An introduction to rhetoric: using the “available means” Rhetoric = Persuasion of an Audience

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Rhetoric = Persuasion of an Audience

  • Used effectively, rhetoric can:
  • Resolve conflicts without confrontation
  • Persuade readers or listeners to support your position
  • Move others to take action

“Forrest Gump”

  • “Forrest Gump” When Bubba goes home, 3 mins.
  • What words make you want to cry/feel sad?
  • How would you describe Bubba’s attitude towards his own death?
  • How would you describe Forrest’s attitude towards Bubba’s dying?


  • “Spaceballs”, When will then be now/ 2 mins.
  • What words make you laugh/smile?

“The Newsroom”

  • “The Newsroom”, tea party, 6 mins.
  • What words make you angry?
  • How does the speaker feel about his subject?
  • What does he want his audience to feel?

“Hotel Rwanda”

  • “Hotel Rwanda” cut down the tall trees 3 mins.
  • What is said that makes you feel afraid?
  • How does the speaker feel about the “tall trees”?
  • What is he really saying?

“Shawshank Redemption”

  • “Shawshank Redemption” opera for all, 4 mins.
  • What made you feel inspired?
  • So what else besides words can make you feel something?
  • Music?
  • Character’s actions? Facial expressions? Gestures?
  • Characters interacting?
  • How does character convey his defiance and euphoria?


  • “Poltergeist” clown, 4 mins.
  • What words, actions, music, lighting, other, causes your fear? Cause the boy’s terror?

“To Kill A Mockingbird”,

  • “To Kill A Mockingbird”, Hey, Boo, 2 mins.
  • What words, music, actions, lighting, etc. cause you to feel wistful, compassionate, thankful, and/or reflective? How do you think Scout’s feelings are portrayed here? How would you describe Atticus’s feelings?

“The Dead”

  • “The Dead” all over Ireland, 5 mins.
  • What emotions does this scene evoke in you, and what emotions does the speaker feel? What words, actions, lighting and/or music help convey the speaker’s feelings and evoke your feelings?

Key Elements of Rhetoric:

  • Read Lou Gehrig’s speech in your handout (pp1-2) and listen to it now:

What makes Gehrig’s speech so good?

  • Context, purpose, thesis, subject, speaker and audience:
  • First, Gehrig understood the context (the occasion, time and place: Appreciation Day in his honor, at Yankee Stadium after he’s received his diagnosis.)
  • Gehrig delivers his speech between games of a double header. (Context)

What else?

  • Gehrig also had a goal or purpose to achieve with his speech.
  • He knows everyone is celebrating his career, and he doesn’t want them to pity him. He only refers to his illness once, because his focus is on acknowledging his success and getting back in the game! (Purpose)

And finally:

  • Gehrig has a clear main idea (thesis, claim, or
  • assertion): He is “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
  • Gehrig knows his subject (baseball w/ the Yankees)
  • Although he is a gifted ball player, as a speaker, Gehrig presents himself as a common man, modest and thankful for his opportunities.
  • He knows his audience is his fans and fellow athletes.

Aristotle’s Rhetorical Triangle:

When you write, consider first your persona:

  • What is your identity (persona) as the writer?
  • Poet?
  • Comedian?
  • Scholar?
  • Expert?
  • Critic?
  • Concerned Citizen?

Who is your audience?

  • English class?
  • Employer?
  • College admissions counselors?
  • Your whole community?

Appeals to Ethos, Logos, Pathos:

  • Ethos: speakers appeal to ethos (character), to demonstrate that they are credible and trustworthy.
  • Appeals to ethos can emphasize shared values between the speaker and the audience.
  • A speaker’s reputation can establish ethos.
  • The speaker’s ethos (expertise and knowledge, experience, training, sincerity or a combination of these) gives the audience a reason for listening.

Appeals to Logos:

  • Writers and speakers appeal to logos (reason) by offering clear, rational ideas.
  • Appealing to logos means having a clear main idea (thesis) backed up by specific details, examples, facts, statistical data or expert testimony.
  • A counterargument is another appeal to logos. By acknowledging opposing views, making concessions and then refuting the opposing view’s validity, you demonstrate your persuasive strength.

