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How to Connect Rhetorical Choices to Meaning



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How to Connect Rhetorical Choices to Meaning
[The following templates were created and compiled by Beth Priem, updated by Elizabeth Davis and Jennifer Cullen and then modified by Kathryn Kelley].
When you write about a text, you must include textual evidence. When you include textual evidence, you must embed this evidence in your own insightful commentary. The following templates, while not prescriptive or comprehensive, are meant to assist you in this process.


  1. Diction

  • Identify the grammatical unit (phrase, noun, verb, adjective, adverb, etc.) and provide the context in which it appears in the text. Consider connotation as well as denotation. Do NOT write: The writer uses diction. That’s like saying: The writer uses words.

  • Connect the diction to the meaning of this text. Avoid generic commentary. Provide an original insight. Pay attention to your own diction. It enhances your analysis.


Model:

The phrase*, ”____________” used to describe/identify________________ conveys _____________________ since / because / in that _______________. This is significant because______________.



* or the noun, verb, adjective, adverb, words, phrases
Example:

The phrase, “a thin beard of ivy,” used to describe Jay Gatsby’s mansion conveys both intrigue and inexperience. Since the ivy is “thin,” Fitzgerald suggests a wealth without lineage, newly formed and barely veiled; yet, the ivy as a “beard” suggests a worldly desire to conceal. This is significant because through the description of his mansion, Gatsby is portrayed as both ingénue and chameleon, alerting the reader to the protagonist’s dual and perhaps contradictory nature.


  1. Syntax

  • Identify the syntactical choice the author has made and provide the context in which it appears in the text. Do NOT write: The writer uses syntax. Since syntax refers to the order and structure of words, phrases, etc, it always exists – even if you do not find it noteworthy.

  • Connect the syntax to the meaning of this text. Avoid generic commentary. Provide an original insight. Pay attention to your own diction. It enhances your analysis.


Model:

The _(identify the syntactical choice)______________ functions to ________________. This structure supports the author’s purpose to _______________________________ in order to _______________.


Example:

The anaphora Martin Luther King Jr. uses in his “I have a dream” speech functions to elaborate and ground in details his personal dream, which is “deeply rooted in the American dream.” Through beginning successive paragraphs with the words, “I have a dream that…” King shows that although he is the origin of this dream, it is one that deeply affects Americans of all races and creeds. His dream is one that reaches to the “red hills of Georgia…the state of Mississippi..[and even] down in Alabama.” This structure supports the author’s purpose to show his readers what that “one day” can and should look like in every corner of America in order to inspire his audience to begin actively supporting civil rights.

  1. Imagery

(words appealing to one of the 5 senses (visual, auditory, gustatory, olfactory, tactile) – if you can’t identify which one, it isn’t a valid example of imagery)

  • Identify the image and provide the context in which it appears in the text.

  • Connect the image to the meaning of this text. Avoid generic commentary. Provide an original insight. Pay attention to your own diction. It enhances your analysis.


Model:

The image of ______________________________ depicts/conveys a (picture, sense, state, etc.) of _________________________________ because the reader (sees, envisions, realizes)______________. This is significant because __________________________________________________.


Example:

The image of an “argument . . . pull[ing]” Nick back to the party “as if with ropes” conveys his helpless struggle to get away from the gathering in Tom and Myrtle’s apartment at the same time that it dramatizes his fascination with the inebriated and adulterous events that are occurring because the reader can see that much as ropes confine, restrain, and render one helpless, Nick, due perhaps to a lack of experience or a flawed moral code, remains discomfited yet seems unable to confront or reject the lies and pretenses of the party guests. This is significant because the reader must question Nick’s declaration that he is tolerant and honest.


  1. Figurative Language: Metaphor or Simile

  • Identify the metaphor or simile and provide the context in which it appears in the text.

  • Connect the metaphor or simile to the meaning of this text. Avoid generic commentary. Provide an original insight. Pay attention to your own diction. It enhances your analysis.


Model:

The author compares the subject of (x) _______________ to (y) ______________. This is fitting because (x) ________________ and (y) ______________________ share (two characteristics) (a) ____________________________ and (b) ___________________________. This is significant because _________________________________________.


