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Rhetorical Analysis of "The Perils of Indifference" by Elie Wiesel

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Rima S A

on 14 December 2017

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Transcript of Rhetorical Analysis of "The Perils of Indifference" by Elie Wiesel

Wiesel uses a distressed, sympathetic, and critical tone throughout the speech in describing how people were treated with indifference in the twentieth century. He advises the American people not to be indifferent to victims of injustices. Wiesel also hopes that in the twenty-first century, people would be less indifferent.
Rhetorical Devices
"The Perils of Indifference" by Elie Wiesel
The speaker, Elie Wiesel, is a Holocaust survivor and a Nobel Laureate. He has experienced injustices and suffering firsthand during the Holocaust. As a teenager in the year 1944, Wiesel and his family were deported from Hungary to the Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland by the Nazis. Wiesel recalls facing slavery, hunger, and strict discipline.
In his speech on April 12, 1999 as part of the Millennium Lecture series, hosted by President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton, Wiesel describes the injustices faced by people in the twentieth century, especially during the Holocaust.
In his speech, Wiesel addresses President Clinton, Mrs. Clinton, the members of Congress, Ambassador Holbrooke, Excellencies, and friends. His intended audience is the President, First Lady, White House officials, and the American people.
The purpose of Wiesel's speech is to persuade the audience not to be indifferent to victims of injustice and cruelty. The speaker hopes to accomplish compassion in the twenty-first century for those suffering injustices around the world.
The overall subject of the piece is compassion for victims suffering worldwide. Wiesel persuades his audience not to show indifference toward these victims.
Wiesel uses the pathos appeal in his speech to evoke emotions in his audience.
For example,
• In the opening of his speech, Wiesel tells the story of a young Jewish boy who was liberated by American soldiers. Wiesel states, "He was finally free, but there was no joy in his heart. He thought there never would be again."
Wiesel uses the ethos appeal in his speech to establish his credibility with the audience.
For example,
• Wiesel recalls his own experience in his speech. He states, "In the place that I come from, society was composed of three simple categories: the killers, the victims, and the bystanders. During the darkest of times, inside the ghettoes and death camps...we felt abandoned, forgotten."
Wiesel uses the logos appeal to provide logical reasons for his argument.
For example,
• Wiesel uses logic by stating that the injustices of the twentieth century would be judged in the new millenium. He recalls the tragic events of the twentieth century by stating, "These failures have cast a dark shadow over humanity: two World Wars, countless civil wars, the senseless chain of assassinations...bloodbaths in Cambodia and Nigeria, India and Pakistan...the inhumanity in the gulag and the tragedy of Hiroshima...So much violence, so much indifference."
Wiesel uses repetition in his speech to emphasize an idea.
For example,
• Wiesel repeats words such as "indifference" to show the audience his message. Wiesel defines indifference in several ways, and helps the audience understand what indifference really is.
Wiesel uses alliteration in his speech to create sound effects and appeal to his audience.
For example,
• Wiesel repeats initial sounds in explaining indifference. The initial
sounds are repeated in this sentence, "The
risoner in his cell, the
ungry children, the
omeless refugees..." This alliteration helps the audience visualize and understand the point that Wiesel is making about indifference.
Image: Children of all ages inside a concentration camp in Auschwitz
Visual Rhetorical Analysis
Major Figures/Objects
In this picture, Jewish children are standing trapped behind a barbed-wire fence at a concentration camp in Auschwitz. They look like the people Wiesel describes in his speech.
Tone of Image
This image conveys a miserable tone and evokes feelings of empathy and guilt. Wiesel in his speech evokes emotions with similar imagery.

This picture was probably taken or restored to show how even Jewish children were not spared during the Holocaust.
Cultural/Historical Biases
The Jewish children in this image are being persecuted. They are tortured and killed only because of their Jewish heritage. This image as in Wiesel's speech might teach people not to be indifferent.
Full transcript