Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Personal Perspective and Truth

The poems “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning, “Ode to American English” by Barbara Homby, and the short story “The Cask of Amontillado” by Poe all share a common theme that lies in the extreme narrowness of the narrators or speaker's perspective.

In Browning's “My Last Duchess”, the speaker's feelings towards the Duchess are tainted by the effect of her beauty and equality in treatment towards the people she was in contact with. The speaker says , “Somehow - I know not how - as if she ranked/My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name/With anybody's gift” (lines 32-34), as if to say that she did not value him above anyone else even though he highly elevated her status in his own mind. Also, the speaker calls to mind the Duchess' use of her beauty to flirt with others, a value which the speaker believes should only be intended for her husband. “Sir, 't was not/Her husband's presence only, called that spot/Of joy into the Duchess' cheek,” (lines 13-15). Both instances reveal the non-reciprocated perspectives the Duchess and the speaker have about each other. The speaker's point of view is clearly warped by his impression that the late Duchess never gave him any special treatment, when this could or could not be actually true.

Barbara Homby's “Ode to American English” calls upon the same theme of narrowed perspective by the influence of American culture on the dialect of English spoken in America. The idiosyncrasies that she experiences when she speaks American English cannot be separated from the culture she has experienced when she writes, “Oh, the English/know their dahlias, but what about doowop, donuts,/Dick Tracy, Tricky Dick?” (lines 6-8). At the same time, she believes that all other languages lack the same substance that American English has, however, this is only because she has not been integrated into the culture and only views the languages at surface, as indicated when she writes, “Yeah, I miss them all,/sitting here on my sidewalk throne sipping champagne/verses lined up like hearses, metaphors juking, nouns zipping/in my head like Corvettes on Dexadrine, French verbs/slitting my throat, yearning for James Dean to jump my curb” (lines 41-45). Again, the perspective is narrowed, this time, though the culture that has been experienced.

“The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe demonstrates the same narrowed perspective through the narrator's view of Fortunado. He says that “The thousand injuries of Fortunado I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge”(799). After Fortunado insults him, the narrator only sees this insult as being part of Fortunado's relationship with him, which creates a wide chasm between the two characters. The insult which the narrator sees blinds the narrator enough, even though Fortunado is a “man to be respected and even feared” (800), to be cause for premeditated murder.

In all these cases, the narrator or speaker is influenced greatly by the perspective they have on the things or people they are involved with. The truth that a person believes cannot always be absolute truth because of the problem of personal perspective.

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