Essay 2: Rhetorical Analysis

The Essay 2 assignment connects to these Student Learning Outcomes listed on your syllabus:

• Analyze and evaluate information to assess the validity and usefulness of an argument

• Argue a point and support it (in writing) using evidence from an outside source

Listen and speak (actively) by questioning, clarifying and supporting one’s ideas and the ideas of others.

The purpose of a rhetorical analysis is not to summarize a piece of writing (as you did in the first assignment), but to

explore how the rhetoric in a piece of writing works;

explore how ideas are presented and argued;

and analyze how the strategies works (or does not work) to help the writer achieve his or her purpose.

First, think about the Rhetorical Situation:

The rhetorical situation consists of the following elements, all of which you should think about as you write your analysis:

The writer
The writer’s purpose
The writer’s audience
The topic

Second, to analyze a writer’s rhetoric, you need to investigate how the writer composed the writing to achieve his or her goal.

And this type of analysis is your assignment for Essay 2.

The Means of Persuasion: Logos, Pathos, and Ethos

Writers use three means of persuasion – logos, pathos, and ethos – to appeal to readers.

These terms can be traced back to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, in his Rhetoric, where he identified these three primary modes of persuasion.

Effective arguments combine two or more of these appeals. The most effective arguments, like Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” for example, uses all three.

Logos – The Appeal to Logic

The logical appeal is the most widely used appeal in arguments. The logical writer relies on evidence provided for claims and on sound reasoning.

If you analyze the appeal to logic, one aspect is how the piece of writing is organized and how logical and reasonable that organization is in its attempt to persuade or move or inform.

Here are some examples of logos that you might find when reading texts of various media:

Statistics: When a writer uses data or statistics within a text, you can assume that he or she is trying to appeal to the logic and reason of the reader.

Causal statements: When you read an “if-then” statement, with credible supporting evidence, the writer is likely trying to appeal to your reason.

Another way of thinking about logos: Think of logos as evidence that doesn’t appeal to your emotions.

Pathos – The Appeal to Emotion

Emotional appeals can be highly effective when used in conjunction with logical appeals.

Aristotle knew that an appeal to the emotions could be very persuasive because it adds a human dimension to an argument.

By appealing to an audience’s sympathies and by helping them to identify with the subject being discussed, emotional appeals can turn abstract concepts into concrete examples that can compel people to take action.

Used honestly and with restraint, emotional appeals arouse the “better self” of the reader by eliciting sympathy, civic pride or feelings based on shared values or beliefs.

Ethos – The Appeal to Authority

Ethical appeals establish the credibility of the writer.

The word ethos comes from the Greek word ethos, meaning nature or disposition; the word was also used to talk about the power of music to influence the listener.

For Aristotle, ethos describes the moral character of the writer or speaker.

Audiences don’t trust a writer who states opinions as fact, distorts evidence, or makes claims that can’t be supported. They trust a writer who is honest, knowledgeable, and fair.

So when you analyze how a writer appeals to ethos, you are explaining how the author establishes his or her credibility and authority in the minds of readers.

A word of caution when writing about the appeal to ethos:

Don’t confuse a writer’s use of the appeal to ethos by how characters behave in the book; if you discussed how Stevenson points out that a judge or a witness acts in an unethical or corrupt way in the book – that would be a description of how a person in the book acts, not an analysis of Stevenson appealing to ethos.

Remember: This essay assignment is asking you how the author – Stevenson – uses the appeal to ethos to establish his credibility.


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