Example: (Metaphor/Simile continued)

In his “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. compares the condition of poverty to a “lonely island.” This is a fitting comparison because poverty and a lonely island share isolation and alienation from the “vast ocean of material prosperity” which surrounds them and both are small, singled out, vulnerable, and surrounded by something they don’t possess. This comparison is significant because it causes the audience to consider the tangible social barriers created by an invisible financial limitation to feel sympathy for the isolated poor.




  1. Figurative Language: Personification

(a figure of speech in which animals, abstract ideas, or inanimate things are referred to as if they were human)

  • Identify the animal, abstract idea, or inanimate thing and provide the context in which it appears in the text. Identify the human characteristic that is ascribed to it.

  • Connect the effect of the personification to the meaning of this text. Avoid generic commentary. Provide an original insight. Pay attention to your own diction. It enhances your analysis.

Model:

In __________________________, _________________is personified as possessing the human characteristic(s) of ____________________. The author employs personification in order to_____________________.


Example:

"Today, we begin a new chapter in the history of Louisiana. I've said throughout the campaign that there are two entities that have the most to fear from us winning this election. One is corruption and the other is incompetence. If you happen to see either of them, let them know the party is over." -- Bobby Jindal, Louisiana Governor-Elect victory Speech (as posted on americanrhetoric.com)



In Bobby Jindal’s victory speech, the abstract ideas of corruption and incompetence are personified as possessing human form and consciousness. The governor-elect employs personification in order to suggest that members of his audience might encounter or “see” them and should inform them that their “party” is over. Through this characterization, Jindal simultaneously emphasizes his strength as a leader and sends a strong message, without naming specific perpetrators, that those who may possess those qualities will be driven out of the state’s government.

  1. Detail

  • Identify the detail and provide the context in which it appears in the text.

  • Describe the function of the inclusion of that detail in this text. Avoid generic commentary. Provide an original insight. Pay attention to your own diction. It enhances your analysis.


Model:
The detail of________________ conveys ____________________ since/because/in that _________________________. The author wants the reader to see ______________________________ because/so that ________________________ .

Example:

The detail of the string of polo ponies Tom Buchanan brought east with him from Chicago conveys his vast wealth and hedonism because moving the ponies is expensive and unnecessary, suggesting that Tom does not need to concern himself with cost but does concern himself with appearing more powerful than his peers. Fitzgerald wants the reader to see Tom as spoiled and self-indulgent so that Tom will appear distasteful even before the reader learns of his current affair.

  1. Figurative Language: Hyperbole

  • Identify what is being exaggerated and provide the context in which it appears in the text.

  • Connect the effect of the hyperbole to the meaning of this text. Avoid generic commentary.

  • Provide an original insight. Pay attention to your own diction. It enhances your analysis.

Model:

The deliberate exaggeration of _________________________________ in order to emphasize _______

________________________. Through this heightened image, the reader______________________.
Example:

From Robert Frost’s poem, “After Apple-Picking”

For I have had too much

Of apple-picking: I am overtired

Of the great harvest I myself desired.

There were ten thousand fruit to touch,

Cherish in hand, lift sown, and not let fall.
In Frost’s poem, “After Apple-Picking,” the speaker deliberately exaggerates the number of apples in order to emphasize his shift from excitement and desire to his extreme weariness during the harvest. The speaker has had “too much” as a result of the “ten thousand” fruit to touch. Through this image, the reader comes to understand that the speaker is not only weary of body, but is also “overtired” in spirit as well.

[Example taken from A Contemporary Guide to Literary Terms by Edwin J. Barton and Glenda A. Hudson (Houghton Mifflin, 2004)]




  1. Allusion

  • Identify the allusion (indirect reference by an author to another text, historical occurrence, or to myths and legends) and provide the context in which it appears in the text.

  • Describe the function of the allusion in this text. Avoid generic commentary. Provide an original insight. Pay attention to your own diction. It enhances your analysis.

Model:

The author or speaker alludes to______________________ in order to _________________________. Through this reference, the reader connects ___________________________ to _________________ and can more fully understand that the author’s purpose is to _____________________________________ in order to _____________________.



