Tuesday, October 5, 2010

William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

Throughout his life, William Faulkner has written many novels, novellas, and short stories. Faulkner's works were largely published during the 1920s and 1930s. Faulkner was relatively unknown until he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. William Faulkner won the Nobel Price in 1949, but it wasn't until December 10th, 1950 when he accepted the Nobel Prize in Literature at the city hall in Stockholm. Figure 1 shows Faulkner receiving the 1949 Nobel Prize for literature from King Gustaf Adolf VI of Sweden right before Faulkner delivered his acceptance speech.

Fig.1 "William Faulkner Receiving the Nobel Prize." Photograph. Corbis. Web. 4 October 2010.

In Faulkner's Noble Prize acceptance speech, he starts off the speech by pointing out that he does not write for money and fame, but he simply writes to contribute to the mankind. Faulkner then dedicates the rest of his speech to discuss the steps that a writer should take to become a good writer. The fact that Faulkner is receiving a prestigious award in literature pressures Faulkner to deliver a complex speech with contrasting views.

Even though Faulkner's speech lasted for only two minutes and fifty-five seconds, he was able to successfully keep it intricate. Faulkner kept the complexity of his speech by incorporating the speech with many contrasting views. To demonstrate his contrasting views, Faulkner uses antonyms throughout his speech. Faulkner uses antonyms when says, "He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion". Another time when Faulkner used this technique is when he says, "He writes not of the heart but of the glands". By using the antonyms in his speech, Faulkner was able to make his point; the point that he was trying to make was that to become a good writer, the person must write of love and write from the heart.

Going along with the theme of contrasting views, even though Faulkner mainly focuses on the concept of telling his audience how to become a good writer in his speech, he manages to add contrast to the speech when he keeps his speech fairly humble at the same time. Faulkner's humility is revealed when he says, "I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work -- a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before". This quote shows that Faulkner writes simply because he wants to make a contribution to the human race, not because of his desire for fame. This contrast helped Faulkner to develop a better speech because it shows his audience that he is not self-centered. The use of the contrast helps to establish to the audience that Faulkner's true intention was just trying to pass good advice as to how to become a good writer rather than just trying to brag.

Overall, Faulkner's speech was rather successful. It was fascinating that Faulkner was able to compact a complex speech into just three minutes. The speech itself was interesting due to the fact that Faulkner kept the context with contrasting views. The speech was sophisticated but at the same time it was not hard for the audience to grasp the argument behind Faulkner's speech.

Work Cited

Faulkner, William. "Speech Accepting the Nobel Prize in Literature". American Rhetoric. Stockholm Sweden. 10 December, 1950. Web. 5 October, 2010.

Work consulted

Liukkonen, Petri. "William (Cuthbert) Faulkner (1897-1962) - original surname until 1924 Falkner". 2008. Web. 5 October 5, 2010.