Rhetorical Analysis of the Children's Era by Margaret Sanger

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  • Topic: Margaret Sanger, Rhetoric, American Birth Control League
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Rhetorical Analysis of “The Children’s Era”
Today, the availability of birth control is taken for granted. There was a time, not long passed, during which the subject was illegal (“Margaret Sanger,” 2013, p.1). That did not stop the resilient leader of the birth control movement. Margaret Sanger was a nurse and women’s activist. While working as a nurse, Sanger treated many women who had suffered from unsafe abortions or tried to self-induce abortion (p.1). Seeing this devastation and noting that it was mainly low income women suffering from these problems, she was inspired to dedicate her life to educating women on family planning—even though the discussion of which was highly illegal at the time (p.1). She was often in trouble with the law and had to flee the country on more than one occasion (p.2). However, Sanger never gave up on her quest to empower women with the right to choose motherhood. During the early 1920’s, she advocated for the legalization of birth control. She founded the first birth control clinic in the United States and what is now Planned Parenthood (p.2). Sanger believed that no child should be unwanted or born into adverse circumstances and that the use of birth control would establish a society of healthy and happy families (p. 2). In 1925, while attending a national birth control conference in New York, Sanger delivered her speech, “The Children’s Era” (“American Birth Control League,” 2012, para. 4). She used many rhetorical devices to sway and solidify her audience’s perception. The predominant devices were logos and pathos. Metaphors, alliteration, and repetition were used to strengthen the elements of the logos and pathos arguments. Metaphors help people understand an idea by comparing the unfamiliar to the familiar. Alliteration brings power to the words because of uniformity. Repetition helps the audience to remember the most important points. These devices were used primarily to reinforce her main rhetorical devices of logos and pathos. Logos draws on the logic and reason of the audience. People are more likely to agree with reasonable ideas that make sense to them. Pathos plays on the emotions of the audience. People are more easily persuaded when their emotions are manipulated. Through the use of these rhetorical devices, Sanger was successful in supporting her thesis that the mother’s right to choose parenthood, and the rights of the unborn child, were paramount to build an ideal society. Establishing the need for change, Sanger (1925) began her speech by referencing a book by Ellen Key called The Century Of The Child (para. 1). The book first introduced the idea that the time was now, change is imminent, and we “would see this old world of ours converted into a beautiful garden of children” (Sanger, 1925, para. 1). Sanger then further elaborated on the analogy to depict the hard work, dedication, and care that it takes to properly raise a child. Before you can cultivate a garden, you must know something about gardening. You have got to give your seeds a proper soil in which to grow. You have got to give them sunlight and fresh air. You have got to give them space and the opportunity (if they are to lift their flowers to the sun), to strike their roots deep into that soil. And always—do not forget this—you have got to fight weeds. You cannot have a garden, if you let weeds overrun it. So, if we want to make this world a garden for children, we must first learn the lesson of the gardener. (Sanger, 1925, para. 3) By raising simple, logical ideas that the audience could relate to with the use of the words “cultivate,” “know something,” “proper soil,” “sunlight,” and “fresh air,” and the fact that you cannot let weeds overrun your garden, Sanger (1925) led her audience to agreement (para. 3). The idea of comparing children to weeds that need to be eradicated to allow the flowering children to prosper might seem radical to some. Yet, after following the gardening...
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