A rhetorical essay is something you don’t see very often. Unlike research paper and a cognitive essay, a typical example of a rhetorical analysis essay focuses on analyzing how a text is written rather than the meaning behind it. This confuses many young students who are taught to pay special attention to every element in a given text. Most times they will begin by analyzing the text itself with emphasis on metaphorical elements; and instead of writing a rhetorical essay, they end up with a summary or analysis.
You will unlikely encounter a rhetorical essay in a regular English class. Unless you’re taking AP literature or a university level literature class, you will not be asked to do an in-depth analysis. Those who purposely go for AP literature classes will tell you that a rhetorical essay is not only the most difficult to write but the hardest to research. That’s not true, and you don’t need to be scared. As a matter of fact, a rhetorical essay is pretty straightforward. What you need to do is keep an open mind and do your research. Research is the basis of absolutely every essay.
In all honesty, a rhetorical essay is like writing a guide for a video game. You are not describing what the video game does but describing how it does it. Think of the game Super Mario – you’ll be writing how every time you jump and hit the Block a coin appears. This is the simplest metaphor for understanding a rhetorical essay. If you manage to visualize it like a clock which is open to reveal its gears and cogs, then you are halfway there.
Your job is to break down sentences, words, and phrases that the author uses to uncover all the literary functions he is using.
‘I walked down the path laid out with trees. It was dark, almost night but I could make my way clear. Bats loomed in the distance then each flapping of the leathery wings filled the air with animosity. The thought of death appeared in my mind once again.’
Here we see a few devices in use. An author is trying to evoke a feeling of depression into the reader’s mind. By using the word dark and highlighting the fact that it was ‘almost night’, he’s forming a sort of persuasive statement. He is persuading his readers that the time of day is somewhere between sundown and night. Also, he is using a slight simile by mentioning the birds. In mythology, birds are considered a bad omen, especially at night. In the next sentence, we see a reference to death meaning that he probably lost someone. Someone close. The writer is very clever in adding such a subtle undertone.
Now, it’s time to move from practice to theory. Let’s take a quick look at some rhetorical analysis essay examples and see exactly what’s good and what’s not so good about each of them.
Edgar Allan Poe is considered one of America’s greatest novelists and journalists. He’s particularly well known for his masterful horror stories. Poe’s use of metaphors and similes have never failed to put readers on the edge of their seats. And, while he is less famous for his poetry, The Raven remains an undeniable classics that leaves a lasting impression on every reader. This effect is achieved through subtle use of not only poetic devices, but also rhetoric means.
Poe’s poem The Raven shows the struggles of a man possessed by his own ghosts of the past his fear of the ever-changing present, hinting at his impending psychosomatic breakdown. When you start reading the Raven, the first feeling you get is that of immense loneliness. The author uses powerful Pathos to evoke feelings of paranoia, fear, hopelessness. The Unseen main character seems to be tormented. With every new verse, poem tone becomes darker and sadder. Every time the word “Nevermore” is uttered, readers get the impression our main invisible character is becoming more enraged.
Throughout his life, Poe was plagued by misfortune. At a young age, he was traumatized by his mother’s death. This experience gave him a fascination with death and the macabre. His adult life was not happier. Some experts believe now that Poe has been suffering from a chronic depression.
These dark elements appear clearly in his works. The Raven is a self-painted portrait of a man who is ready to welcome death. It employs anaphora to emphasize feelings of looming insanity. Poe uses anaphora by ending all 18 stanzas with the word “Nevermore”, “nothing more,” or “evermore.” By keeping true to his theme, Poe successfully follows narrator’s train of thought as he goes from an irrational human being who is grieving, to an insane lunatic who sees a giant raven “perched on his door.”
Alliteration is used to add to an overall paranoid tone of this poem. By combining both alliteration and anaphora we can clearly walk side by side with someone who has truly lost all meaning to live.
The Raven itself is an anthropomorphic metaphor for the past. We are not sure if there actually is a raven in the room. No other character can justify the existence of that creature but what we do know is that this metaphor is so well crafted that we sometimes feel unnerved and frightened ourselves.
