What are a few rhetorical devices that William Faulkner uses in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech?Such devices as alliteration parallelism repetition

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950, William Faulkner, controversial, earthy, but always intrinsically truthful, was acknowledged by the literary world. His acceptance speech conveys his talent as well as his integrity as a writer.  Several rhetorical devices are employed by Faulkner in this speech among which are these few:

1. Alliteration - This literary device is effective in rhetoric as it lends a rhythm and speed to a line.  Interestingly, Faulkner opens his speech with a sentence with the /m/ sound repeated,

...this award was not made to me as a man,

In another example, Faulkner repeats /p/ in his final sentence:

... one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

2. Polysyndeton - This use of conjunctions between words or phrases or sentences elicits a feeling of energy and multiplicity that crescendos.

...by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.

3. Repetition - This popular rhetorical device is used for effect.  Repeating the noun man in referring to the author who writes not from the heart, but from the glands, Faulkner says that until he learns that he must write from his soul,

...he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure.

4. Chiasmus is a type of reverse parallelism, for it repeats a construction in the second part, but in a reverse order. e.g. "What is learned unwillingly is gladly forgotten."  In his speech, Faulkner says,

He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories without hope....

5. Parallelism - The repetition of grammatical constructions lends a rhythm and unison to thoughts. In this example, Faulkner uses a simple independent clause and repeats it,

 He must learn them again. He must teach himself...

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Faulkner, speaking in 1950, uses several examples of alliteration, or beginning words that are next to each other or near each other with the same sound. Examples are "ding dong of doom" and "he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance." In the latter example, the "s" sound is repeated in "soul," "spirit," and "sacrifice." Alliteration helps to create a musical, sing-song quality that is pleasing to the ear and that makes prose more poetic.

Faulkner also uses parallelism, a literary device in which words or phrases in a list are phrased in similar ways. For example, he says the following:

"It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past."

In the example above, two phrases begin with "by" followed by a word ending in "ing" ("lifting" and "reminding"). In addition, there is a series of words after "of the," and this list, all in the same format, is an example of parallelism. The parallel phrasing emphasizes all the qualities that a writer can bring about.

An example of repetition in the speech is the following: "because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat." In this phrase, "worth" is repeated to emphasize its importance in the sentence. 

Faulkner also uses personification. For example, he says, "He writes not of the heart but of the glands." In this sentence, "heart" is made to resemble a person and stands for the larger phenomenon of the human spirit, while the "glands" seem human and have the quality of lust.