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How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis - A Comprehensive Guide

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 Krishna   August 8, 2022  Assignment  0

To a person who has little knowledge about rhetorical essays, writing a rhetorical analysis essay would be quite a daunting task. So, before we dig into learning how to write a rhetorical analysis essay, we must first fully understand the meaning of rhetorical analysis and its primary objectives.

What is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

Rhetorical analysis is the process that determines whether the author was successful in persuading a reader about a particular statement or standpoint. For writing a rhetorical analysis essay, you must analyze a variety of reports like articles, speeches, journals, and media pieces from a rhetorical point of view to justify an argument.  

While writing a perfect rhetorical analysis essay, you must do an in-depth study of the content, break down every word and sentence to uncover the literary functions used by the author or a poet.

For instance:

"I walked down the narrow lane on a silent night with my mind filled with sharp agony. It was dark; the moon was bright, so I could make my way clear. The owls flapped their leathery wings, and the bats loomed far deep in the jungle. The painful thought of death engulfed my heart once again."

Here, the author uses a couple of literary devices to evoke a sense of pain and depression in the minds of the readers. The writer is trying to create a persuasive statement by injecting words and phrases like "dark" and "silent night". He is persuading his readers that it was night time, and the ambiance was somber. Also, he uses a simile while mentioning the birds of night, like owls and bats. In mythology, such birds bring bad omen. In the very next sentence, we see the author refers to death, meaning the narrator lost someone very dear. It is smart and subtle.

Understanding the Basics of Writing a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Learning how to write a rhetorical analysis essay is incomplete if you don’t understand the meaning of rhetoric analysis. For a proper rhetoric analysis, you need to study how the writers use their words to influence or persuade a reader. There are three main characteristics of a rhetoric analysis:

  • Pathos:

Pathos is a crucial part of successful persuasion. Here, the author needs to bring out an argument that pulls the emotional string of the readers so that they can relate to the writer’s thoughts and understand what he/she is trying to convey.

  • Ethos:

Ethos refers to an author’s credibility. Ethos helps you determine whether the author’s words can be trusted or not. The two types of ethos are:

  • Intrinsic ethos, which refers to the credibility of a message
  • Extrinsic ethos, which characterizes an author’s credibility
  • Logos:

Logos is strictly associated with logical or critical thinking. In this part of a persuasive speech, a writer must make use of relevant facts, numbers, or data to strengthen an argument.

How to Approach a Rhetorical Analysis Paper?

Taking the right approach is extremely important for the success of your rhetorical analysis essay paper. Hence, the SOAPSTone strategy is the ideal one to help you plan your essay and complete it in an organized manner. SOAPSTone stands for Speaker, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Subject, and Tone.

  • Speaker:

“Speaker” refers to the person who is narrating the story. Don’t mistake the speaker with the author. There are times when the author chooses to tell a story from the narrator’s standpoint.

  • Occasion:

"Occasion" refers to the setting of the writing. When you are analyzing the background or "occasion", there are two ways you can look at it – macro and micro view. The macro view helps in understanding when the writer wrote it and in what kind of environment. The micro view is all about understanding where the context was set.

  • Audience:

"Audience" is a group of people for whom the text is written. You need to identify for what kind of audience the text is directed and why it was written for the specific audience(s).

  • Purpose:

Establishing a “purpose” helps you analyze why the author has written the text. You need to understand the message he/she wants to put across and how he/she chooses to do so. This also elaborates on the impact that the piece intends to have on the readers.

  • Subject:

"Subject" is the main discussion of the author, which you need to explain in a few words. You have to identify the main idea and talk about how and when the author reveals the subject.

  • Tone:

"Tone" refers to the author's attitude, which is much reflected by his/her choice of words, structure, and the use of other literary devices. You must extensively analyze the terms to identify his/her attitude, emotions, and perspective. Also, examine the literary tools used to set the tone.

That was all about the meaning of a rhetorical analysis essay, the primary rhetorical appeals, and the best approach for essay writing. Let’s now learn how to create a perfect structure for your rhetorical analysis paper.

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Creating an Outline

There is no obligatory rhetorical analysis outline. However, if your professor doesn’t mention any, you can follow the standard rhetorical analysis outline with 4 or 5 paragraphing styles. Also, remember:

  • Before you start, read all the details carefully and made sufficient notes of the vital facts.
  • Include all the main ideas with relevant facts and data to support your argument.
  • Write a solid thesis statement that covers the crucial points and addresses the primary reasons behind the author's purpose for writing the text.
  • Introduction:

The best way to gain the trust of your readers is to give the evidence that you have read the whole context carefully and understood the text thoroughly. Make your introduction short and informative, mentioning the author's persuasive styles and effects. Don't forget to formulate a compelling thesis statement that answers 'what,' 'how,' 'when,' 'where,' 'who' and 'why.'

  • Body:

After giving your readers an idea about the text, next up is critical analysis. You need to create at least three informative paragraphs explaining the methods used by the writer to inform, persuade, and entertain his/her readers. Make it a point to mention the language that the writer has used - persuasive or sympathetic. In the case of the latter, explain it with relevant proof.

