Philosophy Summary and Analysis by Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker- “Salary is no object: I want only enough to keep body and soul apart”. On August 22, 1893, Dorothy Parker was born to J. Henry and Elizabeth Rothschild, in New Jersey. A fixture of 1920s literary society known for her acerbic wit and low opinion of romantic relationships, she became a member of the famous Algonquin Round Table. Dorothy was an American poet, a short story writer, a satirist and a critic full of wit, known for her wisecracks and eye for 20th century urban foibles.
Philosophy- Philosophy by Dorothy Parker is a short yet strong poem composed of 1 stanza built with 4 lines. This brilliant and skillful composition by Dorothy is especially apt for the industrial era of late twenties, the rising world of corporate businesses making people slaves of their own dreams.

Setting of Philosophy-

The poem is set in the form of a dialogue to self, questioning the notion of slaving day and night to earn some purpose without the certainty of achieving success, only to see the life pass by .

Poetic Devices in Philosophy-

Alliteration: “And what if I don’t, and what if I do?”
Allusion: “Consecrate”- Make or declare sacred. In the Christian belief, Declare (bread and wine) – to be or represent the body and blood of Christ.
“If I should labor through daylight and dark, (A)
Consecrate, valorous, serious, true, (B)
Then on the world I may blazon my mark; (A)
And what if I don’t, and what if I do?” (B)

Summary of Philosophy-

Philosophy is a very short poem of a single stanza and a total of four lines, conveying a very strong message, especially relevant to a world where people are slaves to work. The poet asks with the notion of uncertainty that if she were to devote day and night labouring, surrendering to her work truly, with serious determination and valour, declaring it sacred and treating it as same, she may be able to leave her mark on this world. But to what end? She asks what happens after she does succeed in blazing her mark upon the world and what if she is not able to.

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Critical Analysis of Philosophy-

Philosophy, though may seem to be a poem questioning the career and life choices, but a deeper observation of the same concludes that the poem has to do more with the labors of life. “What if I do, What if I don’t” asks the readers to consider the ultimate purpose of the devotion and the justification for seeking greatness within ourselves rather than achieving the external mark without a noble purpose, respectively. The poem as a whole is representative of the uncertainty that is an inevitable part of every aspect of life. The poem is also a reminder to the mass population of corporate and industrial slaves that work is a part of living and is not the life itself.

Tone of Philosophy-

The poem follows a rhyme scheme, has a certain lyrical quality along with simplicity. The realistic thematic concern of the poem is the uncertainty that plagues the life and its purpose.
Conclusion- Dorothy’s Philosophy makes the readers wonder about the all consuming devotion and the labors of life, about the purpose of their hard work, determination and the unpredictability of the end of it all.  This brilliant composition not only makes one consider the basis of work as an essential part of living but also justifies its worth by considering sacred-work as a part of life and not the whole life itself.