The Nobel Prize is undeniably the most important award in the world. For all people who are awarded this prize, this experience becomes a crucial milestone in their lives. This essay will analyze the peculiarities, structure and the usage of rhetoric devices in the speech pronounced by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2010. His harangue proves to be very impressive and persuasive due to a combination of folklore motives, simple yet powerful rhetoric devices and clear logical structure.
The speech analyzed here was pronounced at the beginning of the traditional banquet that is given by the Swedish royal family to honor the laureates of the Nobel Prize. These harangues are relatively short in comparison with the Nobel lectures given by the laureates after the Nobel banquet on one of the subsequent days. The main purpose of this speech is to thank the committee as well as give some very short description of the main idea of the laureate’s work. These harangues are often light-hearted and do not contain any serious facts or conclusions. Vargas Llosa’s speech perfectly fits into this category. He followed the traditions of such harangues and made it short, precise, fascinating and to some extent humorous. He felt that audience very well and understood that it was made of celebrities, royals and other respected people, so his speech should have corresponded both to the occasion and the image of the people who gathered there.
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The introduction part of Vargas Llosa’s speech is very short. In fact, it is only one sentence “I am a storyteller, so before I propose a toast I will tell you a story” (Vargas Llosa, 2010). However, it shows that it is possible to outline the main idea of the speech even in such a concise form. At first, the speaker clearly defines who he is. Certainly, everyone present at the Nobel banquet was aware of it, but Vargas Llosa does not define himself by name or even profession (a writer). He says that he is a storyteller that is slightly different from being a writer. It supposes stronger connections with the folklore and the focus on the stories of people, not only some aesthetic aspects of writing. Then Vargas Llosa informs the audience that his speech will be divided into two parts, a story and a toast, so everyone knows what to expect.
The connection with the folklore tale is intensified in his speech with the help of several methods. The writer begins the main part of his harangue with the phrase “Once upon a time, there was a boy…” that creates a clear allusion to a popular beginning of almost all tales (Vargas Llosa, 2010). This feature of his speech is also supported with relatively simple sentences and numerous repetitions that are characteristic of folklore. For example, the writer says that he managed to “escape from the poor house, the poor country and the poor reality in which he lived” (Vargas Llosa, 2010). By repeating the epithet “poor” Vargas Llosa not only makes his speech sound like a tale, but also using very simple methods helps the audience visualize the place where he lived as a little boy. He proves that to be persuasive it is not obligatory to use complex rhetoric devices. It is enough to choose the style and create the necessary atmosphere that would be suitable for the audience and the particular occasion.
The main idea of the story told by Vargas Llosa is that the Nobel Prize committee, by giving such an important award to a person who did not even imagine that he could get it, eliminated all the borders between the real world and the imaginary world of literature where everything is possible. Therefore, the writer aims to show that before the moment he was awarded the Nobel Prize, these worlds were completely different. To do so, he intensifies the contrasts between these two worlds. He describes the world he left as “poor” and tells that he used to have “hard time” (Vargas Llosa, 2010). However, when telling the audience about the world of literature, he uses only positive and very bright epithets. For example, he says that books helped him to get to “wonderful, mesmerizing places peopled with the most beautiful beings and the most surprising things” (Vargas Llosa, 2010). Such contrast is quite simple but very persuasive.
The power of literature is one of the key concepts that the writer addresses in his speech. He wants to persuade the audience that literature is able to change the lives of people. Vargas Llosa says that it “brought him pleasure and he delighted in writing tales as much as he delighted in reading them” (Vargas Llosa, 2010). He describes literature as the “ideal realm” that can bring a person into the perfect world where he/she would forget about his/her problems in real life (Vargas Llosa, 2010). The writer introduces the “boy” at the beginning of his speech, but he does not name him. However, it is clear that the boy is Vargas Llosa. When he tells that literature has changed the boy’s life, it is clear that this story is autobiographical and the speaker tells about his relations with literature. When the writer contrasts “before” and “after” stages of his life, he appeals to kairos and does it quite effectively. Vargas Llosa employs different means to show his gratitude to the Nobel Prize committee and the importance of this award for him.
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The most powerful part of the story is the last one where Vargas Llosa describes what happened when he was told about his victory. The writer effectively appeals to the audience there trying to explain how big his bewilderment was when he learnt about the prize. Here, basing mainly on pathos, he describes his emotions when he heard that news. To make the audience better understand his feelings, Vargas Llosa compares himself with the poor boy from Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper who was mistaken for a royal.
The writer does not want his speech to sound too serious and official, so he uses some jokes that make the atmosphere relaxing. For example, he describes the representative of the Nobel committee who phoned him to inform about his victory as “a gentleman with a name that defied all pronunciation” (Vargas Llosa, 2010). Then he says that this man was from Stockholm, “the capital of a land called Sweden (or something of the sort)” (Vargas Llosa, 2010). These jokes look very organic as the writer belongs to South American culture that is very different from the Swedish one. He does not use too many of them and keeps them only in one paragraph. It is a good step as the abundance of jokes would make the speech too comical that is not acceptable in the occasion. At the end of the harangue the writer proposed a toast to Sweden that is a very nice ending.
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To conclude, Mario Vargas Llosa’s Nobel banquet speech is a very good example of a short gratitude speech. The structure of the harangue is clear and logical. The writer makes his speech very similar to a folklore tale and adds some corresponding elements to intensify the atmosphere. The speaker employs a number of effective devices and methods to influence the audience and he does it in a very effective way.