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Waltz Essay, Research Paper

Themes in The Waltz

The Waltz by Dorothy Parker was written during a time when women were just beginning to understand that they could assert their own personal identities. Dorothy Parker wanted to show the movement away from the Victorian ideals of the day towards a more liberal urban America. Women s emerging identity led to the realization that they didn t have to depend entirely on men. Women also developed more political awareness and used their political skills to more greatly influence society. The Waltz shows how women were trapped in this male dominated society and the hopeless plight of these repressed women during the early Twentieth century.

In The Waltz, Dorothy Parker shows an autobiographical depiction of sexism in her life experience. In one part of the story the narrator is dancing with a man whom she doesn t care for, nor likes and curses herself while making fun of him in the process. When the dance partner questions however, she forces herself to say she is having a great time and loves this dance with him. The narrator also tells us that dancing with this man is just about as pleasurable as having her tonsils taken out. By allowing the narrator to have such verbal exchanges with her dance partner Parker is showing her malicious wit. She is also showing woman s equal rights inside a sexual relationship during the changing times. The narrator is struggling to be her own person, when she implores, Why can t he let me lead my own life? The narrator also shows that she intends to kill the man because he wouldn t leave her alone to live her own life, which she feels is never going to happen because of all females male counterparts, Die he must, and die he shall, for what he did to me. The singular he seems to be used to describe all men, not just one.

Dorothy Parker offers the narrator of the story no place to develop any individual identity or potential. She shows the social injustice exerted on women by putting the narrator in a social situation where she is not given any opportunity to make her own decisions due to the oppressive nature of society s morals and mannerisms, which still exerted intense social pressure even though the mores were being challenged. The narrator s futile attempts at escape show irony since its obvious that she can not escape this man just like she could not escape the oppressive yoke of a male dominated culture. Because the narrator has no clue what to say to him ( Did you go to the circus this year? ) she has to dance with him and subsume her consciousness to her male oppressor.

The narrator of The Waltz also shows the lack of opportunities and general impotence in society that women were faced with. Had the narrator said no to the dance she would have probably been considered rude and uncivilized, a social outcast and a deviant. The narrator said yes to the dance (the only other choice) and she was tormented with the man s bad dancing (he kicked her in the shin and stepped on her insoles) and his high energy, which she was, somewhat sarcastically, saying she admired but realistically hoped it would tire him out.

Other themes Dorothy Parker portrayed in The Waltz were that of escape and the search for peace. In many places in the story the narrator told us that she wanted to be left alone to wallow in her own pity, to brood over all [her] sorrows. If the narrator is describing this one clumsy man, whom she tells us she loves, and then calls him a hulking peasant she is showing the inescapable realty of men being a part of every woman s life.

Dorothy Parker s theme for escape and search for peace in this story shows that there are no means of any improvement in society. The narrator shows that there are no avenues of escape in this male dominated world from the misery of any woman during this dance, or in a wider aspect, life. Parker shows in this story that all women are in some way or the other doomed to live in a society that honors and respects men, enslaves and mentally imprisons women. The Waltz shows all women s heartache and disenchantment with life as a whole and their powerless status in society where a life devoid of individuality and starved potential is not worth living.


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