YoungAAEL6 November 2017The Future is OursIn Toni Morrison’s “Nobel Lecture”, a wise old and blind woman symbolizes the power and responsibility of the youth. In the story, the old woman is visited by two groups of young people with very different motives. The first group’s motive is to embarrass and disprove the woman’s reputation by singling out her blindness. They bring a bird before her and ask her to tell them if it is alive or dead. The old woman tells them she doesn’t know but whether they killed it or let it live, “the future of language is yours”. The second group visits the old woman in respect of her wisdom and immense curiosity. They ask her all sorts of questions about life, death and language and demand answers.
The woman tells them, “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives”. She tells them they are responsible for the future and keeps her secrets.
The group is curious and enraged, desperate to be told the answers; their questions become more passionate and descriptive with references. Once they finish their rant, she says “Finally, I trust you now. I trust you with the bird that is not in your hands because you have truly caught it. Look. How lovely it is, this thing we have done – together.” In the story, the bird represents language, its death is the destructive use of it and its life is the power and meaning of it.
The old woman symbolizes wisdom and achievement after a life of experience, her blindness expresses the ripeness of the elderly and that they won’t be around much longer to solve problems or answer questions for the youth. The first group’s ignorant motives foreshadow the consequences of lost rhetoric, literature and meaningful communication in the future. The second group restores her faith in humanity because they represent the curiosity and beauty among the youth. They learn that they are responsible for the future of language. Their passionate questions symbolize the rhetoric, a yearning for experience, respect for the elderly, and putting meaning in communication. They have received trust that they will carry out the responsibility of language just as every other generation before them.The theme in Morrison’s lecture is that the youth is responsible in keeping the future of language in tact.
In Web Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk and Richard Wright’s “BluePrint for Negro Writing”, the importance of language, especially with literature, is literature is stressed. Morrison’s lecture highlights the importance and responsibility of language, Wright outlines the importances of language in African American writing and Du Bois represents language through rhetoric and human experience and connection with his people. The difference between Du Bois and The Woman’s wisdom is that “she keeps her distance, enforces it and retreats into the singularity of isolation, in sophisticated, privileged space” while Du Bois expresses and shares his beliefs and knowledge. He uses his own systems of language and creates literature that will remain in the hands of society, present and future. Du Bois infuses his wise principles and ideas into the reader’s mind and by doing so is able to influence the youth to experience and stand up to life itself.
When talking about the Emancipation post slavery, he says, “the journey at least gave leisure for reflection and self examination; it changed the child of Emancipation to the youth with dawning self-consciousness, self realization” (692). Du Bois understands the hardships Post Slavery imposed on African Americans through personal experience. By expressing how he feels, he is able to communicate and connect with others, knowing the feeling is mutual. He doesn’t dwell on the hard times and suffering instead he moves forward and encourages the youth to do the same. Booker T. Washington wrote the Atlanta Compromise and asked African Americans to give up political power, persistence on civil rights, and educating the Negro youth. Du Bois contradicts Washington’s call for African American submission to whites and empowers his race by protesting. He says,:”American Negroes would shirk a heavy responsibility, — a responsibility to themselves, a responsibility to the struggling masses, a responsibility to the darker races of men whose future depends so largely on this American experiment, but especially a responsibility to this nation–this common fatherland” (701).
The Woman doesn’t specifically state that everyone is responsible while Du Bois argued that the race as a whole is responsible; through rhetoric devices like diction, syntax and figurative language he calls all African Americans to take responsibility and make the future a place worth living. Du Bois’s tactic of human connection invokes support and respect. Du Bois cries for change but alone he can’t fully achieve it but Morrison would agree that “his force, its felicity is in its reach toward the ineffable”. Wright’s purpose of his “Blueprint for Negro Writing” couldn’t have been better stated by The Woman: “The future of language is yours”. He goes out of his way to guide the African American youth, and rest of society by outlining the importances of writing. Agreeing with Du Bois’s protest against submission, Wright calls all African Americans to write.
He expresses his belief that African Americans should write to Hallmark their achievement and plead and protest for justice. He calls on “The Necessity for Collective Work” because together, African Americans will be able to expose the ruthless treatment and experiences they have gone through. Writing collectively will also allow for the race to come together and increase the passion of being in it together. Wright’s collectiveness contradicts The Woman because she lives alone, keeps to herself and doesn’t really share her ideas. Aside from the difference, she does appreciate and respect “word work” like Wright, although she cannot read. She thinks “word work” “makes meaning that secures our difference–the way in which we are like no other life”. The Woman knows the differences she faces as an African American woman and Wright does too, which is why he calls for support from other members of their race to put meaning into their history. He wants them to write about their culture and experiences to transform one’s’ concept of their experience, different than “any other life”.
By guiding and sharing his understanding of successful literate to his people, he transcends systematic language. Morrison’s “Nobel Lecture” highlights the responsibilities of African Americans, the importance of youth and uses of language, directly correlates with Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk and Wright’s “Blueprint for Negro Writing”. Du Bois’s literary styles, using rhetoric and communication through human connection allow him to produce literature for his people and by doing so he takes full responsibility in keeping language alive and well, keeping meanings in words. Similarly, Wright’s outline helped shepard those who had never written before. He showed a strong urge to lead the way and by doing so he allowed people to realize they could give their personal experiences meaning and would have an outlet for suffering that could make a difference. Du Bois and Wright had similar views to Morrison.
All three of them have strong opinions on the responsibility of the youth and making sure the future is a place they would want their kids to live, along with helping society understand their views. Work CitedGates, Henry Louis, and Valerie Smith. “Web Du Bois.” The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, 3rd ed., vol. 1, W.
W. Norton & Company, 2014, pp. 687–702.
Gates, Henry Louis, and Valerie Smith. “Richard Wright .” The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, 3rd ed., vol.
2, W.W. Norton & Company, 2014, pp. 125–132.Morrison, Toni.
“Morrison’s Nobel Lecture.”