Don't create a mess by trying to mention all strategies in one paragraph. Also, don't miss out answering the following:

  1. How does the chosen strategy work?
  2. What made the author choose this specific approach for his/her audience?
  3. What was the audience’s response to this particular strategy?

Once you have completed writing the body paragraphs, create a persuasive conclusion. Here, you need to give a summary of what you have previously stated. Highlight how the author's piece has created a change in the opinion of his/her audience. In a concluding statement, try to demonstrate the significance of the author's work and how it has impacted society.

Crucial Tips for Writing a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

To make your rhetorical analysis essay more effective, use the following tips recommended by top essay writers:

  1. Gain an in-depth understanding of the rhetorical devices.
  2. Choose a topic that excites you. Don't follow the trend and choose something that is out of your area of interest.
  3. Be careful of the media you are preparing your piece for.
  1. In a speech, you have to consider the pauses and emphases.
  2. In a book, you have to master the use of various literary devices.
  3. In a video, you have to focus on analyzing more content.
  1. Write in the third person and use the present tense. Don't be over critical unless you have relevant data to support your reasoning.
  2. Cite everything properly to make sure that no content is plagiarized. Use proper tools to rectify your punctuation errors.
  3. Maintain a proper transition from one paragraph to another to keep your readers engaged.
  4. Double-check if you have answered every specification. Create a captivating title that justifies your work.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example

Now that we know about the essential factors of writing a rhetorical analysis essay, let’s look at a rhetorical analysis essay example to understand the structure:

A Rhetorical Analysis of “The Mocking Raven” by Frank R. Johnson

Frank R. Johnson is one of America's most significant talents of all time. He was a famous novelist and journalist, mainly known for his masterful fictional thrillers. Johnson's use of metaphors and anecdotes never failed to amaze his readers and put them on the edge of their seats. Despite not being an acclaimed poet, The Mocking Raven remains a classic and has left an everlasting impression on its readers. He has made use of the perfect blend of poetic devices, and rhetoric means for creating a stimulating effect.

Johnson’s poem The Mocking Raven highlights the struggle of a mid-aged man possessed by ghosts of his past in coping with a chaotic present. Johnson beautifully hints at his impending psychosomatic breakdown and uses dominant ethos for evoking the feelings of despair, anxiety, and paranoia. When you start reading the first stanza, you can understand how lonely and tormented the invisible character feels. With every new verse, the tone gets darker and melancholic. Every time the words "Nothing more" is uttered, readers get the impression of the character losing his mind to hopelessness and sorrow.

Throughout his life, Johnson was haunted by personal misfortunes. He was scarred for life by the traumatizing death of his mother. He lost his only beloved at a young age. With these experiences, he developed a strange fascination for death and ghoulish incidents. His adult life was no happy tale either. Some experts firmly believe that Johnson was suffering from Dysthymia, a case of long-term chronic depression.

Dark elements appear in his novels and poems predominantly. The Mocking Raven is a picturization of a man who is ready to embrace death with open arms. Johnson employs anaphora to bring out the significance of insanity raging in his heart. He stays true to his theme when he successfully transmits from his train of thoughts of an irrational man who is grieving for all the misfortunes, to an absolute lunatic who encompasses a giant raven "stabbing through his soul."

Johnson has used alliteration to emphasize the feeling of paranoia. With the combination of both alliteration and anaphora, we can identify a soul that has lost the will to live.

The Mocking Raven is undoubtedly an anthropomorphic metaphor for death. We cannot purely state that there’s a raven “stabbing him” in the room as no other character justifies the existence of the bird of death. But the metaphor is so well construed that readers sometimes feel mortified themselves.

As the readers proceed with the poem, they can sense the narrator's optimism slowly seeping through the cracks. Every time he quotes "nothing more," we get a separate verse where he is making an excuse. We are not sure whether it is part of his grieving process or his insanity. Johnson wasn't the first writer who used denial to paint an eerie picture. However, when he wrote The Mocking Raven, he was grieving and feeling guilty for letting his beloved die in his arms. Experts say that Lilly, the maiden in the poem, is his wife. If we take this assumption as the truth, it is safe to say that Johnson is the protagonist in this poem.

We are aware that Johnson's wife died because he didn't have the financial means to save her from a gruesome illness. In that sense, a narrator fighting the bird of death has his significance coming from the graves of Hell to torture a grieving soul. By hiding his true self behind the invisible narrator, Johnson gathers the courage to say what he wasn't brave enough to say out loud in reality. With that, he considers himself a murderer.

This hypothesis uses anaphora throughout the poem. Not only has the narrator allowed paranoia to consume his mind and soul, but he has also questioned the legitimacy of human existence. Every time he looks at the bird of death, readers get a great picture of his troubled mind. The narrator's constant attempts to escape from the miseries of life and emotions are Johnson's failed attempts of escaping his miserable state of mind.

Essential Takeaways:

  1. The aboverhetorical analysis essay example does a notable job of interpreting the meaning of the poem and the poet's use of rhetoric.
  2. However, avoid focusing too much on the meaning of the text and try to focus on the main text instead.
  3. Avoid providing so much detail about the poet and his personal life as it is irrelevant to your rhetorical analysis paper.

Writing a rhetorical analysis essay can get taxing. But with an in-depth understanding and regular practice, you can score well in this paper.

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