Dorothy Parker’s “Arrangement in Black and White” is set during a dinner party for the host’s friend, Walter Williams, an African American musician. Though the party is celebrated in his name, most of the conversation takes place between the host and the main character, the woman with pink velvet poppies. From the conversation, the audience can deduce that though this woman admires Walter Williams’s musical talent, she is unable to let go of the racist sentiment against his African American heritage. The author adds a flavor of sophisticated cynicism as she makes this point clear by having the main characters ironically make frequent references concerning how “untroubled” she is about the color of his skin.
This argument is further emphasized when she greets Walter Williams; her body language and topic choice gives her predicament away. Through this story Parker implies that with the end of slavery did not entail the changing of the heart’s and mind’s of its supporters, no matter how much one can deny it to oneself. Dorothy Parker sets up her main character be in conflict with all her possessed qualities. For example, although her age is never stated, she seems young judging by her energetic and outspoken qualities, but old enough to be married and have set opinions toward other races. Also, though she comes across as a woman with a forward nature-shown as she grabs the host’s arm to get her attention-she also is seen as a nervous character, becoming hesitant when touching on the topic that she has conflicting attitudes towards-racism.
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Through her description of the Afircan American people-“nigger mammy” and “things”-followed by her supposed sour viewpoint on narrow-minded people, she comes across as an uneducated and extremely conflicted individual. The central character’s personality is important to the story’s central idea as it is the dominant element that exemplifies the type of people that the central idea encompasses. It is people like the woman with the pink velvet poppies that keeps ideas including racism alive. There are two conflicts that coexist in this short story. On a minor scale, the conflict lies between the main character and her inability to accept her true stance towards the issue of racism.
This is quickly identified through her obsession with insuring the host of how accepting she is of the African America race, when in reality her comments say otherwise. Looking at the big picture, such a problem doesn’t only exist in the mind of the lady with the pink velvet poppies, but in many of society’s members. After the eradication of the institution of slavery, many of its former followers still rejected the African American people and their new place in the American society. The real tragedy lies in the narrow-minded views that still exist today in the minds of many individuals. In this way, the lady with the pink velvet poppies is simply a caricature of people that share her similar views; making the story’s conflict one that the humans of the 21 st century continue to battle. Dorothy parker uses a dramatic narrative voice to present her “Arrangement in Black and White.” She uses an objective point of view as it creates a sense of realism; matching the realistic problem that her story exposes.
This particular point of view also disallows her to comment on the issue the story encompasses. Parker uses her lack of authorial comment as a strength as she allows her readers to identify and interpret the main character’s actions alone. As a result, the message of the story is magnified by the fact that the audience identifies the story’s conflict, ensuring the discovery that such a problem sadly continues to exist. The result of this particular point of view’s binding request of the readers to construe the story’s central idea alone is the creation of more work on the reader’s behalf; its outcome becomes the readers increased involvement with the piece of literature.
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