“Birthday Party” by Katherine Brush Essay
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In the “Birthday Party,” Katherine Brush portrays what at first glance seems to be an innocent dinner between a happily married couple; however, when viewed closer is obviously a dinner gone wrong. Her use of metaphor, along with other literary devices, help show how things aren’t always as they seem. The story starts off in a happy, light-hearted manner, describing a charming married couple. The detail of the “round, self-satisfied face” of the man and the “fadingly pretty” woman help describe their attitudes and mannerisms.
The “self-satisfied face” of the man gives off an impression of arrogance, which makes the reader dislike him. The woman on the other hand, pulls the reader in. Her “big hat” a metaphor for her big heart. The first paragraph is also where Brush introduces the growing contrast between big and little, which is carried on throughout the story. The “little narrow restaurant” in which the “unmistakably married” couple dined at conveys just how simple the date was suppose to be by emphasizing how little it was.
Brush refers to the intimate atmosphere when she describes that the couple sat “opposite [of] us,” which makes the reader feel as if he/she were also in the narrow restaurant about to watch the scene unfold. The word “little” is repeated again when Brush depicts the “little surprise” the wife had set up for her husband to again touch upon how small the gesture was. The cake is portrayed to be “small but glossy,” which adds to the littleness of the surprise and how low key is was meant to be. Just a little reminder of her feelings towards her husband. When the orchestra played “happy birthday to you,” “the wife beamed with shy pride over her little surprise.” The wife beaming over her “little” surprise is paralleled with the “one pink candle burning” on the cake, representing the wife’s loneliness even though she is in a relationship.
It is obvious that the wife’s “little surprise” was taken out of hand when the author explains that “help was needed” in order to calm the husband down. This conveys how mad he was, and how he didn’t appreciate his wife’s kind, little gesture for him. The author brings the intimate elements back around when she adds that “you looked at him, and you saw this and you thought.” The repetition of “you” emphasizes the intimate atmosphere, making the reader feel as if she/he were experiencing this with the onlooker. Everyone around them sensed the tension and the anger felt by the husband towards his wife. Brush uses cacophony when describing the “quick and kurt and unkind” comment the husband made to his wife in order to show how bitter and angry the husband was.
We see just how upset the wife is because, even after the bystander “waited for quite a long time” before looking, she was still crying. She cries “all to herself,” showing the loneliness “under the gay big brim of her best hat,” which is happily hiding her from the terrible remarks of her selfish, rude husband. The intimate mood of the restaurant is cut through with the harsh diction of Brush’s word choice and the nasty remarks made by the husband. The couple that seemed so perfect in the beginning is now torn apart and weeping. The simple surprise that the wife made is ruined leaving her feel lonely even though she is in a relationship.