Step-by-step Rhetorical Analysis
1. Identify the three elements of the rhetorical triangle.
a. Who is the speaker? (education, ethnicity, era, political persuasion, etc.) b. Who is the audience?
c. What is the subject?
2. What is the author saying about the subject? What is his/her assertion? 3. What is the author’s attitude (tone) about the subject? a. What specific word choice (diction) clues the reader in?
b. What figures of speech are used? Does the imagery/analogies/allusions conjure positive/negative/angry/melancholy/activist feelings in the reader? c. What type of syntax is used? (short, abrupt, choppy; lengthy, thoughtful, questioning) Are there any rhetorical questions? d. What kinds of rhetoric does the author employ? (ethos, pathos, logos, inductive/deductive reasoning, syllogisms)
You can hit all of these questions if you can remember the following acronyms:
(Author’s attitude evident through . . .)
Diction (Word Choice)
Figures of Speech
Rhetoric (identified as . . .)
For your Rhetorical analysis assignment, choose either the step-by-step OR acronyms method and answer all of the questions posed by that method. See the back for an example of the acronyms method of An Inconvenient Truth. Rhetorical Analysis Worksheet for An Inconvenient Truth
Speaker – Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States Occasion – Global warming/melting ice caps
Audience – General population – it was an Academy-Award winning full-feature film Purpose – Persuade the audience to take action against global warming causing activities Subject – Energy use/life choices effect the environment
Tone – concerned, alarmed, fatherly, scientific
Diction: Gore uses words and images that imply a filthy industrial world with no regard of the environmental impact; he specifically uses the words “moral, unethical, and faith” to discuss the argument he makes. Figures of Speech: Gore begins his narrative with an image of a serene lakeside scene and pictures of the beautiful Earth. These are designed to connect the audience emotionally. He also uses a cartoon metaphor of the happy sun coming to warm the earth gently. Bad greenhouse gasses beat up the happy sun and cause him to do damage to the earth. This, although childlike in its analogy, is literally a picture of nature being contorted by business, since the greenhouse gasses are men in suits with briefcases. Syntax: As he discusses the temperature records and ocean temperatures over the past several decades, Gore uses simple, but not short, sentences. He simply provides the facts. They build to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. His sentences then get longer and more complex as he addresses the complex questions these facts seem to beg. He asks the rhetorical question, “how could that happen here?” to imply that despite the warnings the facts issued, that people in power ignored them. His syntax rarely is choppy, and he thus avoids the scolding, angry tone. Rhetoric: Although Gore establishes the ethos of his sources by linking them to the respected institutions they represent, and appeals to logos by presenting fact after fact in a string of logic, his greatest appeals are emotional. He shares personal tragedy that causes him to ask of himself, “How should I spend time on this earth?” He shows examples of diminishing natural beauty and associates it with guilt. He portrays himself as a young, enthusiastic politician with science on his side against old, established politicians that will not accept his pleas. He calls on his audience to work through political avenues to enact laws that will have positive impacts on climate change.