What is rhetoric? If one were to mention rhetoric in a conversation I would assume I know what they mean. However, if I were to be asked to define rhetoric I am not sure I could have given a sufficient definition or explanation. I had always dismissed learning about what rhetoric was; I thought that because I knew what a rhetorical question was I knew what rhetoric was, through reading however I learned that rhetoric was more than just a sarcastic way to inform someone.

Through analyzing the assigned readings I came to have a closer understanding of rhetoric. Rhetoric is a use of language to impart knowledge or inform people about a specific topic or event. Rhetoric has a series of concepts that it embodies that enabled me to grasp what rhetoric strives to do. The rhetoric concepts are: ethos, pathos, logos, arrangement, audience, and rhetorical situation. Now ethos, pathos, and logos were all words that were used in my Sophomore Classical Civilizations course, and I realized that I was able to make it through the entire course without knowing a thing about them. Upon further reading I found that ethos is the “controlling factor in persuasion”, pathos is “the proof of emotion” or the appeal to the values of the audience; and logos is the proofs based in logic and reasoning. These three are all main aspects of rhetoric, and explain how rhetoric is conveyed to the audience. The other aspects, though important, are less commonly taught. Arrangement refers to how the text is organized, audience tells about the people who are written to, and how to go about capturing their attention; and rhetorical situation is the situation that has called for rhetoric to be needed in the first place.

Rhetoric is used to impart virtues on the audience. Specifically: honesty, knowledge, rationality, tolerance, judgement,  and intellectual courage. The virtue of honesty teaches that one should not hold too tight to their preconceived notions, and to be open to one’s best understanding of what is true. Knowledge strives to make sure that one is informed about the subject that is being discussed or argued, and that if they even if they are well informed one should listen carefully and study the matter in order to obtain more knowledge. Rationality teaches reflection, evidence and reasoning before one should make an argument; tolerance teaches people to be open to other people’s opinions and arguments, especially if they differ from your own. Judgement/wisdom asks that those involved pick and choose their battles, and urges them to reflect and understand what is worth arguing to them (something my Mother has often talked to me about). And intellectual courage urges those to speak their argument even if their opinion is unpopular.

Rather than give definition however, Herick approaches rhetoric in a different way. The reading by Herick goes a bit further into the topic of rhetoric. Instead of defining what rhetoric is by breaking it into definitions and pieces Herick addresses rhetoric as a whole. He talks about how almost anything that we encounter in our lives can be rhetoric. He refers to “symbols” and says that a symbol is anything that conveys to a person some sort of meaning/information. These symbols, whether it be a person, place, or thing all are “usually” a part of a larger system; and this larger system is conveying a deeper meaning to us through these symbols. This argument allows Herick to make rhetoric seem like a much bigger part of life than I, for one, had ever assumed it to be; after reading his work I felt like the world around me was more connected.

Multimedia rhetoric is not disconnected from rhetoric, rather it is a different way to communicate the deeper meanings and virtues that rhetoric strives to deliver to its audiences. However, instead of being spoken or written, multimedia rhetoric conveys its message through photos, videos, or any other various media outlets/sources. The internet gives great outlets for these messages as well, whenever you watch a Youtube video, or read an article that your annoying Aunt posted on Facebook you are receiving a message. Multimedia rhetoric has adapted to reach a wider audience in a shorter amount of time, but still being able to convey a strong message. An added bonus to this form of rhetoric is its permanence; once something is on the internet it there for good, this is something we should have all learned by now. So now the message will live on the internet forever, for future generations, viewers, and audience members to view and learn from.

While I believe that multimedia rhetoric is a great and powerful way to convey a great message to its audiences because of its permanence, I also see this as a downfall. These symbols are meant to convey virtues and a positive message that will better society and people as a whole; that being said, there is almost always people who will use misuse a new resource. Sure, the internet is a great and easy way to get a message out; that being said it is also very easy to do the same with a bad message. In 2016 already we have seen massive events where multimedia is polluted with false, misleading, or bad information. Whether it be a bad message, or a message with good intentions that has been manipulated, the internet is a place where things can get twisted. My concern lies in the fact that multimedia is a rapidly growing, and relatively new form of communication, and more and more ways to communicate are coming out almost monthly. Will all of this change and uncertainty it is easy to misread, or misinterpret things that we see; my hopes is that the world will prevail and be able to use multimedia outlets as a way to spread a good message rather than a bad one. But only time will tell.






