Dorothy Parker (1893 – 1967) is known for her dark poems. “Résumé” is one of those poems. This poem discusses several options to commit suicide and her answer to all of these options.
Yes, the poem lists several options to end your own life. She was – unfortunately – very familiar with these ways to commit suicide. During her life, she made three attempts to end her own life. When she tried to end her life for the first time, she had just undergone an abortion. She tried to cut her wrists and was hospitalized. During her recovery, Robert Benchley – a close friend – said to her: “You might as well live.” This was his reply to the failed attempt of Parker to end her life. It was his way to tell her, she failed but had to go on.
Is this an advertisement for suicide or not? It depends on the way you read this poem. At first, she lists the options and then closes with the words Benchley said to her. All these options seem to do something else than a quick or painless death. Every option is a bad one, so the only option is to stay alive.
Well, that is the first interpretation. If you take a close look at the title: résumé, it’s more a list of attempts. Maybe even experiences. The last words of these poems are more a vain attempt to stop or prevent suicide.
If you leave out the accents in the title, it spells resume. To resume a life after the decision to commit suicide and the failed attempt. Just like the words of Benchley probably should have been interpreted. Unfortunately, Parker tried to end her life on two more occasions.
This poem is not only a typical example of the dark poetry written by Parker. It is also a poem with more than one meaning to it.
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp;.
Guns aren’t lawfull;
Gass smells awfull;
You might as well live.
–- Dorothy Parker