Appeals to Pathos:

  • Appeals to pathos are appeals to emotion.
  • Appeals to pathos engage your audience’s feelings.
  • Appeals to pathos can be made by using words with strong connotations.
  • Personal anecdotes and figurative language, achieve pathos.
  • Arguments that appeal only to pathos (emotions) are usually propagandist in purpose and more polemical than persuasive.
  • The visual can carry strong emotional appeal.

Analyzing Elements of Rhetoric in an Argument:


Analyzing Jody Heyman’s Elements of Rhetoric: Ethos:

  • By referring to “our government”, Heyman establishes ethos in her opening paragraph, indicating that even though she is being critical, she is doing so on behalf of the audience.
  • To further cement her ethos, in the very next paragraph, Heyman provides information that establishes her as a credible expert: she has collected data for Harvard and McGill universities.

Heyman’s Audience:

  • Heyman’s article was an opinion piece appearing in The Washington Post, a well-respected liberal-leaning publication, thus Heyman may assume her audience will be more receptive to her position.
  • It is always important to know where any article was first published, because this can give you a better understanding of the audience the writer was targeting.

Heyman’s Logos:

  • Heyman frames her view not as a women’s rights issue but as an economic one.
  • She develops her argument for several paragraphs with facts and figures, from data she has collected.
  • She cites policies in other countries, contrasting their policies with those of the US.
  • She appeals to reason by analyzing cause and effect. When she compares situations of low- and middle-income mothers, she emphasizes the effect on each group of not having paid sick leave or “work flexibility.”

Heyman’s Logos, con’d:

  • Heyman notes the disparity between men’s and women’s working conditions in order to emphasize the burdens carried by women, who are less likely to have the means to shoulder them.
  • Heyman continues her appeals to logos by refuting “myths” in three counterarguments. She refutes the myth that decent work conditions will lead to high unemployment by citing Iceland’s low unemployment, paid annual leave and sick leave.

Heyman’s Pathos:

  • By using the occasion of Mother’s Day and the warm feelings surrounding it to appeal to the audience’s emotions, Heyman uses pathos.
  • “If politicians…in the US really valued mothers and families on Mother’s Day,” she suggests, they would enact policies she advocates.
  • By writing, “Happy Mother’s Day” in her final sentence, Heyman uses the emotional power of Mother’s Day to compel readers to consider her argument.

Einstein’s letter to Phyllis Wright:


Analyzing Einstein’s letter:

  • How rhetorically effective do you find Einstein’s response?
  • Explain your answer in terms of subject, speaker, audience; context and purpose; and appeals to logos, ethos and pathos.

Visual Rhetoric:

Tom Toles’ cartoon on Rose Parks: subject, speaker and audience:

  • Political cartoons are often satiric, but not always.
  • The subject: the death of Rose Parks, a well-known person loved by many.
  • The speaker: Tom Toles, respected, award-winning political cartoonist.
  • The audience: readers of The Washington Post and other newspapers, a very broad audience, whom Toles can assume share his respect and grief.

Toles’ context and purpose:

  • The context: a memorial for a well-loved civil rights activist.
  • Toles’ purpose: to remember Parks as an ordinary citizen whose courage and determination brought extraordinary results.

Toles’ use of ethos, pathos and logos:

  • Ethos: established through readers’ familiarity with Toles, along with his respect for his subject.
  • Pathos: established by showing Parks, a devout Christian entering heaven, wearing a simple coat and carrying her pocketbook, as she did on the bus, being greeted by St. Peter probably.
  • Both pathos and logos are appealed to through the caption. Its emotional appeal is its acknowledgement that of course, heaven would wait for this good woman, but the mention of “the front row” appeals to logic, because Parks made her mark in history by refusing to sit in the back of the bus.

