Critique of William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Speech

Critique of William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Speech In 1949, William Faulkner, the writer from Oxford, Mississippi, was awarded the Nobel Prize. He was the first American author to receive this prestigious award since the start of World War II. The context of his acceptance speech is important. WW II has recently ended through the use of nuclear weapons, the cold war with the Soviet Union is underway, and there is rumbling about a war with Korea. Nuclear holocaust is a worldwide concern. He reveals his reason for optimism about the future of the human race. In his speech, Faulkner charges young writers to write about “the human heart in conflict.” He suggests that it is their “duty” to help us see that there is reason for hope. A less obvious purpose in this speech is to point out that we all have a role in outcome of our future. This is primarily an emotional appeal. However, Faulkner does combine emotion with logical reasoning, given the global psyche at the time. He acknowledges the fear of nuclear disaster that is prevalent, when he asks, “When will I be blown up?”. He then admonishes the young writers and poets that they can’t let their fears shackle their efforts to write about the virtues that man possesses. Faulkner appeals to the emotions of the upcoming authors, as well as the rest of us, when he suggests that it is a “duty” and “privilege” to “help man endure” whatever challenges we might face. His plea that issues of “the heart in conflict” are the only topics worth writing about are overstated, but it does help to support his premise. We must consider and reflect on the virtues that give us reason for optimism. He reminds us that we do have a capacity for “compassion and sacrifice and endurance.” Mr. Faulkner uses loaded words to enlist the support of his audience. Aren’t we all reminded of our vulnerability when he speaks of “the last ding-dong of doom”? Aren’t we all moved…

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