Essay Sample on Toni Morrison's Nobel Lecture

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1556 Words
Date:  2022-12-12


According to Versteegh (2018), communication in our societies is the key to success. Communication plays a very significant role in daily life, in offices, home, in our relationships, our career and even in our business. Having the ability to communicate with other people around us is one of the most valuable skills that can greatly contribute to our general success (Versteegh, 2018). However, what may be the result if dialogue between individuals becomes very limited? Again, what is the probable result when an individual may have been offended by what has been said incidentally by the other person? All these scenarios would have a very negative impact stunting the success of the intended objective.

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Translating this situation into global outlook, most of our communities have been experiencing slow growth rate and development and sometimes stops growing at all due to lack of communications as compared to other societies that value so much communication between the residents (Yang & Zhang, 2010. Lack of proper communication in society can be proposed to be the wrong use of language. How does the misuse of language within society deter us from growth and development within the community? Toni Morrison in her Nobel Lecture Speech in 1993 addresses this issue.

Toni Morrison aims majorly to spell out diverse ways that language can perish and some of the long-lasting destruction it can expose to our society. According to Morrison (1994), language is a system, which exists to encourage, limit or stimulate actions. She glowingly describes that "sexist language, racist language, and theistic language" are most of the time used, they "do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas." She does not inspire shuttering language (Morrison, 1994).

Additionally, Morrison is convinced that when language is used in an appropriate way without destroying it, there are so many things that can be achieved as a community. Therefore, Morrison persuades upcoming writers to make use of language as a tool of promoting positive headway and creating a remarkable and attractive world (Yang & Zhang, 2010). Scrutinized using the Neo-Aristotelian method of rhetoric analysis, Toni Morrison's speech avails insight into diverse ways that language has been distorted, resulting in rifts in our growth and development as a human being. Despite language distortion among the youths and adults in our societies, Toni Morrison also emphasized the significance of language and the responsibility it obligates on humankind.

Description of the Artifact and Context

In history, Toni Morrison became the first female African American novelists. She wrote so many books known for its exceptional dialogue, comprehensive characterization, and noxious themes, that most of the time focuses majorly on African American culture (Yang & Zhang, 2010). Morrison became one of the prominent features in the life of black female writers having great influence on women, literature world and to the African American as a whole due to her success and attention on the customs of African American women in most of her novels. Morrison won the Nobel Prize in literature in the year 1993, where she gave a significant speech regarding literature and language. She narrates a story about a blind African American woman in her speech, whose esteem for knowledge and wisdom is being put in to test by two kids (Yang & Zhang, 2010).

The kids stood before her, and one asked her, "Old woman, I hold in my hand a bird. Tell me whether it is living or dead," (Morrison, 1994). They wanted to test her to know whether she was wise and full of wisdom as everyone claimed. However, at first, she kept quiet, took time before answering. The old woman was blind, therefore, she could see her visitors neither what was in their hands. The old woman only knew their intentions. She finally answers in a soft but stern voice with intellect and dignity saying, "I don't know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands (Yang & Zhang, 2010)." From her answer, we can deduce that, if at all the bird is dead, then it may mean that they might have found it dead or they killed it.

According to Morrison (1994), in case the bird is alive still, then they might kill it still. Whether the bird stays alive or dead was still their decision. Whatever the case, it is their duty. In Toni Morrison's lecture, she converts this narration into a story regarding language. Concerning what the old woman really meant, she really supposes that custodians were to be held accountable for the carcass if in case the bird in their hands was dead. For Morrison, a dead language is not only the one that's being written or spoken, but the inflexible language contents to applaud its own incapacity (Yang & Zhang, 2010). Morrison used the bird to symbolize language and the old lady in her speech was used to represent the writer.

Morrison tried to say that the life of the bird which was used to symbolize the life of language always relied entirely on the hands of the visitors who were used to symbolize future writers. Through that, she talks about language conservation asking conservation such as, "Whose job it is to protect this language," (Morrison, 1994). Throughout her story, it is very vivid that she determines that there exist two types of individuals, the older and youth (Versteegh, 2018). Additionally, youths are the potential individuals that are accountable for language conservation.

Description of the Method

Languages are the means of human communication, it can either be either written or spoken, involving the use of words in a conventional and structured manner. When Morrison stated, "Children have bitten their tongues off and use bullets instead," she was making reference to individuals misusing languages by castigating others with it (Yang & Zhang, 2010). As a result, the probability that violence might replace language to be used as a tool of harm against others is very high. Additionally, during Morrison's speech, her point of view regarding language was relatable and easily understandable due to the use of the stupendous and thought arousing parable in her speech. Without the fable, her audience would have just been left to listen to only single layer speech (Morrison, 1994).

Application and the use of the parable enable the audience to engage in the speech, compelling them to critically think about how the moral tale interweaves with Mrs. Morrison points she was putting across (Yang & Zhang, 2010). The fable evokes emotions into her speech, making the audience to have respect and honor to the old blind woman, sympathy to the innocent bird and annoyance to the disrespectful young adults. To answer the question, the fable with the speech works. The fable applied by Mrs. Morrison kindles feelings and obliges thoughts on listeners' part (Morrison, 1994).

Report On the Findings

Language results in a societal culture that enhances good relationships within society. When we let our languages die or vanish, our cultures also slowly perishes with it (Morrison, 1994). The younger generations, therefore, have the responsibility to ensure that our languages and cultures do not perish. From her speech we can find that the main moral of the story is that individuals possess the power in their hands, to make good use of language to enable them to learn and to be creative instead of being destructive (Yang & Zhang, 2010).

Versteegh argued that from Morrison's speech, we find that language is the sign of a nation (2018). When language exists and develop, then that's a vivid sign of the language is the sign of existence and development of a county. However, its disappearance led to the disappearance of a nation as well. Concurrently, the sovereignty of a language is the beginning of the nation's existence. Cultural safety is considered to be one of the very crucial issues in some nations and globally as a whole (Morrison, 1994).

We can, therefore, deduce that from Morrison's speech, she alleges that creation and protection of country's culture are especially significant for a country's existence, growth and, development (Morrison, 1994). This is because the function and value of culture are the building block to reasonable and stimulate the mass to keep the unity of the state. Additionally, we find that when people don't properly use language to maintain their culture, it may lead to cultural globalization and global culture homogenization which weakens our culture and erosion of national culture respectively (Yang & Zhang, 2010).


Toni Morrison proposed that language is the only human power and it is our obligation to use it appropriately to facilitate growth and development (Yang & Zhang, 2010). Additionally, there are repercussions of misusing language, and Morrison does not wait to mention them. But she finally concludes by challenging both her audience and general readers and writers, to have in possession of scanty literary resources and gather them to be used healing the destruction done. Additionally, Toni Morrison has experienced a significant mission with a compelling understanding of its power-to confound, seduce, to manipulate, twist, wound, and kill as well as having love of language, thus creating a friendly environment (Versteegh, 2018).


Morrison, T. (1994). Nobel Lecture 1993. World Literature Today, 68(1), 4. doi: 10.2307/40149835

Versteegh, K. (2018). Language of empire, language of power. Language Ecology, 2(1-2), 1-17. doi: 10.1075/le.18008.ver

Yang, S., & Zhang, Y. (2010). The Thoughts on the Nobel Lecture of Toni Morrison. Asian Culture And History, 2(2). doi: 10.5539/ach.v2n2p239

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