Arrangement in The Classical Model

  • The Introduction:
  • The introduction (exordium) introduces the reader to the subject under discussion. In Latin, exordium means “beginning a web,” which is an apt description for an introduction.
  • Whether a single paragraph or several, the introduction draws the readers into the text by piquing their interest, challenging them, or otherwise getting their attention.

Arrangement in the Classical Model:

  • The Narration:
  • The narration (narratio) provides factual information and background material on the subject at hand, thus beginning the developmental paragraphs, or establishes why the subject is a problem that needs addressing.
  • The level of detail a writer uses in this section depends largely on the audience’s knowledge of the subject.
  • Although classical rhetoric describes narration as appealing to logos, in actuality it often appeals to pathos because the writer attempts to evoke an emotional response about the importance of the issue being discussed.

Arrangement in the Classical Model:

  • The Confirmation:
  • The confirmation (confirmatio) usually the major part of the text, includes the development or the proof needed to make the writer’s case—the nuts and bolts of the essay, containing the most specific and concrete detail in the text.
  • The confirmation generally makes the strongest appeal to logos.

Arrangement in the Classical Model:

  • The Refutation:
  • The refutation (refutatio) which addresses the counterargument, is in many ways a bridge between the writer’s proof and conclusions. Although classical rhetoricians recommended placing this section at the end of the text to anticipate objections to proofs from the confirmation, this is not a hard-and-fast rule.
  • The counterargument’s appeal is largely to logos.

Arrangement in the Classical Model:

  • The Conclusion:
  • The conclusion (peroratio)—whether it is one paragreaph or several, brings the essay to a satisfying close.
  • Here the writer usually appeals to pathos and reminds the reader of the ethos established earlier.
  • Rather than simply repeating what has gone before, the conclusion brings all the writer’s ideas together and answers the question, So what?
  • Writers should remember the classical rhetoricians’ advice that the last words and ideas of a text are those the audience is most likely to remember.

Not By Math Alone: The Classical Model:


Analysis of Example of Classical Model:

  • Sandra Day O’Connor and Roy Romer follow the classical model closely.
  • The last sentence is their two-part claim/thesis:
  • “Most young people today simply do not have an adequate understanding of how our government and political system work, and they are thus not well prepared to participate as citizens.”

Analysis of Example of Classical Model:

  • O’Connor’s position as a Supreme Court justice establishes her ethos as a reasonable person, an advocate for justice and a concerned citizen. Romer’s bio note at the end of the article suggests similar qualities.
  • The authors use the pronoun “we” to refer not only to themselves but to all of “us” who are concerned about American society. (ethos)
  • The opening phrase “Fierce global competition” connotes a sense of urgency, and the warning that we are not adequately preparing our young to participate as citizens evokes an emotional concern/alarm. (pathos)

Analysis of Example of Classical Model:

  • In paragraphs 3-6—the narration—the authors provide background info, including facts that add urgency to their point. They cite statistics, quote from research reports, even call on John Dewey, famous education expert.
  • They also include a definition of “civic learning,” a key term in their argument.
  • Their facts and figures appeal is largely to logos, though the language of “a healthy democracy” certainly engages the emotions. (pathos)

Another type of Arrangement: Patterns of Development

  • Another way to consider arrangement is according to purpose.
  • Is the writer’s purpose to compare and contrast, to narrate an event, to define a term?
  • Each of these purposes suggests a method of organization, or arrangement.
  • These patterns of development include a range of logical ways to organize an entire text or, individual paragraphs or sections.

Using Narration to develop your idea:

  • Narration refers to telling a story or recounting a series of events.
  • It can be based on personal experience or knowledge gained from reading or observation.
  • Chronology usually governs Narration, which includes concrete detail, a point of view and sometimes dialogue.
  • Narration is about an appealing story, but more than that it is about crafting a story that supports your thesis.
  • Writers often use Narration as a way to enter into their topics.

Rebecca Walker using Narration:


What Walker is doing:

  • Walker brings her audience into her experience with her son by narrating step-by-step what happened and what she noticed when he returned from school.
  • It’s not only a personal story but also one that she will show has wider significance in the culture.
  • Narration has the advantage of drawing readers in because everyone loves a good story.

