The rhetorical situation

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Rhetorical Situations are used throughout Literature in today’s modern society. They can be determined by the following factors: Audience, Rhetors, Exigence, and Constraints. These are all located within the Rhetorical Analysis and help us determine what the Rhetorical Situation is. Some people may believe that Rhetorical Situations are only found in English books, or articles within an English class, but, in fact, they are located in many more understandings, such as, videos, songs, and, everyday life. It is important to communicate within a Discourse Community, because sharing each other’s perspectives can help us determine what the Rhetorical situation is, and what credibility the author has. My favorite, and more creative, way of finding a Rhetorical Situation is through music. Music has come to a whole new level in bringing about Rhetorical factors that give us a better Analysis of what the Rhetorical Situation is.

The Rhetorical Situation

Have you ever received a college book and, though you read it many times, couldn't fully understand the concept of it? It's probably because, as you graduate to a higher level of education, your depth of understanding increases. According to Lloyd Bitzer (2011), a “Rhetorical Situation is as a complex or persons, events, objects, and relations presenting an actual or potential exigence which can be completely or partially removed if discourse, introduced into the situation, can so constrain human decision or action as to bring about the significant modification of the exigence” (p. 104, p. 105). Rhetorical situations use factors, such as, exigence, rhetors, audience, and constraints; these delve to help the reader understand and try to identify what the Rhetorical Situation is. “Generally speaking, the rhetorical situation can be understood as the circumstances under which the rhetor writes or speaks, including: The nature and disposition of the audience, the exigence that impels the writer to enter the conversation, the writer’s goal or purpose, the general state of the world outside the more specific context of the issue at hand.” (Dziadek, “Rhetorical Analysis”) Although some may be easier to find than others, it is best to analyze every specific detail in the particular Discourse Community to fully understand and recognize the Rhetorical Situation. Rhetorical Situations are also located in books, art, movies, and even songs. “Texts don't exist in isolation; they are influenced by and contribute to ongoing conversations, controversies, or debates” (Dziadek, “Rhetorica”) .In the following essay I will be introducing the song "Best Thing I Never Had" by Beyoncé, and explain what the Rhetorical Situation is, who is the author, what are the authors pathos, ethos, and logos, who the audience is, what’s the message, and many more different contributions to Rhetorical Situations.

The song “Best Thing I Never Had” exposes the Rhetorical Situation, in which, relationships become an issue of whether it is morally right to proceed in a unhealthy relationship or to stand up for what it respectable. The Rhetorical Situation illustrates the difficulties within relationships and how to handle the situations that occur. Relationships are inevitable, and everyone experiences good connections and bad connections, but, in relation to this song, it is essential to determine what the Rhetorical Situation is and how to overcome the difficulties. In this song, Beyoncé announces her sentiments, or pathos, about the relationship she was in, and how it affected her life. She overcomes the complications of an inconvenient boyfriend who is disrespectful and crude.

In order to get a better grasp on what the Rhetorical Situation is, knowing the ethos, which establishes credibility, pathos, which appeals to the reader’s emotions, and logos, which appeals to reason, is vital. Beyoncé uses pathos to grab the attention of the audience, and make them feel connected with the song. She illustrates that she went through a hardship in her life and that even though relationships can be difficult to get out of she used her strength to fight for what she believed. For example, the line “I wanted you bad I'm so through with it Cuz honestly you turned out to be the best thing I never had” appeals to the audience because it demonstrates her emotions and what she did about the situation. (Best Thing I Never Had Lyrics, 2011) This grabs the audience’s attention, because it creates an emotional state of mind, and allows the readers to feel what Beyoncé was feeling at that time. The Rhetorical Situation also contains logos, which are used to also establish credibility, known as ethos. For instance, in the song “Best Thing I Never Had” Beyoncé sings the line “What goes around comes back around (hey my baby)”. (2011) This line indicates the logo that is reasonable to payback, or karma. Everyone eventually gets the same treatment that was given to a particular person. This allures the audience, because, even though in relationships you sometimes get hurt, it’s nice to know that they will in return get what they intentionally did to you. Beyoncé also obtains credibility, or ethos, by experiencing something that all of us have or eventually will go through. She has experienced the complications of a relationship and persuades the audience to be strong and to not give up on what you believe in.

The audience is not only attracted by the pathos, logos, and the establishment of ethos, but also the advantage that the author is unbiased. This Rhetorical Situation doesn’t attract a specific audience, because the song refers to everyone who has been in a relationship. Whether you’re the heartbreaker or heartbroken, everyone has experienced a difficult relationship. Beyoncé doesn’t use specific words such as him, her, or it, which determines a specific gender or person who was in the wrong. She specifically states the Rhetorical Situation without being subjective, which, in return, creates a larger audience than someone who is talking about, for instance, the discrimination of African Americans. Beyoncé uses these Rhetorical factors to demonstrate the hardships in relationships, and she tries to defend the persons who have experienced wrongdoing as she did. Instead of encouraging individuals to put up with the wrongful acts that occur within a relationship, she dissuades the audience to tolerate anything less than someone who gives you care, respect, honesty, and love.

