Rhetorical Analysis Essay Examples

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Examples

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A rhetorical analysis makes it possible to consider various aspects of written texts, speeches, and videos addressed to a large target audience. Writing a piece of rhetorical analysis is a standard assignment at college and university. It demonstrates a student’s ability to interpret a text (or a work of art) and see whether the author is successful in bringing his or her point across. Besides, it contributes to the necessary basis for creating your own texts of different genres. This essay type allows evaluating work structure, the usage of stylistic devices, as well as the author’s appeals.

What makes an excellent example of rhetorical analysis essay

As a matter of fact, estimating appeals is essential to all rhetorical analysis essay examples. There are three types of appeal, and you are to understand what they mean. Otherwise, you will build your analysis on false arguments. Here is what a student should and shouldn’t do when describing the author’s appeals:

Ethical appeals:

Do: When you talk about Ethos in your rhetorical analysis, you are to explain how credible the author is in the field he or she describes. For example,

“Carol Kaufmann, the author of Washington Post article ‘Little mean girls: Helping your daughter swim in those choppy social waters’ is a well-known writer. Above all, Kaufmann is a mother of an adolescent, so the issue of bullying at school is really acute to her, and she has conducted profound research on the topic.”

As you can see, it is not necessary for the author to be a professional in the field you consider, but it is always good to demonstrate that he or she indeed has a say.

Don’t: It is a common mistake to think that ‘ethical appeals’ have to do with ethics in the general meaning of the word. Interestingly, of all appeal types, this has nothing to do with it.

Pathetic appeals:

Do: These type of appeal is the author’s emotional message to the audience. This is not about knowledge or common sense, but about feelings evoked in the audience’s hearts. For example,

“Among others feelings, loneliness is audibly conveyed in Who Wants to Live Forever written and performed by Queen. This is not a kind of sweet solitude. This is what you face when there is nobody in the world to whom you could feel connected. It is peculiar that the meaning of the word ‘we’ in the first part of the song is different from that in the second part. At first, there are ‘us’ who have no place in this world. These are a lot of people who feel torn from the society and see no point in living one or many lives. Later, when the tone changes, ‘we’ means ‘together,’ ‘with each other’s help and support.’ It is shown how loneliness gets broken, yet leaving some tint of bitterness.

Don’t: You tell about your personal feelings in a reflective essay. As for a piece of rhetorical analysis, you should write about emotions the author wants to convey and whether he or she has succeeded in it. So, you can write nothing like: “When I read/hear/watch it, I feel like…”

Logical appeals

Do: These appeals aim at convincing the audience with the help of evidence, facts, data, statistics, etc. So you are to draw parallels between facts and the author’s goals.

Don’t: You can only describe logos if it is used by the author. For example, in our rhetorical analysis of Who Wants to Live Forever, you can’t state that its only background is the events of Highlander (1986). It may be your opinion based on the knowledge that Who Wants to Live Forever was initially a soundtrack to this movie. However, since no other author confirms your point in the song or, at least, an interview (which one could use as a secondary source), this is not logos. This is just your personal opinion which is unacceptable in rhetorical analysis.

Mind that besides appeals, there are several critical aspects you should reveal when you write a rhetorical analysis:

  • whether or not the author achieves his/her goal;
  • communicative failures and their causes;
  • types of arguments. They may be, for example, disproving or supporting, etc.;
  • effectiveness of argumentation;
  • composition of a speech or a text;
  • imagery in a text;
  • in case it is a speech, a painting, or a video – other expressive means – gestures, images, colors, etc.;
  • demagogic and manipulative techniques.

Rhetorical analysis essay examples with explanations

Here, we provide you with some samples to give you a clue how to write this type of essay. Each example of a rhetorical analysis essay gets graded, and the grade gets explained to let you see how you should and shouldn’t write a rhetorical analysis.

Rhetorical analysis essay example #1

Henry David Thoreau is a famous American author, abolitionist, and philosopher. An essential feature of his political stand is resisting unfair taxes.

In his well-known essay ‘Civil Disobedience,’ Thoreau argues that people should not allow the government to dominate their consciousness. In the author’s opinion, once people make any concessions to the government, they risk falling prey to injustice.

There are several pathetic appeals to different feelings of his readers. The imagery of jail aims at evoking fear. After all, it does not matter whether you get sent to prison because you do not pay taxes or because of false accusations. You will find yourself in that dark, dirty place and no one can guarantee that you will ever go out of it as a free man.

