Rhetorical Analysis: Pre-writing
Learning how to identify and analyze rhetorical tools is an important part of the collegiate experience. This handout emphasizes several tools which can aid in the analysis of rhetoric in an effective, well-organized paper. Questions to Ask
Speakers use rhetorical tools in order to appeal to logic (logos), emotion (pathos), or authority (ethos). Asking yourself specific questions regarding the effect of rhetorical tools you encounter is a good place to begin expanding and improving the analysis within your paper. The following are some suggestions to get you started. If the tool has an ethical effect, ask:
What authority does the speaker hope his audience will trust? Is the authority of the speaker himself/herself in question, or is it the authority an outside source? Why does the speaker choose that particular kind of authority? What connections is the speaker trying to make in the minds of the audience? Is it likely that the audience will accept this authority? Why or why not? How does establishing trust in this authority help persuade people to trust the speaker? If the tool has a logical effect, ask:
Why does the speaker use a logical argument instead of a pathetic or ethical one? What is the audience’s likely reaction to this sort of logical reasoning? How selective or particular is the logic? Is there any evidence of logical fallacy? If so, why? Does the fallacy undermine the argument, or strengthen it? Note: For more information on logical fallacies, see the handout “Logical Fallacies.” Is the speaker using logic to persuade his audience about a highly emotional issue? If so, why? If the tool has a pathetic (emotional) effect, ask:
What emotion is the speaker highlighting? Why is that particular emotion highlighted? Why would this emotion would be more powerful for the audience the speaker is addressing? What particular tool is the speaker using to manipulate or arouse these emotions? Does it work? Why or why not? Once the speaker has created an emotion in his listeners, how does he connect that emotion with the purpose of his speech? Is this effective? Why or why not? In other words, how does establishing an emotional connection help persuade people to follow the speaker? Note: Silva Rhetoricae, an online resource developed by Dr. Gideon Burton, describes many specific rhetorical tools and their functions and provides examples of rhetorical analyses of these tools. It can be found at http://humanities.byu.edu/rhetoric/silva.htm. For a more basic commentary on rhetorical tools and how to analyze them, check the Writers at Work workbook, pages 99-104.
The Analytical Process: A Sample
In rhetorical analysis, writers must first show the connection between each rhetorical tool identified and the way the speaker uses those tools to create a reaction in his or her audience, and then show why each tool was effective for that particular audience.
The following example demonstrates an effective analytical process, taking a samplefrom the speech “Against the Spanish Armada” by Queen Elizabeth I: I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too; and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realms: to which, rather than any dishonor should grow by me, I myself will take up arms. Upon reading this segment, the student has a powerful, postive reaction. The student decides his stance: he will argue that the speech is effective.
Next, the student needs to determine the rhetorical tools that Elizabeth uses to make her argument. Looking at the segment critically, the student notices that Elizabeth manages to logically connect the fact that she is a Queen with the responsibility to defend her realm. He sees that Queen Elizabeth ironically juxtaposes the fact that she is...
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