Study Guide

Resume

By Dorothy Parker

Resume Introduction

There's a reason why you don't read about Dorothy Parker when you learn about the high modernists like T.S. Eliot or Ezra Pound – she was just too popular. While Eliot and Pound were publishing in small, private presses for elite reading publics, Parker was taking the 1920s by storm. Ironically, this made her something of an odd-woman-out at the beginning of the 20th century, as literature took a turn towards the elitist, small press, highbrow poetry of the new century.

Parker, meanwhile, was a central member of the Algonquin Round Table, a meeting of journalists, editors, and writers who got together to sharpen their wits… usually at each other's expense. Parker managed to take the sharp wits she honed at the Round Table and translate them into biting poems, editorials, and short stories that were published in Life, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker.

At the same time, Dorothy Parker managed to stay in the thick of just about every cultural and political turning point of the 20th century: she became a socialist in the late 1920s, got involved in the Sacco and Vanzetti trials and testified during the McCarthy-era Un-American Activities hearings in the House of Representatives.

Despite having her finger on the literary and social pulse of the 20th century, Dorothy Parker had a pretty tragic personal life. Her marriages (all three) failed. She attempted suicide several times – which, rather unfortunately, probably helped to inform the subject matter of "Resume."

What is Resume About and Why Should I Care?

There's something satisfying about thinking through all of your options. It's like buying a car: you think that you're probably going to end up with a 2002 Honda Civic, but that doesn't mean you won't take the brand-spankin' new Audi out on the road for a test drive too. It's good to have options.

But the options in "Resume" are definitely on the darker side.

There's a reason that we call this poem a dark comedy: it's horrible and awful and strangely funny all at the same time. Let's face it – a whole lot of people (including Dorothy) have thought about suicide at some point – or at least options in death. (We bet that in middle school you were asked the age-old question "Would you rather burn to death or freeze to death?") And death is a scary, scary thing to ponder. Parker, however, manages to do so with a dry wit. She makes death mundane – even boring. And, in a strange way, she manages to make suicide even less appealing than other forms of meditation might.

Resume Resources

Websites

Everything you need to know about becoming Dot
OK, so this site isn't exactly a critical scholarly site, but it's a great way to figure out how to live like a Modern Woman (a 1920s Modern Woman, that is).

...and the Real Stuff
The Modern American Poetry site from the University of Illinois offers several critics' views of  "Resume." It's worth a read.

Poets.org
A brief biography of Parker from the good people at the Academy of American Poets.

Movie and Film Productions

Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994)
If learning about Dorothy Parker's wild ways wasn't enough of a sell, this movie features Jennifer Jason Leigh, the darling of the '90s. It's two blasts from the past all rolled into one.

Dash and Lilly (1999)
Bebe Neuwirth (otherwise known as Lilith from Cheers) makes a cameo appearance as the sharp-talking Parker in a movie about Hollywood's Golden Age.  

Video

Creepy Animation of "Resume"
Sure, Dorothy Parker lived well before video became popular. But that doesn't mean that weirdoes can't animate her pictures.

Angelina Jolie at her Finest
What Girl Interrupted wouldn't want to take on Dorothy Parker as an idol? 

Images

Check Out These Eyes!
Dorothy Parker seems to have perfected the intense stare into the distance.

Books

Dot's Collected Works
A collection of short stories by Parker, as well as her complete poems.

Dot's New York
Want to know how Dorothy Parker lived? Check out this book.