Study Guide

Here We Are Themes

By Dorothy Parker

  • Family

    Family isn't a huge theme in "Here We Are"—except insofar as a newlywed couple is a family of two. But we're thinking specifically of the part where the wife accuses the husband of not liking her family.

    It's not necessarily a super-serious accusation: there might be some truth to it (or there might not be), but the real energy of the story is centered on the couple's anxieties about finally having sex. It seems like the wife's accusation is a way of deflecting her worries from that major concern and projecting them onto something else.

    Questions About Family

    1. Does the husband like the wife's family? Is he convincing or not?
    2. Why does the wife act like the family thing is a major concern if she's really thinking of something else? Is she just deflecting? Or is this another genuine worry?
    3. How important is liking someone else's family, after you marry them? Is it super-essential? Or can you work around it?

    Chew on This

    "Here We Are" suggests that when you marry someone, you marry that person's whole family, in a way.

    "Here We Are" just suggests that you really just marry the person you marry. You can take or leave the family, depending.

  • Innocence

    Both members of the couple are pretty innocent. The wife is worried about consummating the marriage and is apparently a virgin—the classical form of "innocence." The husband might be a virgin too, but it's actually a little unclear. The husband calls his wife a "baby lamb" a couple times—which is a term of endearment (though potentially a condescending one) and a way of saying someone is extremely innocent.

    Also, some of the imagery at the beginning—referring to screen doors that don't rust and codfish without bones—might be meant to invoke something that's innocent or pure, but in a way that seems a little unnatural or weird. Experience isn't meant to be a bad thing. It's natural… unlike a creepy boneless fish.

    Questions About Innocence

    1. How do the husband and wife display their innocence?
    2. What's your personal definition of "innocence"? Is it always a good thing?
    3. Do you think that the husband and wife will remain "innocent"—a better and more accurate term might be "naïve"—even after they consummate their marriage? If so, in what ways? In other words, will they ever become wise to the ways of the world?

    Chew on This

    Innocence is a state of mind.

    Innocence has more to do with your actions than with a state of mind.

  • Jealousy

    The wife and the husband both act pretty jelly in the middle of the story: the wife accuses the husband of being hung up on her friend Louise, after he enthuses about her "knockout" looks. The husband accuses his wife of having a thing for a traveling salesman named Joe Brooks.

    It's a stew of petty jealousies—but the heat that's causing it to simmer is coming more from the unresolved sexual tensions (the fact that they haven't made their marriage "official") than from the genuine nature of these supposed extramarital passions.

    Questions About Jealousy

    1. How deep do the husband and wife's jealousies run? Are they sincerely felt or not?
    2. Do you think either of them really might have wandering eyes? Why or why not?
    3. To what extent are the jealousies just distractions from deeper issues? What are those deeper issues (if they exist)?
    4. Can someone be jealous—occasionally or whatever—and still have a more or less functional marriage or relationship?

    Chew on This

    "Here We Are" suggests that Robert A. Heinlein's statement "A competent and self-confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything. Jealousy is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity" is true.

    "Here We Are" suggests that Elizabeth Bowen's statement "Jealousy is no more than feeling alone against smiling enemies" is true.

  • Language and Communication

    Seeing two people have trouble communicating is one of the oldest forms of humor—just check out the corny (but still hilarious) "Who's on First?".

    This husband and wife really have trouble talking to each other. They both are too timid to be really explicit about how they're planning on having sex and consummating their marriage when they get to the hotel. The husband says, "I mean. I mean—" whenever he's on the verge of mentioning the sex they'll (probably) be having in a couple hours. Their arguments about hats and old crushes are really just a way of diverting their attention from the elephant in the room—the hot sex elephant in the room.

    Questions About Language and Communication

    1. Do the husband and wife ever really understand each other?
    2. At what point do they come closest to understanding one another?
    3. How important is communication to a relationship or a marriage? Is it the most important thing?
    4. Would any problems exist if the husband and wife could communicate directly with each other? Or, in that case, would they have even gotten married?

    Chew on This

    "Here We Are" suggests that speaking openly and directly is a good strategy when talking to someone you love.

    "Here We Are" suggests that there are some things you should keep to yourself—you don't have to be open to your significant other about everything.

  • Marriage

    This story is mainly about sex: having it, not having it, being worried about it, etc. And marriage is an institution designed around allowing people to get it on in a legally binding fashion. The newlywed couple discusses their marriage quite a bit: the wife is worried it won't work out and the husband says that they're not really married yet (because it hasn't been consummated.)

    But beyond the sexual anxieties, the story raises real questions about marriage. What makes a good marriage tick, anyway? And will these characters be able to give each other enough affection and understanding to let their marriage endure?

    Questions About Marriage

    1. Is this shaping up to be a good or a bad marriage? Or is too early to tell?
    2. How crucial is the sex life part of marriage? Is it more important than other parts of the relationship, or less important?
    3. Does pointless bickering necessarily mean a marriage won't be good?
    4. What do you think are the keys to a good marriage (or a good relationship)? List those the couple has and those they don't have.

    Chew on This

    "Here We Are" suggests that Nietzsche's statement "When marrying, ask yourself this question: Do you believe that you will be able to converse well with this person into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory" is true.

    "Here We Are" suggests that Abraham Lincoln's statement "Marriage is neither heaven nor hell, it is simply purgatory" is true.

  • Sex

    Sex is the mega-theme of this story. That's what they're talking about, in between the lines, isn't it? They're talking about getting down to business—if they can ever stop squabbling. It's the major joke of the story—the fact that this couple is talking about sex without ever really directly talking about it.

    But what is Parker saying about gettin' it on? Is it the central part of human relationships? What does it have to do with love? Sex is like that—full of quizzical worries and queries tossed off into the night with (hot, sexy) abandon.

    Questions About Sex

    1. What's preventing this couple from talking openly about sex?
    2. Is sex the great solution—will consummating the marriage change everything and make them both happier?
    3. Are there deeper problems in this relationship than anxieties about sex? If so, what are those deeper anxieties? And who has them—the husband, the wife, or both?
    4. How are sex and love related? Is this couple in love?

    Chew on This

    "Here We Are" suggests that George Michael's lyric "Sex is natural, sex is good. Not everybody does it, but everybody should" is true.

    "Here We Are" suggests that Arthur Schopenhauer's statement that "[Sex] destroys the most valuable relationships, breaks the firmest bond, demands the sacrifice sometimes of life or health, sometimes of wealth, rank, and happiness, nay, robs those who are otherwise honest of all conscience, makes those who have hitherto been faithful, traitors; accordingly on the whole, appears as a malevolent demon that strives to pervert, confuse and overthrow everything" is true.