Speakers of narratives and poems each have different initiatives for their writings. Some write for the pure thrill and enjoyment of developing their individual and creative thoughts, while others write to evoke contemplation amongst readers. A speaker may state the purpose of the writing up front, or may keep the purpose hidden for the reader to deeper analyze. Regardless, one crucial goal that all speakers have in common is to convey the primary purpose of the writing, and furthermore, to invite the reader to share this purpose and apply it to aspects in life.
In Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Cask of Amontillado,” the speaker introduces the narrator of the story, Montresor. Montresor discussed his relationship with an enemy, Fortunato, who had injured and insulted him. As a result, Montresor embraces his family’s motto/code of arms, “no one attacks me with impunity,” or no one attacks me without revenge. Montresor plots his intricate scheme for revenge during the town’s carnival. Fortunado was a connoisseur of fine wines, and so Montresor invited him to his vault containing the rare liquor Amontillado. At the end of the journey chains Fortunado and entombs him alive. The irony present in this story is most prevalent in the idea in the end Montresor murders Fortunado during the carnival, a time of happiness and celebration as a way to disguise the horrible deed he committed. Although he pretended to be Fortunado’s friend, all the while Montresor had a long plotted scheme up his sleeve to seek revenge, in order to honor his family’s long lived motto.
This theme off arrogant revenge is also prevalent in the poem, “My Last Duchess,” written in the sixteenth century by Robert Browning. The poem was based on the historical events involving the Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso, who had three wives in his lifetime, all of which died miraculously. The speaker of the poem is a duke who is in the process of meeting with a powerful emissary who has come to arrange a marriage between his young daughter, and the duke. The duke draws upon a painting of one of his former duchess’ and reminisces’ about her disgraceful behavior. He states that she did not appreciate his “gift of nine-hundred-years old name,” (line 33) and it is later determined that the duke himself was the one who caused her early demise. The duke was arrogant, proud and possessive man with a strictly authoritative mindset. However, through the usage of force of personality, the speaker creates a way that the duke somehow makes this horrifying event seem colorful.
Both “My Last Duchess” and “The Cask of Amontillado” are dramatic monologues, in which the speaker discusses a topic and reveals personal feelings to the reader. In both writings, the main focus of the speaker was to portray men of arrogance, and their schemes for revenge for those who go dared to go against them.
"Ode to American English,” written by Barbara Hamby, is primarily concerned with the speakers reminiscence of American culture during her time spent in Paris. The speaker goes on to discuss the differences in British English and American cultures. It can be presumed that the culture of the British English is of a higher class and intellect than that of the contemporary Americans. Regardless of the flaws of modern American society, the speaker makes it clear that she misses and values this way of life. In Tony Hoagland’s “America,” the speaker is a teacher who reflects on a conversation with a student who states that, “America is for him a maximum-security prison” (line 1). Subsequently, the speaker too goes on to describe the modern American society. However, the speaker much like the student feels trapped by materialistic values in society. Even though this entrapment is recognized, in the end of the poem the speaker reveals that even still, he is consumed and drowning in these values and is unable to get out.
It can be said that no matter how hard one tries to remove themselves from the ills of society, arrogance, and in some cases selfishness, seem to prevail most often. In all four of these writings the speaker depicts the internal conflict of self-interest, and the common outcome of one’s desire to triumph and follow the crowd at all costs.