Be sure you are keeping up with your journal assignments so you can become stronger at discerning the argument and rhetorical strategies in all nonfiction that you read.


"Ebola Blame Game Takes the Stage at Midterm Election Debates" by Juana Summers, NPR News
This is a news story, not an opinion piece. You are to tie the comment, "It's a terrible thing to say, but fear is a heck of a motivator," to what you know about Arthur Miller's theme in "The Crucible," and Robert Frost's warning in the last stanza of "Choose Something Like a Star."  This should be a strong, well-developed two paragraphs in your journal.

Albert Einstein's Letter to Phyllis, a 6th Grader
See page 9, 10 in your Language of Composition textbook.
Follow the assignment, and write your response in your Journal.

"Potlatch for Politicians," New York Times column by Timothy Egan.
Answer the questions on the handout as you write your critical reaction. Remember you are always charged with defending, challenging or qualifying. (You can disagree.)

RHETORIC--Unforgettable, Inspiring Language!

What is RHETORIC? Convincing language that carries lasting power. Good rhetoric elicits an emotional response from the reader or listener. Rhetoric is words used effectively-- in a powerful way to challenge, to refute, to reason and argue, to persuade—and most of all—to inspire.

The Power of  Great Rhetoric

Consider the rhetorical strategies, the use of parallelism, repetition, antithesis, rich imagery with emotional appeal, in the examples below.

We have a place, all of us, in a long story—a story we continue, but whose end we will not see. It is the story of a new world that became a friend and liberator of the old, a story of a slave-holding society that became a servant of freedom, the story of a power that went into the world to protect but not possess, to defend but not to conquer.”
--2001 Inaugural Address of George W. Bush

The above sentence is a historical summary, but it is made eloquent by repetition of "a story" and meaningful by juxtaposing opposing ideas (antithesis), careful parallel phrasing, and the use of words with noble connotations.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
--1961 Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy

The above sentence which opens with a dramatic antithesis (well or ill) is not just a list—but a pledge, a promise. The use of simple verbs such as pay, bear, meet, support, oppose gives each short phrase great punch. But the direct objects that follow these action verbs show tremendous courage and determination: price, burden, hardship, friend, foe. The final phrase sings out the strong commitment to liberty and democracy during the Cold War struggle. Parallel structure keeps all these ideas lined up and clear--resulting in a very powerful, unforgettable statement.

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan - to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."
-- Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, 1865

Abraham Lincoln provides a magnificent example of antithesis--opposing ideas placed side by side--in his opening phrase.  Malice is the opposite of charity, or love. None and all are direct opposites. These striking juxtapositions make clear Lincoln's point:  Americans must unite in love and blame no one for this war. Lincoln is also a master of parallel structure, of metaphors, and rich imagery. Each phrase is a carefully chiseled syntactical masterpiece. He portrays the nation as a wounded soldier in need of healing and consolation for loss. The words "widow" and "orphan" convey the deep tragedies being felt by both sides in the Civil War.

Repetition and Syntax“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
--1933 Inaugural Address of Franklin D. Roosevelt

Simplicity. Syntax is the key to this phrase’s power. The positive statement— is underscored by the repetition of “fear itself.” This phrase became famous not just because of syntactical simplicity, but because it embodies the spirit of confidence and the candid truth that fear can traumatize people so they do not think clearly and take wise actions. (Remember that in 1933, the depths of the Depression, one quarter of Americans were in danger of starvation.)

Good rhetoric is about saying something in the strongest way possible. Consider this phrase: My fellow Americans, don’t ask what is my country going to do to help me? You should ask, instead, what can I do to help my country?

The above words are clumsy. They are not compelling or noble or even memorable.  But, look at the following famous line:

“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”John F. Kennedy, 1961

This famous line uses a reversed syntax, sometimes called antimetabole, a clever grammatical structure in which the first clause or phrase is followed by a clause or phrase that is reversed, often repeating the same words. Kennedy’s words became unforgettable, not just because they carried great meaning, but because the idea was presented with powerful syntax.


"Please," said the frustrated teacher, "place commas and periods INSIDE the quotation marks."

THE CRUCIBLE by Arthur Miller, 1953

Read THE CRUCIBLE online.

CONSIDERED ONE of America's greatest playwrights and a master of realism, Arthur Miller's bold blending of history and imagination ignites The Crucible. Miller uses the historical account of the Salem witch hunt of 1692 to show parallels to the "Red hunt" led by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s.
Charging that hundreds of card-carrying members of the Communist party had infiltrated our government, McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee summoned people from all walks of life, especially screenwriters, producers, actors and politicians--asking the question: "Are you now or were you ever a Communist?" Careers were destroyed, reputations ruined, jobs lost--all based on innuendo and little or no evidence. Those summoned were coerced to inform on neighbors and friends or be sent to jail. "The Crucible was an act of desperation," Miller later wrote. "By the end of 1950 when I began to think of writing about the hunt for Reds in America, I was motivated in some great part by the paralysis that had set in among many...despite their discomfort with the inquisitors' violations of civil rights..."

In Salem, Massachusetts, 1692, 19 innocent men and women and two dogs were hanged for witchcraft. An elderly man was pressed to death under heavy rocks for refusing to stand trial. Four others died in jail while awaiting trial. "The Salem tragedy, which is about to begin in these pages developed from a paradox," Miller writes in the opening of the play (832). SMART COOKIE CLUE: WHAT IS THE PARADOX? The repressive, rigid unity of the Puritan theocracy helped the early settlers survive hardships and rough conditions; but, by the third generation, there was a deep longing for individual freedom.

In this crucible of human angst, Miller reveals how old grudges, deceitful jealousies, and smoldering greed leads to betrayal, lies and unbridled hysteria. Any applications for our society today?

JONATHAN EDWARDS--Puritan Minister 1703--1758

Read this famous sermon (p. 79-81 in your textbook).

"...your righteousness would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell than a spider's web would have to stop a fallen rock...."

Edwards was influenced by English philosopher John Locke who believed everything we know comes from experience. Understanding and feeling, Locke contended, were two very different forms of knowledge. Edwards thought the difference between the two kinds of knowledge was like the difference between reading the word fire, and actually being burned.

Yes, Jonathan Edwards was a fire-and-brimstone preacher! He is considered by many to be the last of the ultra-strict old Puritan ministers. Surprisingly, he is said to have delivered this sermon in a quiet, monotone voice, but the imagery of his words so upset his listeners that several times he had to ask them to stop shrieking and swooning--and be quiet.

We're all the same on the inside...

He prayed. It wasn't how I pray.
He spoke. It wasn't my language.

He ate. It wasn't like my food.

He dressed. It wasn't what I wear.

He took my hand. It wasn't the color of my skin.

But when he laughed--it was how I laugh.

And when he cried--it was how I cry.

--Amy Maddox