Suspense is the key to a wonderful narrative. Suspense builds and teases the audience, that feeling of not knowing something grips a reader/listener and makes them want to know more. The same thing is true with a relationship in my opinion. A relationship, in the beginning at least, needs some air of mystery that keeps the other partner wanting to come back for more. Now there is a line between confusion and suspense/intrigue; confusion, while mildly intriguing quickly loses its “fire” and excitement. Whereas suspense keeps one on the edge as they try to get as much information as they can. Now this is not to say that you should always be holding back from your partner in a relationship, but in the beginning I feel that it is best to leave something to be desired, in order to let the attraction grow. But, that is neither here nor there and a conversation for another time.

Good suspense is not always built by the story alone, sometimes suspense can be created by extraordinary characters or actors. Alan Rickman was a master of suspense, his cadence while delivering performances tantalized the viewers and left them falling over as they tried to grasp for the next line he may deliver to propel the movie forward. I could listen to Alan Rickman read a grocery list and be very interested in it, thinking to myself, “when is he going to talk about vegetables, do we need vegetables, oh God he is so unpredictable!!” Needless to say I am a fan, and enjoy good suspense, and that is exactly what I got from the narratives we listened to for homework.

In “A Day in the Life of Nancy” I found myself on the edge of my seat as the story played out before me. Every time that she answered one of my questions another would soon follow, adding to the suspense and keeping me listening to her story. Questions such as, “Why is the knife under the couch? Why would there be a knife under the couch? How will her sister have changed? Maybe she could be the one that has changed? Is everything going to be alright between them?” danced around in my head, and were ultimately all answered as the story came to an end. Yet, I am not a huge fan of a full understanding at the end of a story, what I mean by that is there is something to be said about a few unanswered questions at the end of something. With examples like the television show “Lost”, or the movie “Inception” both of these ended with questions still unanswered, and it drove people mad; which isn’t always a bad thing. I have always enjoyed being able to fill my mind with “what ifs”, but that is just me.

Then Sedaris came along and told his story. Now, Sedaris did not have the huge moments of suspense that “A Day in the Life of Nancy” had, but he did do a great job of intriguing me enough to stay with him. I became more obsessed with waiting to see what the couple on the second train would say next; what horribly stupid statement will leave their mouths next. This in and of itself created a different type of story that was equally, if not more, enjoyable than the one I had listened to earlier. It incorporated an element of humor that was lacking in “A Day in the Life of Nancy”, an element which I have a very big fancy for in particular. Sedaris delivered his story in a sort of dry, slow pace, that really accentuated just how ridiculous this couple was behaving. Yet again we came to a end conclusion, as most stories do, where our questions were answered and we departed on our search for more entertainment.



Rhetorical Features of the Personal Essay

Each of the narratives we listened to for this assignment ( “A Day in the Life of Nancy” and the Third Act of “Three Kinds of Deception”) contained within themselves a great many examples of the different types of rhetorical features referred to in the WCA writings. Both do a great job of telling a story, and each adds a use of a feature that the other does not, providing the reader with a more layered understanding of the different types of rhetorical features and their uses.

The first feature mentioned in the WCA reading was narrative base proving that though a narrative may be a story, it does not need to proceed chronologically. A narrative story must sometimes make way for jumping around in order to preface, reflect, or flashback so that the listeners/readers can gain a better understanding of the narrative itself. In “A Day in the Life of Nancy” Nancy jumps around in the beginning setting the stage of the soap opera, then going back to explain why they were there in the first place. Much like how Sedaris enters into a story about being called a frenchman, only to go back and explain that he is not french. It is human nature to remember things and fill people in as we go, so it only makes sense that a narrative story should as well.

The second rhetorical feature was tension. Tension, but not suspense, is where there is contrast between two ideas. The tension that existed in “A Day in the Life of Nancy” was her confusion about what her sister would be like coming back from college. As her sister had just gone off to college and she had just started high school, there is tension as to whether or not her sister and her will have the same relationship they had before she left for college. The fear that one of them may have changed in a way that affects their relationship negatively brought tension out in the narrative. This tension leads up to the moment when she hears the excitement in her sister’s voice as she returns home from her high school exams, and realizes that her worries were merely worries and that everything was fine between the two sisters.

To have a good personal essay however, more than just natural base and tension are needed, there also needs to be literary devices. Literary devices use description to build a more intimate story. In order to do so it is important to use devices such as: description, setting, character, and figurative language.

