Every act of communication has its goal. The end goal is to change reality according to the speaker’s expectations. This is achieved through influencing other people with words, changing their opinions, and calling them to action. Rhetoric is a study of how people use language to achieve these goals.
A rhetoric analysis breaks down the communication into its elements (rhetoric moves and devices) and demonstrates why these elements were chosen by the rhetorician, how they were used, and to what effect.
A rhetoric analysis essay is an important assignment that promotes an understanding of intent behind texts, speeches, visual content, and other forms of communication. Writing a rhetorical analysis essay helps students to recognize manipulation and be mindful about the information they consume.
This assignment can also be given as creative writing help: before students are tasked with writing their own text or creating a piece of art, they can be asked to analyze a particularly successful text or creation of the same genre.
How to Write a Good Rhetorical Analysis Essay
A rhetorical analysis can be applied to any text, image, advertisement, or video. The rhetorical analysis differs from the literary analysis in its perspective: it disregards the artistic value of the text and focuses on it only as an instrument of persuasion. That said, the rhetorical analysis does consider literary devices, such as metaphors, similes, epithets, etc. In the contest of rhetoric analysis, they are viewed as artistic proofs, as opposed to inartistic proofs – statistics, data, polls, and other factual evidence employed by rhetoricians to make a point.
To perform a good rhetorical analysis, the first thing you should consider is the rhetorical situation:
- audience (readers, listeners, viewers)
- rhetorician (author, speaker, writer)
- purpose (reason to communicate)
- medium used to deliver the message (text, image, sound, video, etc.)
- context of delivery (time, place, current public sentiment)
Also, it is necessary to familiarize yourself with the ways rhetorician tries to influence the audience. There are three main appeals one can employ to earn the audience’s approval and trust:
- Pathos appeals to emotions. For example, the author paints a picture of injustice and the distress it causes to the injured party in order to stir the compassion, anger, and indignation in their audience.
- Ethos appeals to the rhetorician’s character and authority to inspire credibility. For example, the author uses a didactic tone of voice, alludes to his or her professional experience, poses as an expert. Alternatively, the author can establish moral authority (as a loving parent, law-abiding citizen, decent human being, etc.)
- Logos appeals to reason. The author uses facts, critical thinking, reasoning, and other objective evidence to persuade the audience. This appeal is modus operandi in academia.
The appeals are materialized within the text via the following elements:
- - Evidence
- - Rhetorical moves (choice of words, parallelism, analogy, simile, word order, etc.)
- - Tone of voice (neutral, friendly, sarcastic, authoritative, didactic, accusative, etc.)
- - Flow of the text, structure
Steps to Writing a Rhetorical Analysis Essay
A rhetorical analysis consists of the following stages:
- Studying the communication for the first time. Trying to understand its main objectives.
- Identifying the appeals used in the communication to achieve those objectives.
- Singling out rhetorical techniques and understanding their purpose.
- Analyzing each technique with regard to its effectiveness. Looking at the ways they work together towards the common goal.
- Preparing for writing: making notes, writing down examples.
- Planning the outline, coming up with the thesis.
- Writing the essay.
While you analyze the text, try asking the following questions:
- - Who is the intended audience of the piece? Do you identify with that audience? What assumptions about the audience does the author make?
- - Is evidence chosen well for the intended audience? Is it accurate, reasonable?
- - What is the tone of the text?
- - Is the author objective or insistent on persuading you?
- - Does the author appeal to emotions, authority, or reason?
- - Does the structure of the text feel intentional? To what effect?
- - Does author succeed in convincing you?
Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline
When you have analyzed the text and made all the necessary preparations, you are ready to write your essay. For your rhetorical analysis, you can use the classic 5-paragraph structure: the introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs, and the conclusion.
An introduction to a rhetorical analysis essay should directly lead to your argument. It should give only the necessary background information that your reader needs for understanding your essay’s relevance. For example, if you analyze someone’s stance on abortion, you should inform your reader that this topic is very polarizing and politicized and that debates around it are current in the media. You can also mention some main arguments that both opposing sides traditionally employ.
Then you state your thesis: whether you think that the author succeeds in convincing the reader, chooses the right techniques to appeal to the intended audience, or falls short in his or her endeavor. Here you provide an overview of your analysis, listing the rhetorical appeals used by the author of the analyzed text. You can list them by the order they appear in the text, by their effectiveness, or by the degree to which the rhetorician relies on a certain appeal.
A body of your essay may consist of three or more paragraphs. The order of the paragraphs should correspond to the order given in the introduction and follow the internal logic of your essay. Each paragraph should concentrate on one main idea given in a topic sentence. Make sure you provide several examples of the rhetoric device discussed in the paragraph.
A conclusion should mirror the introduction: it summarizes your analysis and restates the thesis, but addresses it on a higher level and puts it in a wider context. For example, when you write a conclusion for a rhetorical analysis, you should address the relevance of your analysis. Why does it matter? What underlying message does it uncover? What biases does it expose? How it moves the discussion forward? Etc.
Need Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example?
Performing a deep rhetorical analysis takes practice and skill. If you have never interrogated the text from the rhetorical perspective, you may need to read some examples to familiarize yourself with the format. Analyses of famous speeches by historical figures are widely available. You can start with Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream”.