Example:

“For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.” ~Barack Obama


Obama’s alludes to Concord, Gettysburg, Normandy, and Khe Sahn in order to connect examples of past struggles to the American present. Through these references, the listener connects past global-wide events to the unique struggles Americans believe they are currently facing with our economy, environment, and world conflict and can more fully understand that the president’s desired effect is to provide hope and resolve to the listener since these battles resulted in victories for America in order to remind citizens that they can be victorious in our modern struggles.
Argumentative Essay

The following pages will include information related to the argumentative essay, which asks you to develop and support a stance on an issue. In an argumentative essay, you must take a side and provide reasoning and evidence for your position.

The argumentative essay question can ask you to do any of the following:


  1. Defend, challenge, or qualify a quotation about, or particular take on, a specific topic

  2. Evaluate the pros and cons of an argument and then indicate why you find one position more persuasive than another

  3. Take a position on whatever debatable statement is provided in the prompt

Unlike the other two essays you will be asked to write, this essay does not provide any text other than the prompt. Instead, your thesis is supported by your own reading, observations, and experiences. In other words, this essay’s only support is you; what you “know” is the textual support. This essay can be difficult, as the question, regardless of what it is, presupposes that you have knowledge about the topic under discussion. The more you’ve learned about the world around you, and the more opinions you have formulated about it, the better.

If you choose to defend what the text argues, you will give reasons that support the argument given. If you choose to challenge what the text argues, your reasoning will contradict the argument. If you choose to qualify what the text argues, you will agree with parts of the statement and disagree with others. Or, you might agree with the statement, but only under certain circumstances.

The “pros and cons” essay is similar to the “qualify” essay in that you must give reasons both supporting and contradicting the statement. You must then evaluate why one side is more convincing. The “position” essay requires that you establish a specific position in response to the statement in your thesis and support it.

As always, the thesis for these essay prompts must be specific and focused. Avoid merely restating what the prompt states. Instead, make the prompt your own by articulating a specific argument.

Adapted from My Max Score, AP English Language and Composition, 2011



Sample Outline:

  1. Introduction

    1. Issue:

    2. Your assertion/thesis:




  1. First Reason:

    1. Topic Sentence:

    2. Example One:

      1. Commentary:

    3. Example Two:

      1. Commentary:




  1. Second Reason:

    1. Topic Sentence:

    2. Example One:

      1. Commentary:

    3. Example Two:

      1. Commentary:




  1. Third Reason:

    1. Topic Sentence:

    2. Example One:

      1. Commentary:

    3. Example Two:

      1. Commentary:




  1. Conclusion/ Solution/ So What?

Remember to use evidence to develop your own argument. Do not forget to include examples, but also do not them take over your essay. Support your claim drawing on all that you know about the subject: what you’ve experienced, read, or observed – generally AVOID personal anecdotes and too many pop culture/celebrity references. Your goal is to sound well read, educated, and reasoned. The order of the essay can be varied, and any rhetorical strategies can be employed, but you must make certain that your support/evidence is appropriate and effective. You may rely on facts/statistics, details, quotations, anecdotes, cause and effect, appeal to authority, etc. Remember readings, entertainment/arts, history, universal truths, government, and observations. Your support should be rational and logical, not emotional; it should be objective rather than biased. Watch for – and avoid – logical fallacies.



THE LOGICAL STRUCTURE OF ARGUMENTS
CLAIMS: a claim is an assertion about a controversial question (or issue question, as distinct from a question of fact) that gives rise to alternative answers and about which reasonable people might disagree.
WARRANTS: a warrant is the value, belief, or principle that the audience has to hold if the soundness of the argument is to be accepted. We use the word in ordinary language in phrases like “Your conclusion is unwarranted!” Note that warrants are frequently unstated (tacit) assumptions.
BACKING: backing is the argument that supports the warrant. Like grounds, backing should answer your audience’s “How do you know that…?” questions.
REASONS: these are the reasons that support the claim. Note that all reasons are themselves claims, and they’re usually linked to their claims with words like therefore, thus, since, consequently, and, most commonly, because to underscore their logical connection.
GROUNDS: grounds are the evidence you use to support your because clauses (your reasons), such as facts, data, statistics, testimony, and examples. Grounds should answer your audience’s “How do you know that…?” questions.
REBUTTALS: a robust argument includes a consideration of how a reasonable but nonetheless resistant or adversarial audience might challenge your reasons and grounds, and/or your warrant and backing. A crucial element of this consideration of possible objections is called, in debate, “pre-empts”—pre-emptive responses to the objections that might be raised.
QUALIFIERS: the term “qualifier” is used to minimize rebuttals by limiting the absoluteness of a claim and to indicate the degree of its probable truth. Because real-world arguments almost never prove a claim in any absolute sense, you should use words like very likely, probably, or maybe to indicate the strength of the claim you’re willing to draw from you grounds and warrant. For example, you might say “Except in rare cases,…” or “With full awareness of the potential dangers,…” It’s crucial to a persuasive argument that you make whatever concessions you can to those predisposed to disagree with you.

