Arrangement in Black and White

«Arrangement in Black and White»

Dorothy Parker, an American short-story writer and poet, became one of the greatest humourists of her generation. Dorothy Parker had strong, liberal political opinions, which were reflected in her writings, and her short story “Arrangement in Black and White” is not an exception. The story raises the problem of racial discrimination of black people in America in the first half of the twentieth century. The story has all the obligatory elements of the plot structure, except for the denouement.

The exposition is the very first sentence of the story where we get to know the protagonist – the woman with pink velvet poppies twined around the assisted gold of her hair who traversed the crowded room.

In this very sentence the setting is established, we find ourselves in a crowded room, all the rest fact concerning the setting we gather while reading the whole story. Thus we get to know that a party is organized in honour of a black musician, Walter Williams, and many representatives from the highest our higher middle class are invited.

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Then immediately start the moments of complications when the woman clutched the lean arm of the host and asked him to get her acquainted with the black musician. The rest of the story follows in a form of a dialogue where the woman tells about her husband who is awfully fond of black. And she keeps on telling how she adores the talent of the black musician. The next moment of complications start when the woman is actually introduced to the musician.

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She speaks very loud and praises the man, but nearly makes a mistake, telling that some woman in the room is so dark that she looks almost like a … Then the host pilots the woman to another place, meanwhile she confesses how scared and nervous she was and worries about her mistake in the conversation. The climax of the story is when the protagonist tells the readers her real aim of getting introduced to Walter Williams – she cannot wait to tell everything to her husband and other people.

The story has a complex narrative structure as we observe some flashbacks when the woman tells the host about her husband, how she loved his black nurse, how she was constantly quarrelling with him concerning black people. Every plot is based on a conflict. In this very story the conflict is obviously external, this is the conflict between one set of values (strong prejudice against people of different skin colour) and another set of values (assuming that all men are born equal, with equal features and status irrespective of their origin and race). The story is told by the observer-author, thus having a set of advantages.

The main focus of interest is the study of actions and events. The observer-author lets the readers see, hear and judge the characters and their actions for themselves. He stimulates the readers to form their own impression and make their own judgments. This very story is presented in a pictorial form, as the observer-author pictures the scenes, and tells of what anyone might see and hear in his position without entering into the minds of characters, without analysing their motives. The protagonist of the story – the woman – is characterized by indirect means of characterization only.

The main means of indirect characterization is through her speech. Thus we have a lot of oxymorons like terrible favour, terribly grateful, terribly nice, really awfully fond of coloured people, awfully nice. There are markers of informal style like contracted forms, colloquialisms, initiating signals (Oh, I’d, I’ve, Isn’t, oh, I’ll do, couldn’t move, now, mammy, raft, make me sick, aren’t we, well, Don’t you forget). There are a lot of repetitions in her speech, both lexical and syntactical (I’m finely, I’m simple finely, Will you?

Will you, please? Pretty please? I am. I know I am. Oh, I like them. I really do. Don’t you think she is a wonderful actress? Oh, I think she is marvelous. Don’t you think so? ). There are numerous markers of emotional state of the protagonist, telling as that the woman was very nervous and excited (awfully, terribly, terribly nice, really awfully fond of coloured people, awfully nice). There are some case of deviation from the norm, these are colloquial words (mummy, raft) and some grammar mistakes (I’m finely, I’m simple finely).

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Then the protagonist is characterized through her actions which is of the same importance a her speech. We should also note that her speech is in contrast with her actions. She is eager to be introduced to the black musician, but the motive is rather different, she wants it just for gossips and fame. The way she shakes her hand with Walter Williams is also suggestive, as if she despises the man and thinks he is contagious. Even the way she moves and grabs the hand of the host of the party is informative.

It tells us that the woman is impudent, and likes to be in the centre of attention. Her outlook also proves it: she wears two red poppies to attract the public attention to herself. The fact that this woman is just “the woman” suggest that this character is a type and is a representative of people who are strongly prejudiced against black people but hide their feelings and pretend not to, because this is not popular in the society they live in. The tone the author assumes towards the readers can be considered familiar as there are no indices of official style and abundant use of metaphors and emotionally coloured words.

The tone the author assumes towards the subject-matter is ironical, as we observe great gap between what the woman is saying and doing, her real motives and intentions. The very title of the story imply the case of irony, because it realistically pictures the division in the society in black and white population, no matter what the woman saying about how she likes and adores black people. Thus the aim of the story is to portray the people who speak in one way but act in absolutely another way. The message here is the message that raises the problem of racial discrimination of the twentieth century America.


“Arrangement in Black and White”: commentary


Dorothy Parker’s “Arrangement in Black and White” is funny, wicked, and brilliant short story in which a wealthy white woman tries to convince the host of a party that she is free of prejudice and most eager to meet the party’s guest of honour, an African-American musician.
It is structured as a dialogue between the protagonist, and the host and the musician who are secondary characters that help better reveal the woman’s personality.
The story is set during a dinner party held in honour of the African-American musician, somewhere in the United States, in a time contemporary to its publishing (1927) . In the late 1920s US was still racially biased and divided despite the fact that slavery had been abolished in 1865. Therefore, segregation was still practiced on a national scale.

The title, “Arrangement in Black and White”, is symbolic and reflects both the context of the story and its underlying themes.

The story begins with a brief exposition which introduces the reader to the main character and the setting.
The action is constructed through dialogue and exposes the protagonist’s attitude towards African-Americans.
The woman wants to show her host that she is accepting, progressive and tolerant, and that, unlike her husband or others, she has no issues with coloured people. Yet, her exaggerated efforts to appear tolerant have the opposite result and reveal the conflict between what she claims and how she acts and feels, exposing her racial prejudices. When talking about her attitude towards African-Americans she wants to emphasise her open-mindedness. But, although she maintains she likes the musician and his art, she seems unable to see beyond the fact that he is black, which she keeps underlining, and she even states that he should be “grateful” for that party arranged in his honour, which will offer him the opportunity to meet white people.
The more she talks, the more it becomes obvious that she considers herself superior to coloured people.

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Analysis of Arrangement in Black and White by Dorothy Parker — Book Report/Review Example

Analysis of Arrangement in Black and White by Dorothy Parker

Extract of sample «Analysis of Arrangement in Black and White by Dorothy Parker»

The setting is limited to one place, where the party was held and the characters of which are limited as well with the protagonist taking most of the parts in the story. The hour of the day was not explicitly mentioned in the narration of the story but is clearly seen in the conversation between the host and the main character, which is at night. Walter William’s songs described as being ‘spiritual’ convey the characters are of Christian background gathering for a party with the singer being the guest speaker.

This gives a picture of the man being surrounded by admirers, meaning the room was filled with people, which is an important detail to the characterization of the key player in the story. Speaking of characterization, ‘the woman with the pink velvet poppies’ is the protagonist who weaves the story with her chattering about what her husband thinks about colored people and her response to such beliefs. The husband is presented as the antagonist, being close-minded to the idea of meeting and dealing with black people but that would at least be in the eyes of the protagonist.

On another perspective, the antagonist can also be considered her antagonist with her attitude of being cruel to herself, showing what she really is with her insistent gibberish claim of being open-minded in contrast to her reactions. She is a contradiction to herself, stating one thing and then actually feeling a different thing. She could be considered a static character, being the talkative character that she is from the beginning of the story to the end of it. She can also be considered a flat character with racism and sarcasm describing her entire being.


Arrangement in Black and White

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. 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.