In Barbara Hamby’s “Ode to American English” and Tony Hoagland’s “America” both speakers are reflecting on how they see the today’s American life and culture depicted by materialism and other non-important aspects. In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” and Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess”, both of the main characters commit a murder, but do not feel any remorse for the acts that they had done. Although the four literature pieces are presented in different ways, the authors convey the similar idea of people being driven and influenced by their society and surroundings.
In Hamby’s poem “Ode to American English” she describes herself in Paris actually missing and yearning for the smallest things that the American culture is consumed in. Throughout the poem she names off the littlest things that are included in the culture today like hot dogs, cheerios etc., but does not take note of any actual important aspects of American culture; just the non-vital ones. In Hoagland’s “poem America”, the speaker is sitting in a classroom observing one of the students and begins to question what the American culture is really about. After observing the student’s cell phone and “phony ghetto clothing” the speaker himself realizes that even he does not have much of an understanding on what the American culture is about, and comes to realization that America is materialistic in many ways. In Poe’s short story “The Cask of Amontillado”, the character Montresor gains revenge by killing Fortunato, a man who Montresor thought deserved to be killed without himself being punished consequently. Similarly, in Browning’s poem “The Last Dutchess”, the speaker talks about his first dutchess with no sympathy or remorse after murdering her. The title is a giveaway that he does not care much for her death or for having another dutchess in the future. Both the poem and the story illustrate human beings killing simply out of the anger and frustration.
Even though these pieces of literature appear to be very different from each other, they all show the common idea of people being driven and influenced by their society and surroundings. In Hamby and Hoagland’s poems, both of the authors are conveying that America’s culture is consumed in materialism and other non-vital things that life has to offer. In both Poe’s short story and Browning’s poem there is the similar theme of characters committing murderous acts, but feeling no remorse afterwards due to their anger and frustration with other human beings.