Developing an Argumentative Thesis


  • Your thesis statement should be an arguable assertion.

    • Examples:

      • The government has an obligation to give all students access to a free and equal education, regardless of class, race, age, or gender.

      • In order to promote academic success, schools should require student uniforms.

    • Some people will disagree with you.

  • Remember that the goal of this paper is to convince the reader that your assertion is true based on the evidence and reasoning you provide. Therefore, your paper must begin with a strong claim.

  • You need to take a side. Your assertion sentence should not be “Dogs are mammals.”

  • You need to be concise and to the point. Do not confuse your reader in the first few sentences of your argument.

  • However, do not oversimplify the issue. Don’t say “Learning is good,” or “Kids should dress nicer.” You’re dealing with a complex issue, so you need to address it in an appropriately complex way.

  • DO NOT write, “In this essay,” “I believe that,” “This essay will prove,” “In my opinion,” “You should,”etc.

  • No second or first person (No “you” or “I”)

  • DO NOT include your sources in your thesis


Conclusions


  • Your conclusion answers the question, “So what?”

  • Your reader needs to leave your essay thinking that they should care about your issue. (Why should I care?)

  • Short and sweet

    • 4-5 sentences

    • You don’t need any more than that for a short page paper.

  • Summary of your main points

  • More complex than in your introduction

  • Now your reader has a thorough understanding of your topic

  • Reminder of your argumentative thesis

    • Remember, this is the most important sentence in your paper.

  • Propose a solution if you haven’t proposed one already

  • So what? What should we do about it?

  • Do Not:

    • Restate everything

    • Be too gimmicky

    • Use the same words you’ve used before

    • Make a new claim that would require further support

    • Use “I” it undercuts your argument and makes it sound like, “Oh, all of this is just stuff I was thinking about it. Don’t consider it too seriously.”

Making a Concession

A concession is an expression of concern for the feelings of those who may disagree with the writer’s position. A concession elicits understanding from your readers by acknowledging that both sides have valid points. If you seem like a fair and thoughtful person, they will be more likely to respect your opinion.

A counter-argument will have three parts:


  1. Acknowledging- letting readers know you are aware of an opposing position, which is against the writer’s position. (Concession)

  2. Accommodating- anticipating their objections to your argument (Setting them up)

  3. Refuting- Opposing their objections to your position. (Shooting them down)

    1. Refuting is asserting that your opponent’s arguments are wrong and arguing against them.

    2. This is where you win!

Effective Concession Terms

Admittedly Conceding that Certainly, but

Even though It goes without saying that While it is true that

Undoubtedly Perhaps_____, yet _____ Granted

Although Despite Notwithstanding



Example Counterargument:

Concession: Undoubtedly, many Austin High Students would be happier spending their day at Barton Springs instead of writing an essay in their English class.

Accommodating: In addition, many teachers understand that Barton Springs is an enjoyable recreational experience that can offer valuable exercise and stress relief.

Refuting: However, exercise and stress relief can be had afterschool or on the weekends just as easily as during the week. Furthermore, academic success will lead to future career success, which is one of the biggest factors in a person’s overall life satisfaction. Therefore, teachers should not sacrifice what is best for a student in order to give in to what a student wants. In the end, writing this essay will create infinitely more happiness than spending an hour and a half at Barton Springs ever could.


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