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On "Resume"

Peter Schakel and Jack Ridl

Here the irony is not that the poem advocates suicide but says the opposite. The irony lies in indirection, as it offers unexpected and ultimately despairing reasons for avoiding suicide and continuing to live, and in the ambiguity of the title: the word resume, without accents, means to "go on again, after an interruption; to continue," all of which is appropriate to the poem. Resume, with accents, means a "summary," particularly "a brief account of personal qualifications and experience," as if the poem summarizes the speaker's experiences and qualifications in this area (the speaker has tried them all and knows!). Irony can entail humor -- as in the title and development of this poem; often there is a serious edge to or point behind the humor.

From Peter Schakel and Jack Ridl, Approaching Poetry: Perspectives and Responses. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997.

Marion Meade

Meade offers a biographical reading of "Resume," linking it to one of Parker's suicide attempts while she was under the care of Dr. Alvan Barach, a New York cardiologist and psychotherapist.

As before, she tried to make light of her impulse to self-destruction, although this time psychiatric treatment made it harder to accomplish. In verse, she compiled a consumer's report for those contemplating suicide and rated the various methods of killing one's self: Razors, as she knew from experience, were painful, and drugs caused vomiting and cramps. Other methods she had not actually tested had to be dismissed on hearsay as hopelessly unreliable: Given the inadequacy of what was available to an aspiring suicide, Dorothy figured she might as well go on living. When "Resume" was published in The Conning Tower [F. P. A.'s column in the New York World newspaper], some people admired the way she had transformed a near-fatal experience into dark humor. As might be expected, Dr. Barach was not among them.

From Marion Meade, Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?. New York: Villard Books, 1988. 161-162.

 Gloria Steinem

It's a wonderful statement, I think, of her struggle to celebrate life and stay alive in spite of the dark parts of her life.

From "Would You Kindly Direct Me to Hell: The Infamous Dorothy Parker," Stage production, Arts & Entertainment television, 1994.

 Suzanne L. Bunkers

Bunkers sees "Resume" as a kind of signature piece, and then goes on to discuss the social criticism embedded in other poems and stories by Parker.

. . . . Parker's most famous poem, "Resume," is often quoted to attest to her matter-of-fact view of life and death . . . .

From Suzanne Bunkers, "'I Am Outraged Womanhood': Dorothy Parker as Feminist and Social Critic." Regionalism and the Female Imagination 4.2 (1978): 25-34.

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