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Rhetorical Analysis Essay

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English

An essay is a form of art. In fact, the word essay comes from the French word essayer which means 'to attempt' or 'to dare.' Students are often asked to write them without knowing that what they are doing is supposed to be an adventure.

An essay is supposed to be the exploration of a specific subject. One such essay is the rhetorical analysis essay. A rhetorical analysis is an essay that breaks down an author's argument. It examines how an author or speaker says something.

Elements of a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. According to Aristotle there are three types of appeals that can sway a person into believing something. They are classically known as Logos, Pathos, and Ethos. These appeals have the ability to persuade because of human nature.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay aristotle rhetorical analysis essay elements StudySmarterAristotle, sciencephoto.comAristotle's Three Appeals Rhetorical Analysis Essay StudySmarterTriangle of Rhetoric, weebly.com

In addition to the classical appeals, it is important to remember who the speaker and the audience are. Whether or not the speaker is a scientist, politician, businessman, or everyday person matters. A politician will speak very differently to a group of fellow politicians, than they would to a group of voters.

Logos

The first appeal is Logos, an appeal to reason. People can think through arguments, string together facts, analyze data and conclude whether or not it is true.

If a writer is using Logos in their text, then they might cite a statistic or scientific study. Or they might create a syllogism. Another example is that they may ask questions about a subject and analyze that subject. There are countless ways to use reason in an argument. Generally Logos is the core of an argument.

Syllogism is an argument of three statements. The first two are ideas assumed to be true, and the third is a logical conclusion.

The reason that Logos is an effective appeal is because it is hard to argue with facts. Moreover, it puts the author in good faith because it shows that the author is pursuing the truth and not a personal gain.

However, the use of too much Logos, or solely using Logos, gives the impression that a writer is cold and distant. It can also come across as boring and plain. Using too much of any one of the appeals is disastrous and fails to persuade audiences.

Logos is necessary to a good argument, but it is best suited in academic settings. Schools are centered on the pursuit of truth and critical thinking. When a paper that was written for research is examined, then the most important aspect of that paper is the appeal to Logos.

Pathos

Pathos is an appeal to an audience's emotions. Pathos makes use of concrete language, vivid images, and stories. Pathos is what makes an argument feel like it is true. It helps the audience to feel sympathy, empathy, anger, happiness, or sadness. It usually makes the speaker and their argument more human.

It is also useful in the employment of analogies because analogies take ideas and make them feel like real objects; this usually makes an appeal to Logos easier to understand.

Pathos establishes a human connection. But when Pathos alone is used, it can make the audience feel or think that their emotions are being manipulated. Audiences may enjoy the use of Pathos but dismiss an argument that lacks the other appeals.

Ethos

Ethos is an appeal to authority. To put it in simpler terms, a speaker who uses Ethos "walks the walk and talks the talks." When a speaker uses Ethos, it shows that they have some experience in whatever subject is being discussed.

For example, a physicist giving a lecture on physics to a group of scientists would talk about their experience, past studies, or credentials before they continued with their lecture. Ethos gives a speaker credibility; it establishes and proves their trustworthiness as an expert.

Outline of a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

The structure of a Rhetorical Analysis Essay follows something similar to that of any other essay. It begins with a thesis, or the argument that you are making, in the first paragraph or two. Next is the body, in which you analyze how an author utilizes the rhetorical appeals previously discussed and if the author is successful in using the appeals. Finally, the final paragraph should be a conclusion that wraps up your argument. This structure is then used to create an outline for the essay.

Outline of a Rhetorical Analysis Essay (with an example essay)

Thesis

A thesis statement is the introduction of an argument for a paper. It should be written in the first paragraph of the essay. It briefly summarizes the argument and evidence that is going to be explored in the rest of the paper. It can be thought of as stating what your argument is.

'Jonathon Edwards powerfully uses pathos to instill fear and dread in his sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. The sense of dread is meant to motivate the listeners to change their beliefs and actions.'

This thesis statement succeeds because it says what rhetorical devices are going to be analyzed and in what text. It also has an argument that states the purpose of Edwards' argument.

