In the four texts we looked at the theme of control is presented. In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” and Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” the mentality of control leads to murder. In Barbara Hamby’s “Ode to American English” and Tony Hoagland’s “America” control seems just out of the reach of the speakers' grasp.
In the fiction piece, Poe tells the story of a vengeful murder. The narrator, Montresor, feels that his friend Fortunato has wronged him with insult. Blinded by fury he vows revenge and soon buries the man alive in his wine vault. Montresor is jealous of Fortunato’s wealth and social status and, acting as judge, jury, and executioner sentences the man to death. This revenge is also seen in Browning’s poem. The speaker is jealous of his wife’s flirtatious nature and as a result has her killed. He keeps a portrait of her hanging on his wall and can now see her smiling image whenever he pleases. What he could not control of her in life he can now control in her death.
In “America” the speaker judges the capitalist culture in America. A student expresses that he feels imprisoned by the consumer goods that are forced upon us everyday. The speaker thinks that the student is “full of shit” yet, he considers that maybe he too is “asleep in America.” Because while others suffer he still continues to live in a culture polluted with the idea of financial gain. In contrast, the Hamby poem praises American culture. The speaker is living in France and is homesick for America. In this poem the speaker realizes the control that “English, well American, really” has on her. She strongly associates common American grammatical errors and popular culture with the home she misses dearly. She misses America not despite these things but because of them.
The texts for this week directly relate to the Jesuit ideals we have been speaking about, although it might not seem like this at first. So often while doing service we seen an injustice and feel that we have no real control. All we are left to do is treat the symptom and not the cause. In both the Poe and Browning pieces the central character decided to take drastic measures in order to achieve this control. And, while I do not condone murder, I do think this initiative is worthy of admiration. Both characters felt that someone had committed an injustice toward them and used their control to right this wrong. As strange as it seems this is the exact ideal that Jesuits teach. Not only should we serve others but after we should reflect on the larger issues of social injustice in order to effect change. This insures that we will be able to use our control to better the world we live in by taking initiative.
In Barbara Hamby’s “Ode to American English” the speaker implores the readers to take pride in your culture. It follows the old cliché that you can never know how much you love something until it is gone. What you have grown up with will always control you and affect your life; do not ignore these feelings, embrace them. Use this pride to take control of your life because no matter where you go your past will follow. In Tony Hoagland’s poem the speaker not only feels like he cannot control the world around him, he feels that he is fueling the engine that America runs on. In this instance the speaker feels hopeless. He ends the poem with a question, however, which the reader must ask of himself. What can I do to change things? How can I make a difference? Jesuits believe that no matter where you are or what you are doing, as long as you are true to yourself and work to your fullest potential you can effect change in your society. Take what you have learned and apply it in all vocations and in all areas of the world. In this way you will be acting in the true Jesuit tradition of serving others.