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Friday, November 1, 2013

Reader's Guide to "A Telephone Call" by Dorothy Parker


Summary: .

A stream of consciousness narrative about a woman waiting for a call from a man who may be or have been a boyfriend, lover, or even a fling.  The narrator tries to control emotions but drops the reins every time she pulls the emotions in.

  1. What does it mean that the narrator changes her mind quickly and from one extreme to another?  Have you done the same?
  2. "If I didn't think about it, maybe the telephone might ring." Is she successful?
  3. There are shifts in topic within the paragraph.  What does that achieve in the narrative?
  4. "Darling" is not a common term today.  How do we know what it meant to the narrator? [See quote 1 below]
  5. What is she like to talk to on the phone?  Can we know?  See quote 2.
  6. The narrator discusses matters of telephone etiquette.  Have they changed?  Should it?
  7. Who is the narrator's antagonist?  Her boyfriend? God? herself? or a combination?
  8. The last time she counts, does she make it to 500?  Use text to support your answer.
  9. Is this tiny crisis, tiny or universal?
    1. "I think that's where he said 'darling.' I'm almost sure he said it there. I know he called me 'darling' twice, and the other time was when he said good-by. 'Good-by, darling.' He was busy, and he can't say much in the office, but he called me 'darling' twice."
    2. "He couldn't have minded my calling him up. I know you shouldn't keep telephoning them--I know they don't like that. When you do that they know you are thinking about them and wanting them, and that makes them hate you. But I hadn't talked to him in three days-not in three days. And all I did was ask him how he was; it was just the way anybody might have called him up. He couldn't have minded that. He couldn't have thought I was bothering him. "No, of course you're not," he said.
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