In Dorothy Parker’s Too Bad, a couple brought together by “kisses and all the rest of it” (Parker 20) lose their connection after seven years of marriage in an unsatisfactory apartment. After the two women gossip about the separation of the Weldon’s, the narrator begins telling a story of a typical day in the Weldon’s apartment prior to the separation. The narrator’s description of the apartment through Grace Weldon’s perspective symbolizes the realities of the Weldon’s relationship.
The narrator describes Grace’s efforts of providing the living room with her “feminine touches” (Parker 14).
She does this by straightens a few flowers and rearranges some decorations. When Grace finishes, she is amazed at how little an impact she had made. Her feeling of inadequacy to make her house a home shows she is not a good “touch-giver” (Parker 14). Based on her inability to make an impact in a feminine way, touch giving most likely refers to showing care and affection.
These acts of femininity are not only being assessed based on Grace’s housekeeping abilities, but also her ability to be a wife. Her attempts to change the living room to make it better symbolizes her desire to change her relationship with Ernest for the better.
When Grace does not succeed in giving her apartment feminine touches, the narrator is foreshadowing her failure to repair her marriage of seven years. The flowers in the living room are also symbols of the Weldon’s relationship. The daffodils are described as “slightly past their first freshness” (Parker 14). This adverse description represents the dying marriage Grace is in with Ernest. The narrator comments, “There is nothing to be done” to the flowers (Parker 14), just as nothing can be done to fix the Weldon’s relationship. Grace loves flowers, which shows her desire to be a wife.
Her inability to properly take care of flowers without Delia’s assistance coincides with her inability to continue her marriage with Ernest. Grace also consistently replaced the old flowers as soon as they died with new, fresh flowers. Her attempt to always keep the flowers fresh mirrored her attempt to always keep her relationship positive. The flowers, of course, always die and her marriage does not always stay positive. Grace lacks confidence when admitting her love of flowers because it means more to her than just flowers. Her love of flowers represents the idea of being a touch giver, something she seems incapable of succeeding in.
Irritation and dissatisfaction with the apartment symbolizes Grace’s feelings of her relationship with Ernest. The mantelpiece caused Grace much discomfort and she had hated it since she first saw it (Parker 15). The mantel is always in the room and always causing negative thoughts in Grace’s mind. The “long, narrow hall, dark dining room, the inadequate closets” also irritated Grace. The words used to describe the hall, dining room, and closets are all negative. “Long and narrow” creates an image of long-lasting discomfort. Darkness creates a gloomy image of their life in the apartment.
Using “inadequate” to describe closets directly describes their relationship as inadequate as well. These constant negative thoughts are reminders of her dissatisfaction of their relationship. In Too Bad by Dorothy Parker, the Weldon’s divorce after seven years of marriage because their connection was not enough to keep them satisfied. The imagery of their apartment symbolizes all the negative aspects of their relationship. When the Weldon’s signed the five year lease on the undesirable apartment, they were essentially signing a document to give up on their marriage.
Parker, D. (1942). The collected stories of Dorothy Parker. New York: Modern library.
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