Platus said, “There’s no such thing, you know, as picking out the best woman: it’s only a question of comparative badness”. The themes of the two pieces of literature cited above have some overlapping similarities and reading into these similarities, we learn a combined message delivered by the two authors. One of the two is Toni Morrison’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech called “Nobel Lecture” and the other is Alice Walker’s narrative from her past called “Beauty: When the Other Dancer Is the Self”. An interesting point to note is how these authors of two different time periods and having different circumstances, expressed the same kind of depth through their words.
Putting the themes of “Nobel Lecture” and “Beauty: When the Other Dancer Is the Self” side by side, we can draw parallels between the two. For starters, the authors have some similarities. Both the authors are Black African American women and they have faced oppression in the past as their tales tell. As a result of the oppression, both writers became inspirational women and created their name by telling their story. Walker and Morrison have both received Pulitzer Prize for their contribution to literature. Reading between the lines, Morrison and Walker want their audience to relate to their work and at the end they want to teach a moral. Such as “She is blind and cannot see her visitors, let alone what is in their hands. She does not know their color, gender or homeland. She only knows their motive” (Morrison, Nobel Lecture) or from Walker’s work “If I do not say this is what happened, I know my brothers will find ways to make me wish I had” (Walker, “Beauty: When the Other Dancer Is the Self”).
Moving further into the content of both pieces, we can see that both stories revolve around a female protagonist who is faced with a difficult situation. In Morrison’s tale, the blind woman is confronted with children who hold intentions to belittle her wisdom and abilities. In Walker’s tale, she is disfigured and must accept looking like that while she loses her confidence completely. There is symbolism in both stories which has deeper meaning. While Morrison wants the reader to focus on the bird, Walker wants her readers to understand the importance of her eye as a part of her looks. The authors want their readers to decide the relevance of the object of importance as the protagonists remain helpless concerning the bird and the eye. The blind woman cannot control the bird’s life while Walker cannot bring her sight back.
In both tales, the protagonists have the role of imparting wisdom. The blind woman and Walker realize through the progress of the story that they gained more wisdom and it was in their hands to spread it. The blind woman realizes at the end of the story that she could’ve answered the children if they were truly curious to know more. As the children question her why she didn’t reach out to touch their hand and know that there was no bird in the first place rather just their need for knowledge, she realized it was truly just their curiosity and no ill-intentions. It was her decision to stay comfortable within her silence. Walker also gains wisdom after her confidence shatters and she rebuilds it after keeping her head down all through her adolescence. Till the end of the story, Walker is in doubt of her inner beauty. It is not until her daughter sees the “world” in her eye that she gains faith in herself. She then becomes the carefree dancer.
A message that connects the two works is the importance they give to the power of language. While Morrison, without being subtle, mentions in her speech how impactful language is, Walker gives all the credit to her daughter’s words for changing the way she feels. Walker emphasizes at the end of her narrative how she dreaded the moment her daughter would confront her regarding her eye. When the first words that came from her daughter’s mouth were words of admiration and fascination, Walker evolved into a dancer in her dreams. It was just a matter of words for her to truly embrace herself at last. This is exactly what Morrison discusses too, how listening to the questions of the children made her realize the influence language had. She made the bird a symbol of control you have over your words and it depends on you how you can influence someone using language.
An overlapping idea we can see in both these stories is that both the protagonists lose their vision. The blind woman is introduced without sight and Walker becomes partially blind in her narrative. This common theme reinforces the idea of inner sight and wisdom. The authors want the readers to understand that there is more to vision than just what the naked eye can see. They want their readers to know that at times losing the external vision or shutting it off for a while helps you see things with more clarity. It helps you realize intentions beyond what you can see such as in Morrison’s case and know beauty more than its physical form just as Walker did.