First of all, you should know the rhetorical analysis essay definition before you start finding out how to write it correctly. So, obviously, this paper is about analyzing some literature source (a poem, a book, for example), other rhetorical cases (i.e. speeches), events, or anything. That may sound banal and simple, but students mostly get stunned when it comes to writing this type of academic assignment. That is why this guide exists: to stop you from googling something like “what is a rhetorical analysis essay?”
So, now, when the phrase “rhetorical analysis” does not scare you anymore, it is time to get up to work. As you understood already, that assignment wants students to analyze something. The analysis itself has certain principles to keep up with. Let’s pay more attention to them. See how to write a rhetorical analysis paper step by step in the following guide.
1. Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topic
The range of possible topics is literally unlimited here. If your professor did not specify the particular subject of your analysis, it’s nothing bad, though you might feel a bit confused due to the variety of possible choices.
In case you’ve got that freedom, try to think over potential rhetorical analysis essay topics thoroughly. The goal is to find something really interesting for you. Like, there are hundreds or even thousands of rhetorical analysis papers by different authors discussing Martin Luther King’s speech “I Have a Dream”. It’s great to pick it, as it is a really outstanding rhetoric masterpiece example.
But does it actually touch your mind and heart? If not, it is great to try coming up with something different. What if you go in for a speech less famous but still worth analyzing? For instance, try thinking over a speech by your high school council president at the graduation ceremony. What? The majority of such speeches are worth special attention. It doesn’t matter if they are not that famous.
Still, to make this guide complete, it is clever to choose a worthy and well-known sample. So, our rhetorical analysis essay example below will touch on the outstanding speech by Winston Churchill, “We Shall Fight on the Beaches”.
2. Rhetorical Analysis: Preparation
To prepare properly, you should keep in mind the key elements of the paper. To know how to start off a rhetorical analysis essay correctly, try to answer the following questions before you begin analyzing:
- Who is the speaker/author?
- What’s the context of the speech/writing?
- Who is the target audience of the writing or speech?
- What’s the author’s purpose?
- What are the outcomes?
The other ingredient to consider is the overall tone of the author’s language. That one can mean a lot, too. So, you might want to try revealing and explaining it to yourself before you actually start writing your rhetorical essay outline.
In the sample case, the bullet list of noted points will look like the following:
- Speaker: Winston Churchill, The UK Prime Minister
- Context: World War II, House of Commons, 4th of June 1940
- Target audience: Parliament members, British civilians, and military servants
- Purpose: to motivate the country to fight; to prepare them for the possible Nazi invasion
- Result: Churchill successfully reached the purpose and impressed the entire nation
- Tone: patriotic, detailed, bellicose
Now, when the topic is known, and the key elements are defined, it is time to conduct the basic analysis. When analyzing a speech, you should look in between the lines, trying to understand the written text deeper than just reading it.
Distinguish the persuasion modes used (logos, ethos, and pathos). Reveal emotional requests. Find and mention proofs of logical argumentation and moral code persuasion. Tear the entire writing or speech apart to analyze every element separately.
Then, after you’ve got a certain impression from a rhetorical content you analyze, you can proceed. Come up with a thesis statement.
Formulate a Thesis Statement
What’s the main message of your rhetorical analysis essay? In other words, what exactly would you like to say with it? That’s how the pure thesis statement should look like. A proper thesis statement is a cornerstone in setting the build-up plan of the entire paper.
It’s okay for the thesis statement to be a bit blurry and undefined while you are only starting to write a rhetorical essay outline. The thesis will expand and change its shape as you continue analyzing the chosen speech. So, don’t keep up with it too tightly: it’s okay to edit it along with crafting your analysis.
The sample thesis may sound like the following:
The speech by Winston Churchill “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” was one of the main turning points of World War II.
Rhetorical Essay Outline
Usually, the thesis statement serves as the starting point of the entire paper. So, it is wise to develop an outline from it. This outline can be a bullet list including a couple of key words just to keep you oriented while adding the detail. It can contain the grounding sentence from each paragraph, too. The shape of your rhetorical essay outline is up to you.
The sample outline might look like this:
- Context, audience, purpose: WW2, House of Commons, motivation
- Persuasion methods:
- Pathos (emotional description of Germans to strengthen the image of the enemy)
- Logos (mentioning the troops and resources ready to be used to protect Britain)
- Ethos (calling out for British people to unite and do their job excellently to survive a long-lasting fight)
3. Writing: Example of Rhetorical Analysis
Okay, now you are finally prepared for the real action. The job done previously is a solid ground to stand on while building the rhetorical analysis essay further. Just like any other essay, this one consists of three standard parts: the intro, body, and conclusion. See the details and examples below.
The introductory part of your rhetorical analysis essay should contain the thesis statement along with the hook used to interest the professor and some introductory words. Some summary along with the persuasion threads applied by the speaker would be great to show them here as well.
The “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” speech held by Winston Churchill before the British parliament members on June 4, 1940, was of the main turning points of World War II due to the motivation and inspiration it carried. Churchill started his speech with a description of the current war situation in general and that for the British in particular. The context of the situation was rather negative and desperate, but Churchill used numerous rhetorical devices, including Logos, Pathos, Ethos, etc. to inspire people to start fighting even more severely and turn the war tide.
Serious business starts here. Keeping up with the points stated in the outline, you should describe the rhetorical elements the speaker used and the effects they were called to bring. It is fine to use citations here to prove your point.
Churchill used Pathos to describe Nazi Germans as the enemies of freedom and peace.“…always so ready to be led to the trampling down in other lands of liberties and comforts which they have never known in their own.” (Churchill) The audience is then brought towards the will and necessity to unite against the common foe that is merciless, cruel, and ready to commit whatever it takes to take away the possessions and freedoms of the British people.
He also applied Logos to describe what Britain got to protect itself: “The Rifle Brigade, the 60th Rifles, and the Queen Victoria's Rifles, with a battalion of British tanks and 1,000 Frenchmen, in all about four thousand strong, defended Calais to the last.” Additionally, Churchill devoted a part of his speech to prepare the parliament members for even more challenging times, as it was clear for him that France had been bound to capitulate in its struggle versus the Nazis.
Ethos devices were called to build up a higher moral. “I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone.” Churchill showed that the victory would require an extremely high price to pay, and it would take all that every British could give. But he also expressed confidence about every citizen’s preparation to do whatever it takes to achieve the common goal.
The best way to finish your rhetorical analysis essay is to prove your thesis statement was correct by adding a strong final argument as a summary. Close things up by restating the main point (avoid repeating it word by word, though), and leave the professor no other choice but to agree with your viewpoint.
In a desperate situation, The UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill showed his best personal qualities, confirmed his leading role for the nation once again, and inspired every civilian and every soldier to stand against the German Nazism and evil plans of its leaders for as long as necessary. His speech is a real masterpiece of rhetoric skill and effectiveness, and it is worth learning and remembering.