Using Description to develop your idea:

  • Description, like Narration, includes many specific details.
  • Unlike Narration, Description emphasizes the sense by painting a picture of how something looks, sounds, smells, tastes, or feels.
  • Description is often used to establish a mood or atmosphere.
  • Description is persuasive because it invites empathy with you, your subject and/or your argument.

Barbara Ehrenreich uses Description:

  • I make friends, over time, with the other "girls" who work my shift: Nita, the tattooed twenty-something who taunts us by going around saying brightly, "Have we started making money yet?" Ellen, whose teenage son cooks on the graveyard shift and who once managed a restaurant in Massachusetts but won't try out for management here because she prefers being a "common worker" and not "ordering people around."Easygoing fiftyish Lucy, with the raucous laugh, who limps toward the end of the shift because of something that has gone wrong with her leg, the exact nature of which cannot be determined without health insurance. We talk about the usual girl things - men, children, and the sinister allure of Jerry's chocolate peanut-butter cream pie…

What Ehrenreich is doing:

  • Ehrenreich’s primary purpose here is to humanize her coworkers and make her readers understand their struggle to survive on the minimum wage.
  • To achieve this, she makes them specific living-and-breathing human beings who are “tattooed” or have a “raucous laugh”.

Narration and Description working together:

  • George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant” essay:

Orwell’s text excerpt:

  • When I pulled the trigger I did not hear the bang or feel the kick – one never does when a shot goes home – but I heard the devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd. In that instant, in too short a time, one would have thought, even for the bullet to get there, a mysterious, terrible change had come over the elephant. He neither stirred nor fell, but every line of his body had altered. He looked suddenly stricken, shrunken, immensely old, as though the frightful impact of the bullet had paralysed him without knocking him down. At last, after what seemed a long time – it might have been five seconds, I dare say – he sagged flabbily to his knees. His mouth slobbered. An enormous senility seemed to have settled upon him. One could have imagined him thousands of years old. I fired again into the same spot. At the second shot he did not collapse but climbed with desperate slowness to his feet and stood weakly upright, with legs sagging and head drooping. I fired a third time. That was the shot that did for him. You could see the agony of it jolt his whole body and knock the last remnant of strength from his legs. But in falling he seemed for a moment to rise, for as his hind legs collapsed beneath him he seemed to tower upward like a huge rock toppling, his trunk reaching skyward like a tree. He trumpeted, for the first and only time. And then down he came, his belly towards me, with a crash that seemed to shake the ground even where I lay.

What Orwell is doing by combining Narration and Description:

  • Orwell narrates the death throes of the elephant in such dense and vivid detail that we mourn the loss and realize that something extraordinary has died, and the narrator (Orwell), like all of us, is diminished by that passing—which is the point Orwell wants us to understand.
  • Note the emotionally charged language, such as “devilish roar of glee,” and the strong verbs such as “slobbered,” “did not collapse but climbed.”
  • Note the descriptive details: “jolt,” “sagging,” “drooping,” “desperate slowness.”

Using Process Analysis to develop your idea:

  • Process Analysis explains how something works, how to do something, or how something was done.
  • How to bake bread or set up an Excel spreadsheet, how to improve a difficult situation or assemble a treadmill.
  • Self-help books are essentially Process Analysis.
  • Clarity, logic and transitions marking the sequence of steps, stages or phases, are the keys to successful Process Analysis.

How Elizabeth Royte uses Process Analysis:

  • The next summer Hayes loaded a refrigerated 18-wheel truck with 500 half-gallon buckets and headed east, followed by his students. He parked near an Indiana farm, a Wyoming river, and a Utah pond, filled his buckets with 18,000 pounds of water, and headed back to Berkeley. He thawed the frozen water, poured it into hundreds of individual tanks, and dropped in thousands of leopard-frog eggs collected en route. To find out if frogs in the wild showed hermaphroditism, Hayes dissected juveniles from numerous sites. To see if frogs were vulnerable as adults, and if the effects were reversible, he exposed them to atrazine at different stages of their development.

