In my last post on the subject of formal rhetoric, I introduced you to the canons of rhetoric, the basic arrangement of a persuasive essay or speech, and the modes of persuasion. I’d like to focus on the modes of persuasion and a new topic (elocution) in this post.
Elocution pertains to the style in which you state your ideas. This includes word choice, sentence structure, and figures of speech.
“Parallelism is actually a “figure of speech,” a sentence pattern that varies the ordinary or conventional use of language. Figures come in two types, those which vary standard word order and those which vary standard word usage: a figure is either a scheme or a trope. If parallelism is the most important scheme, metaphor is the most important trope. Metaphor is like similie since both compare two items; a metaphor is an identity, however, where a similie is an analogy.” [Scott F. Crider, The Office of Assertion]
There are two main categories of figures of speech: schemes and tropes.
Schemes appeal to the senses.
These figures of speech have a pleasing or attention-grabbing sound to the ear. Many schemes use repetition of sounds or structure, rhyme or rhythm.
Alliteration is one of the most familiar schemes. It is the repetition of consonant sounds in close proximity, usually at the beginning of words. For example, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is loaded with alliteration in every line.
This king lay at Camelot at Christmas-tide
with many a lovely lord, lieges most noble,
indeed of the Table Round all those tried brethren,
amid merriment unmatched and mirth without care.
There tourneyed many a time the trusty knights,
and jousted full joyously these gentle lords;
then to the court they came at carols to play.
Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds rather than consonant sounds.
Chiasmus is reverse repetition of a group of words, clauses, or sentences.
The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n. [Milton, Paradise Lost]
Antithesis uses parallel structure to contrast opposing ideas.
Eloquent speakers give pleasure, wise ones salvation. [Augustine] (Eloquent vs wise and pleasure vs salvation)
Anaphora is the repetition of a word or a phrase at the beginning of clauses, lines, or sentences.
Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry. [W. B. Yeats]
Epistrophe is the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of clauses, lines, or sentences.
Justice is the grammar of things. Mercy is the poetry of things. [Frederick Buechner]
Tropes appeal to the imagination.
These figures of speech twist the usual meaning of words and show resemblance. The two most common tropes are similie and metaphor.
A similie shows explicit resemblance and uses the words like or as.
A metaphor shows implicit resemblance by asserting that one thing is another thing.
We could continue on with symbolism, personification, onomatopeia, and more, but this is only a brief introduction. American Rhetoric is an excellent resource for definitions and examples of figures of speech if you want to learn more.
Elocution is related to the modes of persuasion, because the writer or speaker must keep his audience in mind when considering what style will be most appealing or persuasive.
Let’s quickly review the modes of persuasion before moving on to the practicum.
Ethos is an appeal based on the speaker’s credibility.
Logos is an appeal based on reason and logic.
Pathos is an appeal to the audience’s emotions.
Now it’s time for us to practice what we’ve learned using the following video:
Here’s an imperfect transcript to make discussion easier:
And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker." So God made a farmer.
God said, "I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board." So God made a farmer.
"I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife's done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon -- and mean it." So God made a farmer.
God said, "I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, 'Maybe next year.' I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain'n from 'tractor back,' put in another seventy-two hours." So God made a farmer.
God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor's place. So God made a farmer.
God said, "I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who'd plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week's work with a five-mile drive to church.
“Somebody who'd bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life 'doing what dad does.'” So God made a farmer.
And now a few questions for you. (I’d love for you all to play along in the comments.)
Is this an example of a persuasive argument?
What is this particular video’s purpose?
In the end, who is trying to persuade an audience?
Who is the intended audience?
Whose credibility do we consider? Does the video make an appeal based on credibility? How? By association?
Does this video make an appeal based on reason or logic? In what way?
Does this video appeal to the audience’s emotions? How?
Which mode of persuasion is the strongest? Why?
How is elocution—or style—used in this video? What is the overall style of the presentation? Do you notice any figures of speech?
Do you think this video is persuasive? Why? What is most effective about it?
Any other thoughts?
[Spoiler alert. Grin.]
The recording is a speech originally delivered by Paul Harvey in 1978. This particular video is a Ram commercial from the 2013 Super Bowl. (Paul Harvey passed away in 2009.)
I indentified some of the figures of speech as examples.
Rhyme/rhythm: seed, weed, feed, breed
Assonance: “sigh, reply…smiling eyes”
Alliteration: “planned paradise,” “plow and plant,” “ride, ruts, race”
Parallelism (so many examples!) “clear trees, heave bails, tame lambs, wean pigs…” “tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work,” “shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, make harness out of haywire…”
Anaphora: “God said, I need somebody”
Epistrophe: “So God made a farmer.”
Antitheses: “strong enough/gentle enough” and “heave bails/tame lambs”
Metaphor?: “bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing” “plow deep and straight and not cut corners” (Is he just talking about plowing here?)
Foreshadowing: Images of Ram Trucks in film before identifying item being advertised
Did you notice any others?