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The Rhetorical Square

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Natalie Smith

on 11 September 2014

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Transcript of The Rhetorical Square


Every author has a purpose for writing — ask yourself:
Why did she write this piece?
Of what is she hoping to convince me?
What does she want me to do as a result of reading this piece?
What unstated beliefs is she asking me to accept and why?
How might these unstated beliefs affect me and others?
The author's purpose could be to inform, entertain, persuade, manipulate, enlighten, etc.
Look for clues that reveal the intended audience:
Are all the examples the author uses similar in some way, or are they varied?
Who would be more likely to agree or disagree with the author? Why?
What is the author assuming that his audience will know or accept?
Is he using a specialized kind of language that only certain readers would understand?
Remember that authors sometimes target many different audiences.
Carefully consider the author's message:
What is she trying to say?
Why does she say this subject is important or not important?
How is she suggesting that this subject will affect me?
Why should I be concerned?
What will happen if I do as she suggests?
What will happen if I don't act?
Voice is similar to tone and is shaped by the author's
attitude toward his purpose and the audience he is
targeting. It is how an author says something.
When identifying voice, pay special attention to:
The author's choice of vocabulary (diction)
The types of examples he uses
The way he treats us, his readers
Get the rhetorical square down, and you are well on your way to mastering the art of rhetoric!
Let's Practice!
"The Box Man"
Barbara Lazear Ascher

The author's purpose is to share an insight with the reader regarding the homeless. By doing so, she attempts to persuade the reader to examine his or her own life and embrace the solo journey that each of us must face at one time or another.
The intended audience is probably those who pass by the homeless and others on the fringe of society without giving them a second thought, or those like Mayor Koch who think such people need a handout or need to be saved. She also targets lonely people like the woman eating soup in the coffee shop or the lady who has six cats and leaves her lights on all night (Ascher 9). Perhaps most importantly though, she is addressing the those who are discontent — those whose lives seem overly complicated, like her own at times. She even says that when her own "life seems complicated and reason slips" (Ascher 9), she longs for the open space and freedom of her childhood literary heros, the Boxcar Children.
The message or main idea of the piece is that when one chooses loneliness or embraces it like the box man, it "loses its sting" (Ascher 10). By doing so, we can achieve a certain peace and contentment and "find solace there and a friend in our own voice" (Ascher 11). According to Ascher, an inner life of the mind allows us to live life on our own terms.
The overriding tone of the piece is one of admiration for those like the box man who have found a contentment in their solitude; after all, the author admits that "one could do worse than be a collector of boxes" (Ascer 11). The piece also conveys a voice of acceptance that ultimately this life is a "solo voyage" (Ascher 10), and to embrace that fact is to find solace in ourselves. There is also a hint of criticism or perhaps sarcasm toward those people who can't see this fact and attempt to help the box man out of his perceived misery.
The author's voice could be sarcastic, critical, humorous, instructive, defiant, etc. Sometimes the author's voice will change through the piece.
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