Body

If the thesis statement tells you what the argument is, then the body shows why your argument is right and provides evidence to support it. A good approach is to analyze the three classical appeals and how they are used in the text.

It is also important to analyze who the speaker is and who the audience is. You can analyze all three appeals (e.g. observe one appeal in a paragraph or two), or you can analyze just one of the appeals (e.g. analyzing only pathos like the example below). You could also analyze the relationship between two or all three of the appeals.

'Edwards pathos appeals to fear. He does so by creating a terrifying image of hell as a place of fire, destruction, and infinite torture. He says that the sinner "deserve[s] to be cast into hell" and that "justice calls aloud for infinite punishment." God in his anger holds "[t]he sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads."2 Moreover, the listener who believed in such a place of hell would have remembered his own sins and been terrified by his doom.'

This analysis works because it explains how pathos is being used and then uses textual evidence to support its claim.

Conclusion

The conclusion is the final statement of a paper. It summarizes the main argument and the evidence that has been presented throughout the essay. It also highlights the most important aspects of the essay and whether the author of the original text was successful or not in their use of the appeals.

'The sinner who heard Edwards would have been so struck with fear that he would repent of his sins. This is because Edwards imagery of hell and description of a wrathful God, scared sinners so much that they did not need a rational reason to convert. Edwards power of pathos tapped into their instinct to survive in both this life and their next future one.'

This conclusion works because it recaps the argument, but it also concludes the argument with the most important reason why Edwards pathos was effective. Plus, it makes a statement on whether or not Edwards argument was successful.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay - Key takeaways

  • A Rhetorical Analysis Essay analyzes how an author or speaker says something, instead of what they say.
  • When analyzing rhetoric, you can determine how persuasive someone is based on how effectively they use logos, pathos, and ethos.
  • Logos is the persuasive appeal to rationality, reason, and abstract thought.
  • Pathos is the persuasive appeal to emotions and concrete ideas.
  • Ethos is the persuasive appeal to a speaker's credibility and expertise.
  • Logos, pathos, and ethos were derived from Aristotle's theory of rhetoric.
  • A rhetorical analysis essay is outlined and structured similar to any other essay. It includes an introduction with a thesis statement, body paragraphs with supporting evidence, and a conclusion.

1 Aristotle in The School of Athens, Raphael, 151

2 Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of Angry God, 1741

3 Seth Abrams, "Tear Down This Wall" Rhetorical Analysis, 21

Frequently Asked Questions about Rhetorical Analysis Essay

A rhetorical analysis essay analyzes the devices of persuasion and their effectiveness. It breaks down an author's argument and examines not what is said, but it's said.

A rhetorical analysis essay begins with a thesis that makes an argument about whether or not a speaker or author was persuasive. The body analyzes the three Aristotelian appeals and says why they're effective or not. The conclusions wraps up the entire essay into a coherent argument.

An example of a rhetorical analysis essay would be an essay that examines how pathos is used in The Great Gatsby.

The main features of a rhetorical analysis essay are the analysis of logos, pathos, and ethos.

A rhetorical analysis essay is structured similarly to any other essay including an introductory paragraph with a thesis, body paragraphs with supporting evidence, and a conclusion.

Final Rhetorical Analysis Essay Quiz

Question

What does a rhetorical analysis essay analyze?

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Answer

How effective a person's argument is

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Question

What are the three classical appeals of persuasion?

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Answer

Logos, pathos, ethos

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Question

Which appeal is meant to persuade by using reason?

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Answer

Logos

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Which appeal persuades by using emotion?

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Answer

Pathos

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Who developed the classical appeals?

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Answer

Aristotle

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Which appeal persuades by giving the speaker credibility or authority?

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Answer

Ethos

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Question

A syllogism is an example of what kind of appeal?

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Answer

Logos

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Question

Analogies, stories, and images are examples of what rhetorical appeal?

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Answer

Pathos

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Question

A scientific argument would mainly use what classic appeal?

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Answer

Logos

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Question

What is the structure of a rhetorical analysis essay?

