Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Blog Assignment #4 (Again)

Hey guys sorry about that first post, I guess it didn't go through. Anyway here is my post, thanks again and see you all tomorrow. -Tommy

The readings for Wednesday’s class seem to pair up very well. In both Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” and Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” deal with the theme of murder—touching upon why the act is committed and the aftermath of the decision. In Barbara Hamby’s “Ode to American English” and “America” by Tony Hoagland, both authors take a different perspective on the United States.

In “The Cask of Amontillado,” we follow the vengeful Montresor on his pre-meditated quest to lure and eventually murder Fortunado, a friend turned enemy. We never really are clued in to exactly how Fortunado wronged Montresor, but we do know that he publically insulted Montresor and he then vowed his revenge upon Fortunado. (p. 799). This plot is to get Fortunado to come down to his wine cellar, and Montresor is able to do this by promising his victim, a wine connoisseur, a cask of the fine Amontillado wine. Fortunado, already drunk from a street festival, agrees to go down and inspect this wine. Once down in the cellar, Montresor chains his victim to the wall and begins to wall him in alive. This process is very arduous, which again shows how much Montresor hates Fortunado and also how sure he is of his action—at any point in this process he could have let him out. Even though Fortunado pleads for his life, Montresor does not stop, nor does he feel even the slightest bit bad for his victim. Even 50 years later, when this story is told, there seems to be no remorse for the horrible act that Montresor committed.

“My Last Duchess,” like Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” tells about a murder that happened. In this story, it is implied that the Duke murdered his wife out of jealousy. In the poem, a picture of a very flirtatious woman is painted in the Duchess. At one point, this is spelled out by Browning in the passage “A heart—how shall I say?—too soon made glad, too easily impressed; she liked whate’er she looked on, and her looks went everywhere.” (Lines 22-24). Because of this unfaithful behavior, it seems that the Duke had her killed. Again, Browning helps the reader writing “I gave commands; then all smiles stopped together.” (Lines 45-46). This murder, like the one in Poe’s story, was one that was premeditated because of feelings of anger and embarrassment.

Tony Hoagland’s “America” is the first of two works dealing with American culture. In this piece, Hoagland is making a social commentary on our culture today. Using the image of a teen, he talks about how we are trapped by material goods—we are constrained by money and are living in a “prison” of Burger Kings and MTVs. We are “captured and suffocated in the folds of the thick satin quilt of America.” (Lines 10-12). In the powerful image of Hoagland stabbing his father and hundred dollar bills pouring out instead of blood, his father exclaims ‘thank God—those Ben Franklins were clogging up my heart.” (Lines 17-18). This illustrates the author’s point that money is literally killing society. At the end, however, Hoagland makes an astonishing revelation—he is part of the very culture that he despises. He too is “asleep in America and doesn’t know how to wake himself up.” (Lines 24-25). He finally realizes that he is just as caught up as the teen is.

The final piece, Barbara Hamby’s “Ode to American English,” is a much more positive piece on American culture. The author is in Paris, yet she longs for America. She misses not only English, but American English. This is something that she cannot find in a dictionary, no matter how hard she tries. She wants her precious slang back—her donuts, hotrods, and Dick Tracey as she puts it. Looking deeper, she seems not only nostalgic for American language but also for the culture from which it came. She even goes as far as to say that she misses words like “dude” and “a Valley Girl’s like-like” (Line 26)—things that most people inside of, and especially outside of, America do not care for. Also, she uses great language and “inside jokes” about Americans like “New Joisey” (Line 25) and culture references—Sylvester the Cat and musical icon Johnny Cash. This piece was truly written for an American audience. Lastly, I really enjoyed how Hamby is patriotic but in a very unconventional way. Her style was refreshing and really made me think about how great American culture truly is.

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