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Birthday Party Literary Analysis

By guitarguy443 Jan 05, 2011 558 Words
Literary Analysis
Jacob Maddox
A post World War II marriage was often one in which the husband cared about his reputation and standing in society rather than about loving his wife passionately and unconditionally. Through the use of diction, tone, and irony, Katherine Brush illustrates how depressing and dismal a post World War II marriage can be when either spouse is more focused on proprieties of society.

Brush's portrayal of the relationship shared between the husband and wife in this story is one that deals with the superiority issue between a husband and wife. The wife plans “a little surprise” for her husband, he is “hotly embarrassed” by it and scolds her “under his breath- some punishing thing, quick and curt and unkind” after her surprise has lost the attention of others in the restaurant. The husband masks any kindness or gratitude he could have shown to his wife for taking him out to eat on his birthday and instead replaces that kindness and gratitude by indignation and hotness. Too practical for superficial romance, the husband can be seen as asserting his position as the head of the household through his obsession with his position in society. .

The beginning line of the story describes the couple as the average one; “in their thirties...unmistakably married.” It's as if they're mundane, no more different than any other couple sitting in the restaurant at the time. They sit in a “narrow restaurant,” which could be used to show their overall myopic and shortsighted views of each other's meaning of marriage. Besides Brush's confidence booster for the husband, “self-satisfied,” the husband isn't described in detail. He is confident with his social status, himself, and maybe even the status of his marriage. His wife is “fadingly pretty,” which doesn't quite set her apart from any other woman in society, besides her high hopes for meaningful romance. Brush emphasizes the couple's commonality even more so by saying, “There was nothing conspicuous about them, nothing particularly noticeable.” Brush even ridicules the couple's birthday dinner by emphasizing the “Occasion.” Brush also belittles the wife's planned dinner by saying, “little surprise,” as if the wife could do no more than this small, awkward (at least felt by the husband) display of affection.

“It arrived in the form of a small but glossy birthday cake, with one pink candle burning in the center,” is a complete description of their marriage. Instead of a huge, burning, passionate love for each other, the only thing holding them together is one small, fluttering flame. In what's left of the marriage, the wife has hired a “violin-and-piano orchestra,” which also puts irony into the subject by depicting a two-person band to be an “orchestra.” The husband acts “cruel” and “unkind” to these futile attempts at romance. He seems to be a disgusting and offensive man who is more worried about his reputation of being unflappable and dispassionate than the his wife's feelings and the trouble she had to go through to set up this “little surprise” “Occasion.”

In conclusion, Brush's ironic story evinces the colloquial relationships between men and women of the post World War II time period and the slow but imminent decline of intimacy in relationships of humanity.

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