What Royte is doing:

  • In this example, Royte explains how something was done, that is, the actual physical journey that Hayes took when he “headed into the field”: he traveled from California to Indiana, Wyoming, Utah, and back to California.
  • The verbs themselves emphasize the process of his work: he “loaded,” “parked,” “filled,” “turned…back,” “thawed,” “poured,” and “dropped.”

Using Exemplification to develop your idea:

  • Providing a series of examples—facts, specific cases, or instances—turns a general idea into a concrete one, making your argument clearer and more persuasive.
  • Aristotle taught that examples are a type of logical proof called induction; that is, a series of specific examples that lead to a general conclusion.

How Francine Prose uses Exemplification:

  • My own two sons, now twenty-one and seventeen, have read (in public and private schools) Shakespeare, Hawthorne, and Melville. But they've also slogged repeatedly through the manipulative melodramas of Alice Walker and Maya Angelou, through sentimental, middlebrow favorites (To Kill a Mockingbird and A Separate Peace), the weaker novels of John Steinbeck, the fantasies of Ray Bradbury. My older son spent the first several weeks of sophomore English discussing the class's summer assignment, Ordinary People, a weeper and former bestseller by Judith Guest about a "dysfunctional“ family recovering from a teenage son's suicide attempt.

What Prose is doing:

  • Prose develops her point by giving examples of authors, novels, and types of novels.
  • But only in the case of Ordinary People does she discuss the example.
  • The other examples are there to support her point about the random nature of books assigned to high school classrooms.
  • In the following paragraph, Prose uses one extended example to make her point that even so-called great literature is often poorly taught.
  • Note how she mines the example of Huckleberry Finn to discuss the various objections and concerns she has about teaching.

Prose mining one example:

  • It's cheering that so many lists include The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn-but not when we discover that this moving, funny novel is being taught not as a work of art but as a piece of damning evidence against that bigot, Mark Twain. A friend's daughter's English teacher informed a group of parents that the only reason to study Huckleberry Finn was to decide whether it was a racist text. Instructors consulting Teaching Values through Teaching Literature will have resolved this debate long before they walk into the classroom to supervise "a close reading of Huckleberry Finn that will reveal the various ways in which Twain undercuts Jim's humanity: in the minstrel routines with Huck as the 'straight man'; in generalities about Blacks as unreliable, primitive and slow-witted .... "

What Prose is doing:

  • By examining one case in depth—Huckleberry Finn—Prose considers the novel itself, ways it is taught, and the suggestions in one book of how to teach it.
  • Note that she might have brought in other examples, treating each briefly, but focusing on one book allows her to examine the issue more closely.

Using Compare/Contrast to develop your idea:

  • Juxtaposing two things to highlight their similarities and differences helps writers to analyze information carefully, often revealing insights into the nature of the information being analyzed.
  • Compare/contrast is often required on exams to illustrate subtle differences or similarities in the method, style, or purpose of two texts.
  • In your handout, Lori Arviso Alvord compares and contrasts the landscape and culture of her home in the Southwest with New England and Dartmouth:

What Arviso is doing:

  • In the first paragraph, Arviso emphasizes the physical details of the landscape so her comparison/contrast relies on description.
  • In the second paragraph, she is more analytical as she examines the behavior.
  • Although she does not make a judgment directly, in both paragraphs she leads her readers to understand her conclusion that her New Mexico home—the landscape and its inhabitants—is what she prefers.

Compare/Contrast, generally:

  • Whether as a full essay or a paragraph, compare/contrast can be organized in one of two ways:
  • Subject-by-subject
  • Point-by-point
  • A c/c of two presidential candidates by subject would present a full discussion of the first candidate, then the second candidate.
  • A point-by-point might c/c their educations, then their experience, then their visions for the country.