Readers can sense the narrator’s optimism seeping through the Mask of Madness. Every single time Raven quotes “nevermore” we have a separate verse where the narrator is making an excuse. Whether that is a step in the grieving process called denial or just madness its unknown. Poe wasn’t the first writer who used denial to paint an eerie picture. He was, however, feeling guilty at the time he wrote this poem; Raven was written several years after his cousin passed away. It is assumed that Lenore, the maiden in this poem, is actually his cousin. If we assume that to be true, Poe himself acts as a protagonist in this poem. We already know that Poe’s cousin died because he himself neglected her and didn’t have the funds to treat her illness. In that sense, a narrator fighting The Raven has his own specter coming from the depths of Hell to torment his grieving soul. By hiding his true identity behind that of an Invisible narrator, Poe has the power to say to himself what he wasn’t brave enough to say in reality. That being, he considers himself a murderer.
This hypothesis ties in with anaphora use throughout the poem. Not only is our narrator too paranoid but he is also questioning the legitimacy of reality itself. Every time he glances at the raven, readers are shown exactly what is on his mind. Narrator’s constant attempts to escape are Poe’s own failed attempts to escape his miserable life.
This example of rhetorical analysis essay does a great job interpreting the meaning of the poem and Poe’s use of rhetoric, which will probably result in a B-. Why B-? Quite simple – remember we were saying too many students fall into the trap of focusing on the meaning of the text, rather than the text itself? This paper does exactly the same mistake. Plus, it has way too much information about Poe’s personal life, which is irrelevant for rhetorical analysis papers.
The Matrix movie, sent people into a fever when it came out. A subtle combination of computer effects, fantastic writing, and intense marketing made people question the very reality they resided it. We will be analyzing brothers Wachowski’s, the writers behind the first Matrix movie, writing style below.
At first glance, readers are struck by a powerful metaphor of Farm life. Matrix main character, Neo, is stuck in a job he hates without a chance to escape. This raises a question: Why doesn’t he just quit? The answer is evident – Neo needs this job to feel normal. When not working, he hacks and writes computer software. A corporate drone by day and a superhero by night. This image is achieved with the help of pathos. Wachowski brothers are fulfilling a ‘need’ that their readers have. Neo can live a double life that we can’t.
Next thing that immediately strikes our mind is plenty of similes. Authors use them to contrast mundane daily life and make their readers more engrossed in a storyline. There is a constant reference to Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ This contrast works to dissociate readers from reality even further. By comparing reality to a ‘program’ and the truth to a ‘rabbit hole,’ authors evoke a psychological-somatic response. They are literally writing nonsense to emulate Carroll’s writing style.The way authors portray Neo’s character is by elevating the mundane to something otherworldly and supernatural.
Wachowski brothers use multiple enumerations with a repetitive dialogue to emphasize special words and constructs. Throughout Matrix storyline, Neo is elevated to a beyond-human state; this is achieved through hyperbole. Every stylistic choice in dialogue only deepens dissonance between normality and the supernatural. Neo’s character is under constant bombardment of dissolution. He is compared to a God or a holy prophet. Authors use a powerful allegory to elevate him into a fictional Jesus without much support from any external elements. With this choice, authors are engrossing readers into a state of disbelief. They are using grand words like ‘Oracle’ and ‘The Chosen One’ with an intention of drawing readers further away from reality.
An absence of strong language, like cursing or insults, is another stylistic choice that Wachowski brothers make on purpose. They are attempting to elevate their story to a higher art of speeches. By not allowing their storytelling to be polluted by inferior words they are essentially writing a speech. This way, screenwriter manage to hook their audience and keep them engaged all through the movie. In fact, Matrix movie eventually less a story and more of an allegory.
Now, this rhetorical analysis essay sample does a better attempt focusing on the content, rather than the meaning. This paper could probably land somewhere in between A- and B+. However, this student has obviously forgotten that a rhetorical analysis essay example is, first of all, an academic paper, which means that it should follow the rules of academic writing. Simply put, it should have an introduction (check), body paragraphs proving a particular point per paragraph (check, even though logical transitions between the body parts could have been better), and conclusion. Here, the final paragraph can hardly qualify as a sold academic conclusion, as it does not restate the main points of the paper.