Rhetorical factors are essential to understand when looking at a Rhetorical Situation. Beyoncé uses metaphors and repetition to create a better connection with the audience. She uses the metaphor “Thank God I dodged the bullet” to create an intense state of emotion. (2011) She thinks of the relationship as a bullet, inferring that it creates pain and hurt in a way that can change her life. Instead of letting the inconveniences affect her state of mind and values, she “dodges the bullet”, or avoids, the situation to better suit her personal needs. (2011) She also uses a form of repetition that is present in this song that is “Bet it sucks to be you right now”. (2011) This establishes the animosity within the relationship and how it can determine the status of the particular relationship. In this song, she uses this line to refer to her partner that tried to undermine her abilities to fight for what she believed was right. Beyoncé states that her partner wants her back, but she’s saying that “it sucks to be you right now”, because she no longer wants to acquire the hateful acts her partner made against her. (2011)

Not only does this Rhetorical Situation have factors including metaphors and repetition, but it also has a specific structure that affects the audience’s point of view on the situation. Beyoncé uses a poem-like structure that compels the audience to stop and think about what she is saying. This is important when analyzing a Rhetorical Situation, because it gives the audience a chance to view the situation in their own perspective. Rhetorical strategies are important within a Discourse Community. “Rhetorical Strategies construct a Rhetorical Situation for the text, trying to account for the author’s purpose, context, and effect on the audience.” (Haas & Flower, 1988, p. 130) Sharing your viewpoint on these strategies can help you and your Discourse Community better understand and connect to the Rhetorical Situation. Beyoncé’s structure also contains hardly any punctuation, which indicates that her emotions are all over the place. She uses commas to indicate the importance of that sentence and to think about what is going on, but no periods are present within the song. Periods hold more importance than some people may think, and in this case Beyoncé disregards periods to denote that she has frustration and mixed feels that seems to be cluttered together.

In Rhetorical Situations the authors can try to persuade, attack, or inform the audience to believe or act in a certain way. Beyoncé uses this song to persuade the audience to think about what the Rhetorical Situation is, and make a conscience decision of what the right thing to do would be. She uses lines in her song that persuade the audience that relationships can get bad sometimes, and if you don’t get out of it the first chance you get things could get worse. One of the lines in the song that indicates that Beyoncé wants to persuade the audience to think clear and wise is “Thank God I dodged the bullet”. (Best Thing I Never Had Lyrics, 2011) As I stated earlier, she uses this metaphor to show that when relationships turn into destruction it can feel like you’re being wounded by a bullet. Everyone knows that being shot or having a bullet puncture you skin can cause a lot of damage to a person. This suggests that, when being in an obstructive relationship, things can go wrong and sometimes it can be life changing. She wants to tell the audience to be very cautious when it comes to relationships and to not give up your moral values to be with someone who doesn’t respect those values.

Another factor that could change your outlook on the Rhetorical Situation is the rhythm, tone, and beat to a song. Have you ever heard the titanic song? The rhythm is really slow and has a flute playing in the background. The beat is mellow which indicates the sadness from the horrible tragedy. The titanic song is a slow, soft, flowing sound that brings to the audience’s attention that the emotions towards the incident were devastating, but in the song “Best Thing I Never Had” the beat, tone, and rhythm are quite different. In this song, the beat starts off as average. It doesn’t create a tone of sadness nor happiness, but more of an introduction that slowly gets intensified. The tone in her voice creates a feeling of betrayal in the begging of the song, and then it gradually turns into animosity for the partner. The beat and tone is the strongest in the middle of the song, but then gradually goes to a mellow tone of recognition. In the beginning, Beyoncé creates a feeling of betrayal, but also creates a sense of revenge. She’s upset because of what happened, but realizes that karmas going to take its toll, and payback the disrespectful acts her partner placed on her heart. During the middle of the song, she creates a feeling of hatred. She brings to the audience’s attention what the Rhetorical Situation is, and how it affected her during her hardship. Even though she was very infuriated halfway through the song, at the end she starts to release all of the anger and realize that what’s done is done, and that it is time to move on with her life.

In Rhetorical Situations tones, rhythms, and beats give you a better attitude on how the musician feels about a song, but it is also important to be able to summarize the Rhetorical Situation in a process known as a Rhetorical Analysis. Analyzing every detail can help you getting a better understanding of what the Rhetorical Situation is. The Rhetorical Situation from the song “Best Thing I Never Had” is to be cautious of who you let into your heart. There are some harsh people out there that can take control of you with a choice of words, but you have to be strong and stand up for your beliefs and values.

Rhetorical Situations contain a lot of information and factors that help identify a particular situation. Pathos, ethos, and logos present a representation of how an author gets his or her point across to a particular audience. Some Rhetorical Situations have a biased author that pertains to a particular belief without the concern about other people’s opinions, whereas, some Rhetorical Situations have an unbiased author who appeals to a wide ranged audience. Rhetorical factors, such as, repetition and metaphors help the audience realize how important a topic is to the author. It puts emphasis and makes the audience stop to think about what the author is trying to get across. At first it was difficult for me to understand what a Rhetorical Situation was, until I realized that it is used in everyday situations. It may be difficult at first for someone to understand, and you may have to reread certain articles to help you comprehend the whole concept of Rhetorical Situations, but in the end it will get easier, and you will be analyzing and understanding the article without even realizing that you’re doing it.


BEYONCE - BEST THING I NEVER HAD LYRICS. (n.d.). MUSIC AND LYRICS. Retrieved October 10, 2011, from
Dziadek, F. (2011, June 28). feliciadz / Rhetorical Analysis F11. Rhetorical Analysis F11. Retrieved October 10, 2011, from
Dziadek, F. (2011, September 17). feliciadz / Wed Sept 21, 2011. Rhetorica. Retrieved October 10, 2011, from
Wardle, E., Downs, D., Haas, C., & Flower, L. (2011). Reading Strategies and Construction of Meaning. Writing about writing: a college reader (p. 130). Boston, MA: Bedford/st. Martins.
Wardle, E., Downs, D., Keith, G., & Bitzer, L. (2011). Rhetorical Situations and Their Constituents. Writing about writing: a college reader (pp. 104-105). Boston, MA: Bedford/st. Martins.

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