Parker, “The Waltz”


Dorothy Parker:
“The Waltz”

Except for few the italicized lines interspersed, the point of view here is first-person. One might be tempted to call this stream-of-consciousness, but it’s not. Stream-of-consciousness (as in Alice Walker’s “Roselily”) is much less formal, as if trying to be a representation of pre-conscious or even pre-linguistic thought. This inward diatribe is well-crafted, so “internal monologue” is the best term.

Anyone who does not like this text probably is frustrated by the apparent fact that the narrator perpetuates her own misery — especially at the end, of course, when she begs persistently, despite everything (!), for the dancing to continue. She could easily get out of further dancing quite politely now, even if she couldn’t earlier (which is doubtful).

Notice the subtlety here:

What can you say, when a man asks you to dance with him? I most certainly will not dance with you, I’ll see you in hell first. Why, thank you, I’d like to awfully, but I’m having labor pains. Oh, yes, do let’s dance together–it’s so nice to meet a man who isn’t a scaredy-cat about catching my beri-beri. No. There was nothing for me to do, but say I’d adore to. (47-48)How many possible answers does she list? Three? I think “No” is the fourth possible answer to being asked to dance — not that she’s aware of the irony, but the author is.

This story also contains my favorite literary quotation: “Trapped like a trap in a trap” (47).

The main point of the story, though, explains the peculiar ending: simply, it’s fun to bitch. If the dance ends, so too ends the narrator’s ability to entertain herself inwardly and quite wittily. We all do this, and sometimes get on a roll when we’re doing our crappy jobs and thinking up song lyrics that insult our bosses. Mowing lawns bring out (well, not really “out”) that creative and snide inner voice delivering a killer stand-up monologue that no one will ever hear.

Works Consulted

Parker, Dorothy. “The Waltz.” The Portable Dorothy Parker. Ed. Brendan Gill. NY: The Viking Press, 1973. 47-51. Literature