A Fairly Sad Tale Analysis by Dorothy Parker

Analysis of A Fairly Sad Tale

A Fairly Sad Tale is a poem by Dorothy Parker which deals with the feelings of a heartbroken woman who is unable to find true love in her life.


The poem opens with the poetess exclaiming she can never understand why she is like how she is. She isn’t like the other girls, who are able to attract the fancy of men. She on the other hand has been unsuccessful in love, and calls her ex-lovers “bastards” (born out of wedlock). They all broke her heart giving reasons where they put their parents or their careers over their relationship with the poetess. She bemoans the fact that these experiences have failed to provide her with wisdom. She understands that to find true love is a fool’s errand but she shall continue in her endeavor till the end of her days. She says that she has been cursed with never finding love, to the point where her heart is like a mosaic. She ends with the question of why she is like the way she is.

We all seek love in our lives. The poem is about the lament of the poetess that she cannot conform to the norms that society sets to decide attractiveness. She doesn’t inspire any lust among men and cannot get them to profess their love towards her, like they would for other women. And when she has had relationships, they have been disasters, to the point of her calling her former lovers “bastards”. Despite her bad experiences, she seems to be stuck in a rut, as she is unable to find love. Her frustration with society and the concept of love that exists can be seen in these lines. She even goes to the point of saying that there might be a curse on her and that she is never meant to find love. However, we see another aspect of her personality, her determination to continue in her quest for love, even if she dubs it a fool’s errand. The poem ends on a note of despondency where she yet again wonders out aloud why she is different from others, thus signifying how tough life can be for those who are unable to conform to society.

The poem is a 24 line poem which is not divided into stanzas. The rhyme scheme is aabb.


The title of “A Fairly Sad Tale” is a comment on the failure of the poetess to find love in her life.


The tone of the poem is one of sadness. The poetess laments the fact that she is unlike the other girls who are considered attractive by men and bemoans the fact that she has been unsuccessful in finding love.


The theme of the poem, like many other Dorothy Parker poems, is one of sadness. She expresses her anguish at not being like the other women and bemoans her failure to find love as she moves on from one failed relationship to another. The effect that non-conforming to societal norms has on individuals is also explored.


The poem as a whole is symbolic of our society where individuals who are more physically attractive are preferred for relationships. The calling of ex-lovers as “bastards” is symbolic of the anger she feels towards them. Finally, the reference to her heart as “mosaic” is symbolic of how long the heart has gone without feeling love.


The poetess uses vivid imagery in the poem to put her emotions into words. She compares the love a man feels for a woman to the “rush and roar of a fire”, the “sweet transparency of a glass”, the “tenderness of April grass” and finally the “durability of granite”. Finally, the poetess’ heart is compared to a mosaic.

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