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Tony Morrison

In: English and Literature

Submitted By deyitavielma
Words 616
Pages 3
American novelist, Toni Morrison in her acceptance speech “Nobel Lecture,” places a great deal of importance to the power of language, as well as reminding future generations that having such power takes a lot of responsibility. Morrison’s purpose is to urge us to recognize the lasting impact of the past and warns us against the misuse of language. With a passionate tone, she appeals to the feelings and experiences in her audience. Through her brilliant syntax along with her wonderful use of metaphors, her message is one of optimism and the guarantee that one day the power of language will eventually unite us.
By opening with an anecdote of the blind, but wise old woman Morrison introduces us to the life of the bird. The bird’s life can be thought of as living or dead---the same can be said for language. There are the writers who can ‘kill’ the language; it comes to the extent where they begin to drain it, weakening the power from it. In this case, it initially seems that the youth mock the blind woman and want to destroy things the elderly cherish (for example, language) because it’s the believed nature of the youth: “For her dead language is not only one no longer spoken or written, it is an unyielding language content to admire its own paralysis.” In other words, the language with the sole reason that what its saying merely sounds beautiful, it is satisfied and living in bliss. This language that admires itself has come to the point where it doesn’t welcome the flourishing of new ideas, but rather it is programmed only to accept and “sanction ignorance.” Unfortunately, it’s times like these that when presented at a given time, spoken and written words become less influential than one's actions.
Furthermore, Morrison in the midst of her lecture indicates that there are various types of languages—whether they are oppressive or intend to enforce obedience. By providing us with these examples, her syntax is intricate and beautifully crafted. Unknowingly she welcomes us into her world where the language “drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascists boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out-mind.” She personifies her words; coming to terms that language is ultimately malleable and can be transformed into any twisted or whimsical manner you wish to shape it. This crafting of language however, can have the authority of “blocking access to cognition for both the excluder and the excluded.” In giving us a clear mental picture, of the language glossing over what is needed to be addressed, Morrison uses imagery marvelously.
Through an overflowing use of parallelism and continuously bringing us back to the metaphor about the bird, her speech takes an unexpected shift towards the end. She presents us with the youths’ perspective, allowing them to voice their opinion and reclaim the language that the old, blind woman said was lost. They ambush her with rhetorical questions about her past and their future. They beg her to reminisce and relive her memories: “[. . .] tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear.” In order to revive the lost language from its death, we can only tell stories, that is where the truth lies. In this truth, Morrison essentially reconnects with her past, the past of her ancestors, of slaves “how they sang so softy their breath indistinguishable from the falling snow.” Only then, until this very moment can we truly understand the sense of using language—the language that in the end protects and binds us.

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