Description helps to build background in a story. A personal essay is designed to share the experience of the teller with that of the reader, so description is needed in order to better share this experience. Sedaris, instead of just simply stating that he did not like the couple near him on the second train, describes what the couple did to evoke such a feeling towards them. This is done in order to show us his reasoning, as well as to get us on his side in our viewing of the couple, I would assume. Similarly, to build suspense the teller describes the situation of diffusing the bomb in order to draw us in, and allows us to feel what she was feeling at that time. That being said, description for the sake of description is not needed, when telling a story it is important to keep the story to the point in order to keep the audiences’ attention in my opinion, so it is best to leave unimportant details, that do not contribute to the story, out of the story.

Setting is another literary device that allows the audience to come to a more intimate understanding of what was happening in the story. Setting enhances the story, but it cannot stand alone. Sedaris’ story would’ve lacked the humor and understanding it carried if he had just described the second train, and not gone into detail about the couple that made his train ride so interesting. In addition to setting in a narrative/personal story there are oftentimes characters in it. The characters are usually what propel the story along and influence the thoughts and events. “A Day in the Life of Nancy” has the main character and her sister as the two prominent characters who the story centers around; whereas Sedaris’ story centers around more. Sedaris’ story isn’t so much centered on himself, as it is around a couple and their incredible lack of intelligence as they openly ridicule a man, and are unaware that he can understand them. Developing the characters through description gives depth to the story, allowing the audience to follow along more closely, and enjoy the story more. Sedaris gives his characters (the couple on the second train) a voice to make them seem more life-like and enjoyable. Even though the voice may be a foolish and incompetent one, it allows the audience to share Sedaris’ enjoyment in laughing at their idiocy.

A personal favorite however is figurative language. I am a firm believer that figurative language carries more meaning in less words than almost any other type of speech. The character and unique aspects that figurative language brings to a conversation, story, or interaction is almost unparalleled (personal opinion). In addition to describing things to the audience, figurative language/speech can show where a character is from or more aptly describe the situation at hand. Just as Sedaris uses the figurative language used by the couple in order to give us, the listeners, a better understanding of the morals, possible upbringing, and calibre of the couple that was talking about him. Showing them to be regular “hicks” who do not seem to be able to be capable of considering the fact that they could be wrong about their initial diagnosis of Sedaris’ country and language of origin.

I really liked listening to the two narratives after reading about the different rhetorical features. The two narratives gave great examples and further helped me develop my understanding of rhetorical features, as well as begin to get a good grasp on how to compose a “gripping” or interesting narrative of my own.

Laughter in the Past Week

In my last week I have had laughs, as I usually do, but one in particular stuck out to me. They say that humor arises from situations that are a breach of the usual order of events, or when acts of indecency and nonsense arise. These are three aspects of an event last week that gave me one of the best laughs I have had in a long time. Over winter break I was able to go to San Fransisco with a buddy of mine from high school (Jeff), along with his mom and dad. It was amazing, the food was great, the weather was surprisingly wonderful, and the city was beautiful. What was probably the most amazing was visiting Alcatraz; Alcatraz was so much more intricate than I ever thought it could’ve been, that seeing it in person nearly took my breath away. The security and order that was upheld at the prison during its usage was unparalleled. The guided tour talked about the lives of the criminals, the upkeep of the jail, and everything about the prison and its inmates that you could have wanted to know. But, what was really interesting to me, personally, was the lives of the guards, and the routines that they had to go through in order to ensure that the prison ran the way it was designed to. In addition to the guided audio tour I was of course able to see much of the jail, including the various types of cells, even the ones that three inmates escaped out of during the years the jail was active. Towards the end of the tour we had the opportunity to go into a cell and get a picture in the cell; and this is where the story really begins.

I was able to convince my friend earlier, as well as his mom, to help me in capturing this glorious moment. My idea was to have both my friend, Jeff, and I get a picture of us sitting on the toilet in the cell with our pants down; thus creating the best jail cell pictures ever. My picture went off without a hitch, and next it was Jeff’s turn. As Jeff began to sit down and his mom began to snap pictures a park ranger came down the hall. As my attention was drawn towards the hilarity that ensued inside of the cell I didn’t notice the ranger, but he sure did notice us. Never have I seen someone as red faced as Jeff became when he was forced to shuffle out of a jail cell with his pants around his ankles, then fumble to pull up and fasten his pants. Not only did we have great pictures but we were also gifted a great story of humiliation that stemmed from a very flustered park ranger, a very embarrassed friend, and several dozen extremely confused visitors. I have to admit, seeing someone you know get caught for something you planned is hilarious, as long as there is no lasting punishment (which there wasn’t), and the scolding Jeff received was well outweighed by the sidesplitting laughter that I shared with his mom and dad while it occurred.