Dorothy Parker: Arrangement in Black and White (Deal Me In 2017 – Week 29)

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The woman with the pink velvet poppies wreathed round the assisted gold of her hair traversed the crowded room at an interesting gait combining a skip with a sidle, and clutched the lean arm of her host.

Wonderful Town

In “Arrangement in Black and White”, Dorothy Parker once again effectively uses the one-sided conversation for comedic effect. As a well-to-do party goer grabs the arm of her host, she talks his ear off about the party’s guest of honor, a well-known African American musician. As the “talker” rambles, she conveys to the host and the musician how open-minded she thinks she is when it comes to race relations.

The story intends to show just how much the woman is not open-minded and it succeeds in doing this with a humorous tone and situation maybe proving the woman to be ridiculous and idiotic. The problem with the story is that it suffers from what I call the All In The Family syndrome. If the reader already considers bigotry to be ridiculous and idiotic then they will read this story and say “See!” and perhaps laugh at the stupidity just as many did with the ground-breaking sitcom of the 1970’s. But its just as possible that a reader could go right along with the happy rambler approving of everything she says allowing the story to inadvertently glorify bigotry.

Bottom line: I doubt this story changed any minds when it was published in 1927 and I’m not sure it would change any minds ninety years later.

This story is included in my copy of Wonderful Town: New York Stories from the New Yorker edited by David Remnick. I read it when I selected the Eight of Hearts for Week 29 of my Deal Me In 2017 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.



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