Critical Study- Margaret Atwood and Aung San Suu Kyi

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‘Ultimately in a speech, it is the effective representation of ideas that captivates audiences.’

In compelling speeches it is not only the content, but the appropriate use of rhetoric techniques and structure which reveal and emphasise key ideas and captivate the audience. This has been shown in Margaret Atwood’s speech, Spotty-Handed Villainesses (1994) as well as Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech, the Keynote Address at the Beijing Conference on Women (1995). These two speeches focus on the role of women in society and effectively discuss it in a way that has successfully raised the issue and resonated through history.

Margaret Atwood uses a variety of rhetorical methods in captivating the audience. She uses wit and humour, as well as establishing a personal tone to entertain and maintain the audience’s interest. Atwood opens her speech in a conversational and engaging manner, establishing contact with her audience immediately through an allusion to the children’s rhyme and including a personal anecdote. This creates a sense of familiarity, catching the audience’s attention while simultaneously introducing her point that society polarizes the characteristics of females in literature. She continues to communicate with a personal tone by addressing her audience directly, “you probably got the idea” and uses colloquial phrases such as “sex bomb” to evoke the audience’s interest. Atwood also includes humour within her anecdotes, “We were conscripted as the audience.” By doing so, she not only captivates her audience, but conveys her ideas in an effective, relatable way.

Aung San Suu Kyi similarly explores the role of women in society, government and politics to present an overview of the global forces affecting the quality of lives for humans. She initially starts off by acknowledging her mostly female audience through the satirical aside, “joined by a few brave men!” and continues to establish her political context as a political activist which had resulted in...
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