The Sequence of Rhetorical Analysis

Here is a quick primer on the steps to take to complete rhetorical analysis of any text.

  1. Read the text and break it into 3-4 parts. Each part should serve a common purpose.
  2. Determine how the parts are interrelated and work together to achieve the author’s overall purpose.
  3. Use the arrangement of the parts to guide the arrangement and order of your analysis.
  4. Analysis must be based on text evidence. Aim to provide two distinct pieces of evidence & analysis per paragraph. 1-2 sentences of evidence is plenty.
  5. Analysis must address how the author’s choice (text evidence) affects the audience, then how the audience is likely to react in a way that serves the purpose the author set out to accomplish. This is referred to as the author-audience connection and is represented on the rhetorical triangle in your notes.

*Your topic sentence(s) should use the above parts & indicate what part of the essay you are analyzing and what function that part plays in the overall scheme of the essay. Thus, the focus in the topic sentence and a rhetorical analysis paragraph is the part of the essay in all its complexity, not just a single rhetorical device.

Here’s an example using Dave Barry’s essay,

Dave Barry begins his essay by recalling Thanksgiving day at his friend Gene’s house, which highlights most husbands’ inability to help their wives care for children and prepare meals. In the first paragraph Barry compares men to scum in order to establish their inability to help their wives and their need to begin learning how to help, “insert evidence.” Begin analysis by addressing how the audience (men in this case) are likely to understand the scum comparison and how this understanding will move them to begin to help their wives as a result…  

*An author’s purpose is always to get their audience to think, believe, or do something as a result of reading.

In every instance, analysis simply means answering: How does the language the author chose affect the audience and make them think, believe or do what the author wants them to? In the case of Barry’s language, his humor is meant to push men to consider how little help they are to their wives in the household and then to actively begin helping more.

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