Rhetorical Analysis Essay

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." Like the other kinds of essay, a rhetorical analysis essay is a kind of adventure: one that crosses the realms of logic, emotions, and ethics. Journey on!

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Rhetorical Analysis Essay

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Table of contents

    Rhetorical Analysis Definition

    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.

    Rhetorical Analysis Essay Elements

    Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. According to Aristotle, three types of appeals can sway a person into believing something. They are classically known as logos, pathos, and ethos. These appeals can persuade because of human nature.

    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.


    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 uses logos in their text, 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 that 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, not 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 for 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 written for research is examined, the most important aspect of that paper is the appeal to logos.

    Rhetorical analysis essay. Someone doing a sudoku. StudySmarter.Fig. 1 - Logic is almost mathematical


    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 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.

    Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline

    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.

    Rhetorical analysis essay examples are included!

    Outline of a Rhetorical Analysis Essay


    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.


    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's 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."1 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.

    Rhetorical analysis essay. Burning coals. StudySmarterFig. 2 - Pathos may appeal to fear


    The last part you'll write is the conclusion. This is important and deserves its own section!

    Rhetorical Analysis 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's imagery of hell and description of a wrathful God scared sinners so much that they did not need a rational reason to convert. Edwards's power of pathos tapped into their instinct to survive in both this life and their next one.

    This conclusion works because it recaps the argument, but it also concludes the argument with the most important reason why Edwards's pathos was effective. Plus, it makes a statement on whether or not Edwards's 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 Jonathan Edwards. Sinners in the Hands of Angry God. 1741.

    Frequently Asked Questions about Rhetorical Analysis Essay

    What is a 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.

    How should you write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

    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.

    What is an example of a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

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

    What are the features of a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

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

    What is the structure of a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

    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.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What does a rhetorical analysis essay analyze?

    What are the three classical appeals of persuasion?

    Which appeal is meant to persuade by using reason?

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