Using Classification/Division to develop your idea:

  • It is important for readers as well as writers to be able to sort material or ideas into major categories.
  • By answering the question, What goes together and why? Writers and readers can make connections between things that might otherwise seem unrelated.
  • In some cases, the categories are ready-made, such as single, married, divorced or widowed.
  • In other cases, you might be asked either to analyze an essay that offers categories, or to apply them.
  • For instance, you might classify the books you’re reading in class according to Francis Bacon’s taxonomy:
  • “Some books are meant to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”

What Amy Tan is doing:


How Tan uses Classification/Division:

  • Recently, I was made keenly aware of the different Englishes I do use. I was giving a talk to a large group of people, the same talk I had already given to half a dozen other groups. The nature of the talk was about my writing, my life, and my book, The Joy Luck Club. The talk was going along well enough, until I remembered one major difference that made the whole talk sound wrong. My mother was in the room. And it was perhaps the first time she had heard me give a lengthy speech, using the kind of English I have never used with her. I was saying things like, "The intersection of memory upon imagination" and "There is an aspect of my fiction that relates to thus-and-thus'--a speech filled with carefully wrought grammatical phrases, burdened, it suddenly seemed to me, with nominalized forms, past perfect tenses, conditional phrases, all the forms of standard English that I had learned in school and through books, the forms of English I did not use at home with my mother.
  • Just last week, I was walking down the street with my mother, and I again found myself conscious of the English I was using, the English I do use with her. We were talking about the price of new and used furniture and I heard myself saying this: "Not waste money that way." My husband was with us as well, and he didn't notice any switch in my English. And then I realized why. It's because over the twenty years we've been together I've often used that same kind of English with him, and sometimes he even uses it with me. It has become our language of intimacy, a different sort of English that relates to family talk, the language I grew up with.

What Tan is doing:

  • Tan does not start out by identifying two categories, but as she describes them she classifies her “Englishes” as the English she learned in school and in books and the language of intimacy she learned at home.

Using Definition to develop your idea:

  • Defining a term is often the first step in a debate or disagreement.
  • In some cases, definition is only a paragraph or two that clarify terms, but in other cases, the purpose of an entire essay is to establish a definition.
  • Handout:

What Howard is doing:

  • In Jane Howard’s essay, “In Search of the Good Family” she explores the meaning of family, a common enough term, yet one she redefines.
  • She opens by identifying similar terms: “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family.”
  • She contrasts the traditional “blood family” with “new families…[that] consist of friends of the road, ascribed by chance, or friends of the heart, achieved by choice.”
  • She develops her essay by first establishing the need we all have for a network of “kin” who may or may not be blood relatives.
  • Then she analyzes ten characteristics that define a family.

Using Cause/Effect to develop your idea:

  • Analyzing the causes that lead to a certain effect, or conversely, the effects that result from a cause, is a powerful foundation for argument.
  • Rachel Carson’s case for the unintended and unexpected effects of the pesticide DDT in Silent Spring is legendary.

Francine Prose using Cause/Effect:

  • Great novels can help us master the all-too-rare skill of tolerating--of being able to hold in mind-ambiguity and contradiction. Jay Gatsby has a shady past, but he's also sympathetic. Huck Finn is a liar, but we come to love him. A friend's student once wrote that Alice Munro's characters weren't people he'd choose to hang out with but that reading her work always made him feel "a little less petty and judgmental." Such benefits are denied to the young reader exposed only to books with banal, simpleminded moral equations as well as to the student encouraged to come up with reductive, wrong-headed readings of multilayered texts.

What Francine Prose is doing:

  • Francine Prose sets out what she believes are the causes for high school students’ lack of enthusiasm for reading:
  • “Given the dreariness with which literature is taught in many American classrooms, it seems miraculous that any sentient teenager would view reading as a source of pleasure.”
  • She explains the positive effects of reading classical literature.
  • In her analysis, she argues for the positive effects of reading canonical literature, and she provides several examples.
  • She concludes by pointing out that teaching less challenging works, or teaching more challenging works without acknowledging their complexity, has the effect of encouraging unclear or superficial thinking.