Fear is not Thoreau’s ultimate goal. He uses it as a foundation for a more substantial pathetic appeal. He wants readers to feel enraged with the government’s actions of various origin: imposing taxes to support the war, sending people to jail without any evidence, etc. He never states that one should oppose the government as it is or that there should not be any government at all. The problem is in particular actions of this government. Thoreau’s main idea conveyed through both Pathos and Logos is that politics should not contradict human conscience. In case it does, there should not be such politics – not vice versa.

In conclusion, one can rest assured that Henry David Thoreau has managed to bring his primary message to the audience that government should not change the moral principle of the whole country and that politics is to be driven by conscience.

This rhetorical analysis essay example drastically lacks evidence. In this case, it would benefit from citing the primary source as well as opinions of credible Thoreau’s critics. One can state that even though the writer mentions Henry Thoreau’s use of logos, there are no logical appeals revealed in the text. But there are still good arguments, and this essay structure is quite clear. So, this example of rhetorical analysis essay can get a C+.

Rhetorical analysis essay example #2

Due to various Internet resources, Harvard Commencement speeches have become a source of inspiration for much a broader audience than Harvard graduates of a particular year. This essay will analyze one of the most well-known Harvard speeches. This is the rhetorical analysis of J.K Rowling’s Harvard Commencement address. Although it took place a decade ago, it is still considered very influential. This speech is not only popular with Harry Potter fans. Many motivational speakers and coaches regularly cite it because the topic – learning and growing from failure – is very acute.

Rowling starts addressing graduates with a whole range of jokes. She says that she even managed to ‘lose weight’ when she was preparing for this speech. It is true that the majority of speakers state at the very beginning how nervous but thankful they are to be there. Rowling does the same thing in an exaggerated joking manner. However, this is an essential point that eventually brings listeners to the main idea of her address. Then, comes a hook meant to attract everybody’s attention. The author almost literally says “You have to remember my speech,” using sharp irony. Rowling says that she can’t remember a word from Baroness Mary Warnock’s speech she heard on her graduation day. She also claims that it is liberating because her own speech will probably not have much impact. Then, she uses a finishing ‘gay wizard joke’ to make sure she beats Baroness Mary Warnock. When a ‘hook’ part of the introduction is over, Rowling proceeds to the thesis statement. She informs the audience about the subject matter of her speech which is failure. The author uses pathos appealing to listeners with an antithesis: ‘your academic success – failure,’ ‘real life – imagination.’ It is clear from the reaction that Rowling has achieved her goal. Talking about failure and imagining things was sincerely surprising ten years ago. Somebody gasped, and it has become apparent that the speaker has the full attention of the listeners.

Rowling tells her own story of how she has chosen to study Classics and how her parents couldn’t support her because of their social background. They wanted their daughter not to be poor (appealing to the desire for being wealthy is, apparently, the usage of Pathos under the circumstances.) She tells about personal responsibility using her own background (as a case of Logos) and a range of metaphors and metonymies (‘would never pay a mortgage,’ ‘an expiry date on blaming your parents,’ ‘old enough to take the wheel,’ etc.) The primary appeal of the speech is not fear as it might seem. The author tells a lot about fearing to fail, but she appeals to the courage to hit bottom and rise.

It also deserves mentioning that the speech has compelling ethical appeals. J.K. Rowling has very memorable and long-lasting experiences of being both extremely poor and tremendously rich. She always uses irony to describe how no one could have imagined to what extent her life would change. She never says ‘No one believed in it, but I did it,’ because there is no need in it. Everybody knows her story, and that is how she connects with the listeners with ironizing and alluding to well-known facts as if they are old friends.

J.K. Rowling’s speech is meant to celebrate life with its ups and downs. This is the life with friendly relations to cherish, with families that wish the best to you even though they might not understand you. Moreover, this is the life without fear that could prevent you from achieving your goals.

This rhetorical analysis essay sample illustrates all the types of appeals. It is true that public speakers’ success largely depends on how they start and manage to interest their audience. The essay writer pays much attention to this point which is indeed beneficial. Besides, ethical appeals are correctly revealed in the essay. There is almost nothing said about the author, her credibility is somehow grounded. However, the essay structure is not perfect, so this piece would get a B.

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