“A Telephone Call” by Dorothy Parker
"A Telephone Call" is a short story, describing feelings of a girl who is waiting for a call from the man she loves.
It's not a short story in its traditional meaning. There are almost no events in this piece of writing. The plot consists only of description of the girl's emotions and thoughts. It's her inner monologue. The interesting thing about it is that it's hard to divide the story into structural parts. The exposition might be represented by the part, when the girl is thinking about how the man has promised to call her and hasn’t done that. Then it smoothly flows into culmination, when the feelings are the strongest and the affection turns into hatred in the girl's heart when her affliction becomes unbearable as she thinks more and more of the man's words. And, finally, it comes to denouement which can hardly be called a resolution: the girl calms herself down only to continue waiting, returning to the initial state of mind.
The general slant of the text is very emotional. There are a lot of emotionally coloured words and words denoting feelings, such as "hate", "hurt", "like", "want", etc. Moreover, a lot of repetitions are used which also adds to the expressiveness and emotionality of the text.
These words and repetitions are used in such a way that they create really a dark and oppressive, even depressing atmosphere. "If I could think of something else" - these words convey the hopelessness of the situation, the despair of the girl. In this context her affection for the man may be considered as an agony. It resembles the state of a seriously ill person who is almost close to death and begs God to end the suffering - as she begs Him: "Please, God...", "Dear God". Numerous repetitions of the words “please”, "For Your Son's sake, help me" prove it. Addressing God makes the reader feel compassion for the character while reading about the most sincere and even the darkest of her thoughts.
Such form of narration reveals the woman’s character. As we don’t get to know much about her appearance, education or social status, the reader concentrates on her inner state. She is shown as a very sensitive woman, a woman who is so desperately in love that such a small thing as the absence of a telephone call drives her almost insane with sadness and she even talks to the telephone itself: “Damn you, I'll pull your filthy roots out of the wall, I'll smash your smug black face in little bits”. She tries to keep herself under control: “I must stop this”, “No, no, no. I must stop”. The verb “must” conveys how badly she wants to stay calm. However, all the incompleteness of her thoughts displays how much she is alarmed and that the waiting has driven her to the edge. She is a wise woman as she realizes in what state she is: «Please, God, keep me from telephoning him. Please, God». It is possible that she has already undergone such situations as she keeps repeating the pronoun “they”: “I wonder why they hate you, as soon as they are sure of you”, “They don't like you to cry”, etc. But she surely puts some blame on herself and she is conscious about it as she asks: “Are You punishing me, God, because I've been bad? Are You angry with me because I did that?” She tries to excuse herself: “And it wasn't very bad; it couldn't have been bad”.
It seems that the woman is the only character in the story, however, it’s not quite so. To my mind, another character is God. She constantly addresses Him as if He were present in the room. He stands for a saviour and for the hope, for some mystic power which can make the man phone her. He soothes her pain as He is the only one to save her from the oppressive loneliness. He also becomes the target of her anger as she blames Him in her despair: “You think You're frightening me with Your hell, don't You?”. Compared to Him, the third character of the story – the man whom we know very little about – seems to be unimportant and not worth attention for the reader.
To create such images the author uses numerous stylistic means. One of the most important is the frame composition. The story starts with the girl’s counting and ends with her counting. Such composition creates the feeling that it’s only a part of a longer inner monologue, it makes us understand the character’s suffering. To show the character’s confusion and panic contrast is used: “That's a terrible wish. That's a lovely wish”. Numerous repetitions emphasize the effect of the inner speech.
Finally, it is important to interpret the title of the story. The indefinite article in the title brings the reader to the conclusion that it’s neither the first nor the last time the girl suffers. Although the situation seems desperate, there is still hope which is hidden in the title. I think the man will call the girl. She will be happy and probably forget all about that evening until the same feelings and thoughts appear again as if following the frame composition of the story.