This study guide will help you analyze the text “A Telephone Call” by Dorothy Parker. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, and themes.
Presentation of the text
Title: “A Telephone Call”
Author: Dorothy Parker
Genre: Short Story
Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) was an American author who experimented with various literary genres: poetry, short story, essay, satire, plays, etc. Her writing style is characterized by wit, humor and a focus on urban life. Part of her career involved screenwriting for Hollywood movies, but she was often criticized for her leftist political views used in her texts.
In her anguish, the female narrator personifies the phone, giving the object a “smug black face” and addressing it directly though it cannot answer her (this figure of speech is called apostrophe): “Couldn't you ring? Ah, please, couldn't you? You damned, ugly, shiny thing. It would hurt you to ring, wouldn't it?”
Two setting elements play a symbolic role in the short story: the clock and the telephone. The clock becomes a symbolic reminder of the man not respecting his promise to call the female narrator, and thus of the end of their relationship.
The telephone which is designed to be a tool enhancing communication becomes a symbol of the lack of it, and the woman addresses it as if it were a person: “Damn you, I'll pull your filthy roots out of the wall, I'll smash your smug black face in little bits. Damn you to hell.”