Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 374
The Source of Self-Regard is an anthology of essays, speeches, and meditations. In it, Toni Morrison writes about real figures, perhaps using some recollection or artistic license, but nonetheless, these figures are focal points rather than fictional creations in a story.
The anthology is divided into three sections: “The Foreigner’s Home,” “The Interlude: Black Matter(s),” and “God’s Language.” Each section is built around a thematic goal, with essays, speeches, and meditations that focus on related ideas. The topics sometimes include reflections on famous people.
In “Foreigner’s Home”
In “Foreigner’s Home,” for example, Morrison writes about the people who perished in the attacks of September 11th in “The Dead of September 11.” She mentions several people in the other essays and speeches from this section, including famous authors like Joseph Conrad, missionaries like Joyce Cary, and immigrants.
In “The Interlude: Black Matter(s)”
For “The Interlude: Black Matter(s),” she mentions famous black authors, speech writers, and activists like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as other authors like Gertrude Stein.
In “God’s Language”
In the last section, “God’s Language,” she mentions James Baldwin, Chinua Achebe, Peter Sellars, and authors like William Faulkner and the impact those people had on literature and writing.
Despite all these people being mentioned, it should be noted that most of the focus of Morrison’s writing is on the ideas, history, and meaning behind what is going on—not on the people themselves. A few of the texts might be focused on a particular person, but still, the point of the book is to communicate something beyond just that person. For example, despite writing about the “dead of September 11” in her essay, she focuses on the idea of having little to say in the face of death:
I must be steady and I must be clear, knowing all the time that I have nothing to say—no words stronger than the steel that pressed you into itself; no scripture older or more elegant than the ancient atoms you have become.
Despite the piece being about the dead, it focuses on Morrison’s reaction to their death and how she deals with the idea of writing words in the face of severe destruction.