Service Analysis (2)
“Superficial,” meaning not penetrating below; concerned only with the
obvious or apparent; presenting only an appearance without substance.
Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Cask of Amontillado,” Barbara Hamby’s “Ode to American English,” and John Ciardi’s “Suburban” share a common theme while still holding uniqueness in their topics presented by a single speaker. I think that, collectively, they succeed in exhibiting superficiality in society. They offer different levels at which what is superficial can be judged. “The Cask of Amontillado” shows a one-on-one relationship, “Suburban” demonstrates superficial relationships in a community, and “Ode to American English” questionably criticizes or bluntly states superficial aspects of an entire culture. These are all examples of how we should not be, especially when it comes to service. In service, although you are helping an individual, that individual is part of a community that you are striving to make a difference in. That community makes up the society in which we live in. My experience with service has proved that being genuine is the only way; we must find substance in all we do.
To begin with, Edgar Allan Poe has a distinct writing style that is recognizable if you know anything about his unhappy past. It was easy to tell from a mile away that this tale of deception and betrayal was our one and only Poe. In the short story a man is made a fool of and insulted by a friend name Fortunato, who is not quite fortunate. The narrator seeks revenge for this act. Situational irony, which is acting in an unexpected way, does not reveal itself at the beginning because we have not yet figured out what fate our narrator has in store for Fortunato. He puts on a facade and gives Fortunato “no reason to doubt his good will.” The narrator puts on this act and lures him in with competition. Fortunato’s disregard for his health ultimately leads to his death, not the moment when we suddenly realize that the narrator is actually trying to kill him. There is a superficial relationship between two people that becomes visible in the revenge scheme of the narrator and Fortunato’s efforts to prove he is better and worthy of “amontillado.”
Once again situational irony allows us, as readers, to see what speakers real intentions are. In “Suburban,” the speaker is confronted by an old woman over the phone that claims his dog “deposited..a large repulsive object” in her flowers. Ciardi brings to the table a concept that many can relate to who live within a close vicinity of others; we all have that one annoying neighbor. In neighborhoods especially, some people try to avoid conflict, or any form of contact at that, so they smile and “superficially” stay polite. In this poem, the speaker, who is Ciardi, states what he would like to have said to the woman, but eventually doesn’t. We would think that he would just plainly say that this could not have occurred because his dog is not even in town. Employing humor, we unexpectedly see that he just goes over to pick it up instead.
“Ode to American English” was very interesting to read from an American perspective. The speaker who is obviously not in the “U.S. of A.” recalls memories of all the things that she thinks makes America what it is. It is hard to take this poem lightly because it seems like a criticism of the culture. It is almost like she is saying that there is no depth or sophistication. The things that she thinks represents our country or make it unique are superficial, the “drive by monster hip hop stereos,” ‘inability of the population to get the present perfect,” “the valley girl saying like,” “the midnight televangelist,” and last but not least the “junk mail.” These are not exactly things that make me proud to be an American. This also has a sense of situational irony because these were not my thoughts exactly on what to expect from an “Ode.” She mentions “Cheetoes,” come on really?
I think that these works show us that we should stay away from superficial relationships with the world. We need to be genuine in our acts, thoughts, and feelings. In connection to my service experience, I think that this is also true. Service is not an obligation and there never a wrong way to help so we need to find a deeper meaning in that experience to make it as real as it is to us, as it is to those we service. Instead of just keeping up appearances, and doing it for a grade, we need to realize that we are helping ourselves grow, and others as individuals who are part of an even bigger picture. Although my service was a flop this weekend because I arrived at a closed vacant service site, the fact that I showed up meant a lot to them, La Escuela Sabatina. I tried to get into contact with someone before the idea of leaving even crossed my mind. My persistence and the fact that I didn’t make an immediate departure after discovering they were closed showed them that I cared.
In the last line of “Suburban,” “when even these suburbs shall give up their dead,” I think that Ciardi is hopeful that these superficial or “perfect” relationships with neighbors will cease to exist. The feces, or in my words “crap,” that he has buried will come up and there will be conflicts, natural ones that make living in a community real. What is interesting in “Ode to American English” is the speaker’s yearning to be a part of the culture again. There is some significance in all of these things to her, although not to us. The problems we face in our communities and in the world are real and we must tackle them the best way we can. In doing service, I feel we find substance and fulfill this duty.