Chesterfield Rhetorical Analysis

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2004 AP Language & Composition Form A Question #1: Rhetorical Analysis To be a parent is, at least in part, to live through one’s children. A parent wants the best for his or her child, and so, it is understandable that he or she may claim the child’s success (or failure) for his or her own. As such, parents often attempt to coach their children, to shape their behavior and expectations, to steer them in a particular direction. Oftentimes these interventions are shaped by the parent’s own life experiences and moral code. In the excerpt from his letter to his young son, Lord Chesterfield employs various rhetorical strategies to present his moral code and to convince the boy of the efficacy of following the code himself. Chesterfield begins his letter by acknowleding that most advice is neither desired nor followed. This is especially true, he notes, of parental advice. As he writes, “I know how unwelcome advice generally is; I know that those who want it most, like it and follow it least; and I know, too, that the advice of parents . . . is ascribed to . . . old age.” In this quote Chesterfield uses parallelism to lament the fact that individuals, especially the young, prefer to ignore the advice of those who know better. He seems almost to be shaking his head, worrying repeatedly about what he “know[s].” His words betray a certain bitterness as well, especially when he points out the irony of those who most need advice and yet “like it and follow it least.” Chesterfield hopes that his own son can avoid this pitiful category. To do so, according to Chesterfield, the boy must use his “reason”—in other words, his ability to think logically—to realize the importance and usefulness of what his father has to say. As Chesterfield states, “I flatter myself, that . . . your own reason, though too young as yet to suggest much to you of itself, is however, strong enough to enable you, both to

judge of, and receive plain truths.” Though he claims to flatter himself, in...
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