What is a rhetorical analysis?
A rhetorical analysis is writing that seeks to analyze whether an author was able to inform, entertain and persuade the target audience through the devices used in writing.
In a rhetorical analysis, a writer is required to talk about parts of another author’s text by looking into their target audience, how they presented their arguments, and their use of the persuasion strategies, which are, logos (logic), pathos (emotions), and ethos (ethics). You can analyze various materials through rhetorical analysis. These are speeches, films, novels, academic articles, art exhibits, or advertisements.
Strategies of writing an effective rhetorical analysis
Ancient Greek philosophers established that persuasion is not achieved by luck. Rather, it results from the intentional use of specific persuasion devices. Furthermore, they established that three persuasion devices must be employed in any communication to achieve persuasion. These devices are sometimes called methods of psychological persuasion. It is impossible to write an effective rhetorical analysis without understanding these three methods and how they are applied in any communication.
The three methods of persuasion are as follows;
A writer uses a device for their audience to view them as credible. In other words, this device is employed to convince the target audience that the particular writer is qualified to talk about the matter they are addressing in their writing. For the reader to take time to read your writing on a specific issue, they first need to feel that they trust you in giving opinions, suggestions, and direction concerning that issue because you are an expert in the respective field. This method of persuasion is usually applied at the beginning of the writing because the readers need to, first of all, know who the author is, what the author’s profession is, and what makes the author qualified to talk to the target audience about that particular topic. The reader will be encouraged to read the writing when the author is first viewed as an authority in that particular issue.
The Greek words for pathos are ‘experience,’ ’emotion,’ or ‘suffering.’ The main purpose of this device is to arouse a specific emotion in the target audience, which the reader believes will be resourceful in inciting the target audience to act in an intended manner. Great orators have employed this method of persuasion in history, like the former president of the United States of America, Barrack Obama, and Adolf Hitler. The use of pathos was particularly crucial in achieving Hitler’s objective. He used pathos in all his speeches to arouse hate towards the Jews in the hearts of the Germans, and after sparking the hate emotion in their hearts, he was able to move them to action and gain support for his plan of getting rid of the Jews.
The application of pathos is done through storytelling, personal anecdotes, and metaphors. Advertisers are some of the experts in the application of pathos. For example, they may use images of a sad, poor kid on a billboard, and below the image have a call to action that asks you to donate to a particular orphanage.
The Greek words for logos are, ‘reason’, ‘plea’, ‘ground’, ‘opinion’. Ethos is the use of credibility; pathos uses emotions, and logos uses logic, facts, critical thinking, and proven results. An author may make a point or suggestion, and to convince the reader about the suggestion, the author states facts or statistics concerning the suggestion. That combination shows that all these methods of persuasion are necessary to move the target audience to the desired action. That is a fact because sometimes, people require facts to be moved to action. They need to look at statistics of previous outcomes due to the action they are being asked to take to be sure of the result when they decide to take that specific action. There are also times when all that a target audience needs is a message that appeals to them on an emotional level. Furthermore, studies in psychology say that all decisions are based on emotions which the subject later tries to justify with logic.
Therefore appealing to the target audience on an emotional level is critical to achieving persuasion, but all three methods have to be present in a persuasive message.
Understanding the three devices is crucial in a rhetorical essay because they help you determine whether the author of particular writing achieved success through their application.
A step by step guide of a credible rhetorical analysis
- Reading and analyzing the text.
Writing a credible rhetorical analysis starts with carefully reading the given text. While reading, single out the important information to make your analysis process easier.
- Take note of the strategies used in the text.
The following guidelines should be on your mind as you take notes of the strategies employed in the text.
– Who the author is and who the target audience is.
-What was the end goal of the text?
-What is the significance of the setting to the message? What is the purpose of the author picking that specific setting?
- Identify the persuasive tactics in writing.
Under logos, you can identify a statement such as; numerous studies have shown leaders are made and not born.
Structure of a rhetorical analysis
A rhetorical essay is broken down into the following parts;
- Body paragraph
How to write an informative introduction
The introduction is your opportunity to impress the reader into reading the whole rhetorical analysis.
An informative rhetorical analysis introduction demonstrates to the reader that you have fully comprehended the text that you are about to analyze. Therefore, it should be short but have enough relevant information.
Having understood the author’s message, start with a summary of the text. Having the summary at the beginning demonstrates to the reader that you fully understand the message that the writer was trying to convey and that you are competent enough to analyze the text.
After that, you can state the persuasive devices employed by the writer and whether or not they have any effect.
A thesis statement is usually expected at the end of the introduction.
You can therefore proceed to write the thesis statement, which in other words, is your opinion of the writer’s text. The thesis statement is supposed to answer four questions: who, why, what, and how.
The following are examples of an informative introduction.
- An example of establishing credibility.
In one of his greatest speeches, Martin Luther King Jr, an iconic activist in America and advocate of equality, and one of his greatest speeches, ‘I HAVE A DREAM’ (1963), argues that racial prejudice should be stopped.
- An example of the development of the thesis
In this speech, Martin Luther King Jr refers to the constitution of the United States of America, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Declaration of Independence to show that his ideas are valid.
- An example of that demonstrates their end goal.
In his speech, the writer challenges civil rights movements to intervene and be at the forefront in solving the issue of racial discrimination.
- An example of the author explaining the target audience’s relationship to the author.
The speech’s message is targeted at American citizens, and the author portrays a relationship where all citizens are equal by saying that we are all God’s children.
Tips of body paragraphs
The body paragraph is the section where you are expected to give a critical analysis. Body paragraphs are expected to contain your explanation of how the author used the persuasion devices to inform, entertain, and persuade the readers.
-State instances where the author used persuasive language.
-To avoid the clutter of information, each explanation should be in its respective paragraph.
Guidelines for identifying the strategies of the author
To effectively identify the strategies employed by the author, you need to be guided by the following questions.
-How does this device work?
-How has the strategy been applied?
-What device did the author use to approach the target audience?
What were the target audience’s feelings as a result of the devices?
- An example of transitioning into the body paragraphs
King starts his speech confidently, calling for slavery to be abolished.
- What is the most effective way of supporting an idea?
He says that Five score years ago, a great American in whose shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation and completes with a metaphor claiming that this event came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
- Example of how to use examples to support the idea.
King uses several techniques like prophetic voice, voice merging, and dynamic spectacle in making this statement.
- An example of connecting another idea to the previous idea is in the last paragraph.
- After emphasizing the idea of abolishing slavery, King makes a contradictory statement, “but one hundred years later the Negro still is not free,” to show the extent of the issue.
- Example of supporting the idea.
How to write a comprehensive conclusion
You are now ready to write the conclusion after stating all the relevant details in the body paragraphs with proper citations. Like most essays, the conclusion is about summarizing the explanations you did in the body paragraphs. State whether the author successfully changed the target audience’s opinion concerning the message contained in the text. If the author successfully changed the opinion of the target audience and managed to move them into action, explain the implication of those actions on society.
The last sentence of the conclusion should state the significance of the author’s writing and how the devices employed helped change society for good.
- An example of restating the thesis
The King’s speech insists on ending racial discrimination.