Mr. Collins’ Proposal to Elizabeth Bennett:

  • ``My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony in his parish. Secondly, that I am convinced it will add very greatly to my happiness; and thirdly -- which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier, that it is the particular advice and recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have the honour of calling patroness. Twice has she condescended to give me her opinion (unasked too!) on this subject; and it was but the very Saturday night before I left Hunsford -- between our pools at quadrille, while Mrs. Jenkinson was arranging Miss de Bourgh's foot-stool, that she said, "Mr. Collins, you must marry. A clergyman like you must marry. -- Chuse properly, chuse a gentlewoman for my sake; and for your own, let her be an active, useful sort of person, not brought up high, but able to make a small income go a good way. This is my advice. Find such a woman as soon as you can, bring her to Hunsford, and I will visit her." Allow me, by the way, to observe, my fair cousin, that I do not reckon the notice and kindness of Lady Catherine de Bourgh as among the least of the advantages in my power to offer.


  • You will find her manners beyond any thing I can describe; and your wit and vivacity I think must be acceptable to her, especially when tempered with the silence and respect which her rank will inevitably excite. Thus much for my general intention in favour of matrimony; it remains to be told why my views were directed to Longbourn instead of my own neighbourhood, where I assure you there are many amiable young women. But the fact is, that being, as I am, to inherit this estate after the death of your honoured father (who, however, may live many years longer), I could not satisfy myself without resolving to chuse a wife from among his daughters, that the loss to them might be as little as possible, when the melancholy event takes place -- which, however, as I have already said, may not be for several years. This has been my motive, my fair cousin, and I flatter myself it will not sink me in your esteem. And now nothing remains for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection. To fortune I am perfectly indifferent, and shall make no demand of that nature on your father, since I am well aware that it could not be complied with; and that one thousand pounds in the 4 per cents, which will not be yours till after your mother's decease, is all that you may ever be entitled to. On that head, therefore, I shall be uniformly silent; and you may assure yourself that no ungenerous reproach shall ever pass my lips when we are married.''

What Mr. Collins is doing:

  • Mr. Collins appeals to logos with a sequence of reasons that support his intent to marry: ministers should be married, marriage will add to his happiness, and his patroness wants him to marry.
  • Of course, these are all advantages to himself.
  • Ultimately, he claims that he can assure Elizabeth “in the most animated language of the violence of [his]affection,” yet he offers no language at all about his emotional attachment.
  • Finally, as if to refute the counterargument that she would not reap many benefits from the proposed alliance, he reminds her that her financial future is grim unless she accepts his offer and promises to be “uniformly silent” rather than to remind her of that fact once they are married.

So where did Mr. Collins go wrong with his rhetoric?

  • Without devaluing the wry humor of Austen in her portrayal of Mr. Collins, we can conclude that at the very least he failed to understand his audience.
  • He offers reasons for marriage that would have little appeal to Elizabeth, who does not share his businesslike self-serving assumptions.
  • No wonder she can hardly wait to extricate herself from the exchange or that he responds with shocked indignation!

Where does Roz Chast’s visual rhetoric go wrong?

What Roz Chast does:

  • The cartoon depends upon the artist’s confidence that her audience is familiar with popular culture, Greek mythology, and the Bible.
  • Chast’s point is that the ancient legends and stories many of us hold sacred might be considered as sensational as the highly dramatic, often amazing headlines of the National Enquirer; however, this would be lost on someone unfamiliar with her three sources.
  • She even pokes gentle fun at the publication by dating it May 17, 8423 BC. Even though it costs a contemporary fifty cents.


  • The headline “Woman Turns into Pillar of Salt!” alludes to the story of Genesis of Lot’s wife defying warnings not to look back on the destruction of the kingdom of Sodom and Gomorrah.
  • The reference to the man living in the whale’s stomach is to the biblical story of Jonah.
  • The bottom left story alludes to the ancient Greek myth that Athena sprang fully grown (and in full armor) from the head of her father Zeus.
  • And the headline on the bottom right refers to Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guards the entrance to Hades.

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