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Answer

Thesis, Body, Conclusion

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Question

What does a thesis contain?

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Answer

An essays primary argument

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What does the body of a rhetorical analysis do?

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Answer

Provides evidence and support for your thesis

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Question

What is a Real Audience?

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Answer

A Real Audience is anyone who reads your writing. 

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Question

What is an Intended Audience?

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Answer

The Intended Audience is who you are trying to influence with your writing.

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Question

What two questions can you ask yourself when you want to determine the audience of a piece of writing?

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Answer

  1. What is this paper about? 
  2. What kind of people would this paper typically attract? 

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Question

What three questions can you ask yourself when choosing a target audience for your paper?

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Answer

  1. Who do I want to reach with my writing?
  2. What about my topic interests my audience?
  3. Who would agree/disagree with what I write?

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Question

Why is knowing your audience important?

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Answer

Knowing your audience can help you structure your writing so that the main point of the paper, email, or story is most easily understood.

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Question

True or False: 

The Real Audience and the Intended Audience are never the same.

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Answer

False

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Ture or False:

When writing your paper, it's usually better to assume that your audience knows less than you.

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Answer

True

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What are the two types of audience that you must consider?

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Real Audience and Intended Audience

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Typically, the more specific your audience is the                the audience will be.

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smaller

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Typically, the more general your audience is the                the audience will be.

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Answer

bigger

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Question

Why are counterarguments helpful in essays?

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Answer

They can help emphasize why your thesis is correct!

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What does "author's technique" mean?

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An author's technique is the way they use their writing to create a desired response from a reader.

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The reader's response is arguably the _______ of the text.

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Purpose

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There are two major elements of author's technique: ______ & _______

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Rhetorical strategies & language choice

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How does rhetorical strategy function as a technique for authors to use?

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Answer

It gives the text structure

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Question

What type of rhetorical strategy is a historical fiction author least likely to use as the main mode for their writing?

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Illustration/ exemplification

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Question

The following is an example of an author using what type of rhetorical strategy?

Libraries are an excellent place to study. Consider, for example, the enforced peace and quiet found in libraries everywhere.

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Answer

Illustration/ exemplification

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Question

How can knowing rhetorical strategies help a reader understand a piece of writing?

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Answer

Knowing the rhetorical strategy an author chooses to use can give you insight into their motivation for writing, which is very helpful in understanding the text. 

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Question

Sentence structure is an example of ________ as an author's technqiue.

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Language choice

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Diction is another way of saying ________.

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Word choice

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Question

The difference between simile and metaphor is... 

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Similes use the words "like" or "as" to compare two things, whereas metaphors make a direct comparison.

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Question

Which literary device is missing from the list:

Simile

Metaphor

Hyperbole

Symbolism

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Personification

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Which literary device communicates that one thing can represent something else?

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Symbolism

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Which literary device is used here: 
The wind is a bully today!

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Personification

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Which of the following is not an example of fictional element choice?

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Statistics

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Why do author's choose one technique over another?

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Every choice an author makes about how to write affects how the audience will receive the text. Different author techniques will produce different pieces of writing, and so authors make intentional decisions about how they choose to communicate their message.

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Question

What does language choice mean?

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Language choice refers to the choice of words and style of expression an author uses, whether in speech or writing.

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Language choice is also referred to as ________. 

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Diction

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Language choice is a key element of rhetorical analysis because... 

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it communicates more than just the literal meaning of words.

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Question

The following is an example of which type of language choice:


Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me?  (Amazing Grace, 1779)

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Answer

Abstract

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True or false: People never shift from one way of speaking to another

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True

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Is an author more likely to use a colloquialism in formal writing or informal writing?

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Informal

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Language choice carries with it both connotations as well as __________.

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Denotations

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Connotation means...

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implied or suggested meaning that is attached to a word 

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Denotation means... 

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 the literal meaning of words.

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True or false: language choice can have connotations

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True

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Question

What is an "emotional tag" 

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An implied or suggested meaning of a word

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Question

The following is an example of what type of language choice: 

The meteorological situation is not favorable. 

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Answer

Pedantic

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