Betty Keller’s essay Tea Party is one of her best works. It demonstrates the talent of the author as far as the reader may observe how many themes may be covered in such a short story (Betty Keller). This essay is like a hymn to the remote love between two sisters who have survived despite all insurmountable obstacles. This love is eternal and it does not die away even if the whole world forgets about the existence of these two single elder women.
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Betty Keller’s essay presents the story of two sisters waiting for a newspaper boy who seems to forget about them. Alma and Hester reminisce on the past events from their life during this long waiting. These main characters are depicted as long ladies who are forgotten even by the outside world represented in the essay by the paperboy who goes by without saying a word. The author uses symbols in her essay. The process of tea drinking and the image of the paperboy is symbolic in this essay.
Tea party and all their reminiscences demonstrate their love which has lasted since their youth. The paperboy is the symbol of the outer world that has forgotten about these single ladies but their love has survived despite all these obstacles.
This short story is penetrated with emotions and tension. The high point of tension is the occurrence of the paperboy (Kaladjian, Roof, and Watt). Although this story is too short to present the characters in development it demonstrates a lot of things about the main characters. The choice of plot and the use of tone and diction help to present the characters in a full way. The tone is considered to be of lonely pathos (Roberts and Jacobs). Alma and Hester are left alone with their reminiscences. The author pays a lot of attention to the details such as the name of a ship or Charlie’s choice of the drink whether it was cocoa or tea. All these details help to demonstrate mental support taking into account the fact that old age is connected with memory gaps.
Factually, this conversation shows the warm feelings of sisters to each other. Despite tiny disagreements, they do not quarrel. On the contrary, they try to keep a warm atmosphere by drinking tea. Betty Keller has chosen the process of drinking tea deliberately as far as it helps to pass the warm atmosphere to the reader. They spend a lot of time together and they hope that people remember about their existence but they do not. There is nobody in the world who takes care of Hester except her sister.
The same situation is in Alma’s case. The world is indifferent to such elder people and they have to keep together to survive in this world. But it is not a sort of responsibility for them, they love each other and that is why they keep together. It is the strongest love that has been lasted from their youth till their old age. There are a lot of common reminiscences that united their life. Their love has survived despite all the difficult obstacles of their life and even if the whole world has forgotten about them they do not leave each other. But they hope till the last moment that the paperboy remembers about him.
The reader may make such a conclusion from their conversation: “Alma: He’s gone by. Hester: You must have had the day wrong. Alma: No, he collected at the Davis’. Hester: He couldn’t have forgotten us” (Keller, 126). The author points out that both of the sisters realize a real situation. They understand that their connection to the world has been lost and this paperboy who is a sort of interlink for them has forgotten about these alone elder women. It is a typical situation when youth do not take care of old age. Why does the paperboy pass by? Does he really forget about them or he does not want to devote his time to these old women? It is not clear from this story. But the reader is aware of the fact that these women get through all these insurmountable obstacles only with the help of their remote love for each other.
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Alma and Hester help each other to survive in the world which has forgotten about them. They support each other physically, mentally, and emotionally. Hester is elder than her sister and she sits in a wheelchair. Her sister, Alma takes care of her disabled sister and prepares tea with chocolate cake for them. It may seem that Alma treats her sister as a baby. The reader may have such an impression from the following cues: “Hester: You haven’t forgotten the chocolate biscuits? Alma: No, dear, they’re on the plate. I’ll bring them in with the tea” (Keller, 124). Alma physically supports her sister helping her to do all things that she is not able to do due to her age and disease.
More than that, they support each other mentally and emotionally. The reader does not really understand the true facts about their past events and the name of the ship but it is a good demonstration of how the sisters support each other mentally reconstructing these events from their memory. Even if one of them forgets some details, the other one supports her with the reminiscences. As for emotional support, the whole atmosphere shows that these two sisters keep together to support each other.
Despite the painful fact that the paperboy has forgotten about them, they go on to drink tea and talk about their past events trying not to pay attention to this fact and get upset. Generally speaking, the atmosphere in their house is warm and positive. They are not alone. Although they understand the real situation they do not get into despair because of their love and support. Their life is a good example of remote love overcoming insurmountable obstacles.
Betty Keller. 2010. Web.
Kaladjian, Walter, Roof, Judith, and S. Watt. Understanding Literature. USA: Wadsworth Publishing, 2003. Print.
Keller, Betty. “Tea Party”. Trick Doors and Other Dramatic Sketches. Ed. Betty Keller. USA: November House,1974. 123-127. Print.
Roberts, Edgar and Henry E. Jacobs. Literature: an Introduction to Reading and Writing. New York: Prentice-Hall Professional, 2002. Print.