  • Maybe she's not so worried about the fact that guns aren't legal – maybe it's the fact that their illegality makes it difficult to acquire one.
  • Once again, killing oneself is trickier than it might sound initially.

Line 6

Nooses give;

  • It's every Western movie hero's worst nightmare: you go to hang the villain and then, all of a sudden, the noose breaks. Hey, if it happens in the movies, it can happen in real life, right?
  • Notice that this is the one line that doesn't have four syllables.
  • Any guesses why? After all, it could read, "nooses may give," couldn't it?
  • Well, we don't have any solid answers on this one, but we do think it's interesting to note that the breaking of a noose coincides with the line itself breaking out of the regular pattern. Nifty, huh?

Line 7

Gas smells awful;

  • Ever had a pilot light out in your gas stove? If so, you know that gas does smell bad. Car exhaust isn't so pleasant either.
  • It seems that our speaker is contemplating sticking her head in the oven. Or locking herself in the garage with a running car.
  • Come to think of it, that brings us to an interesting point: our speaker never specifies how to kill herself. She just discusses the unappealing aspects of each form of suicide. That's why we don't know whether she's thinking about the oven or the garage.
  • Does that make suicide harder to imagine? Maybe. But it also might mean she's not actually planning on doing any of these things.

Line 8

You might as well live.

  • Ha! This, folks, is the punch line of the poem. Given that each of the suicide plans has its own irritants, our speaker opines (gives her opinion) that living just might be less trouble than dying.
  • Notice the tone of this realization? It's not "Living is great!" It's not even "Well, I suppose my life is OK, after all."
  • Nope. It's a pretty lame support for the living, all things considered.

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