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Rhetorical Devices Analysis (+ Examples)

Rhetorical Devices Analysis
Rhetorical devices analysis is a process of examining and evaluating the various rhetorical techniques and strategies used in a piece of writing or speech to persuade or influence an audience. Rhetorical devices are linguistic and literary techniques that writers and speakers use to enhance their communication and make their messages more effective. Analyzing these devices helps readers and listeners understand the persuasive or expressive elements of a text.

Common Rhetorical Devices

Here are some common rhetorical devices that are often analyzed:

  1. Metaphor: A metaphor is a figure of speech that makes a direct comparison between two seemingly unrelated things to highlight a particular quality or characteristic. Analyzing metaphors helps identify the author’s intended associations and symbolism.
  2. Simile: Similar to a metaphor, a simile compares two things, but it uses “like” or “as” to draw a connection. Analyzing similes can reveal how the author is trying to create vivid imagery or emphasize a point.
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of initial consonant sounds in a series of words or phrases. It can add rhythm and create emphasis in a text.
  4. Anaphora: Anaphora involves repeating a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or sentences. This technique can create a powerful and rhythmic effect.
  5. Parallelism: Parallelism involves using similar grammatical structures in a series of sentences or phrases. It can enhance clarity, balance, and impact.
  6. Rhetorical Questions: Rhetorical questions are questions asked for effect or to make a point rather than to receive an answer. Analyzing rhetorical questions can help uncover the author’s intended emphasis or engagement with the audience.
  7. Hyperbole: Hyperbole is an exaggeration used for emphasis or dramatic effect. Examining hyperbole can reveal the author’s attempts to make a point more strongly.
  8. Irony: Irony involves saying one thing but meaning the opposite. Analyzing irony helps uncover the author’s intent and commentary on a subject.
  9. Tone and Mood: Analyzing the tone (the author’s attitude) and mood (the emotional atmosphere) of a text can reveal the author’s intent and how they want the audience to feel.

Rhetorical devices analysis is commonly used in the study of literature, rhetoric, and communication. It helps readers and analysts better understand the craft of effective communication, the author’s purpose, and the impact of the text on its audience. It’s a valuable tool for literary criticism, persuasive writing, and public speaking.

How to Write

Writing a rhetorical devices analysis involves carefully examining a piece of writing or speech to identify and evaluate the rhetorical techniques and strategies used by the author or speaker. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write a rhetorical devices analysis:

  1. Choose the Text: Select the text or speech you want to analyze. It could be an essay, a speech, a poem, an article, or any piece of communication that employs rhetorical devices.
  2. Read and Annotate: Read the text or listen to the speech carefully. As you do so, make annotations or take notes on the rhetorical devices and elements you observe. Pay attention to figures of speech, tone, word choice, repetition, and any other persuasive techniques.
  3. Identify Rhetorical Devices: Start by identifying and listing the rhetorical devices used in the text. Common devices include metaphors, similes, alliteration, anaphora, parallelism, rhetorical questions, hyperbole, irony, and appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos.
  4. Provide Context: In your analysis, provide context for the text. Consider the author’s background, the historical and cultural context, and the intended audience. Understanding the context can help explain the purpose behind the use of certain rhetorical devices.
  5. Analyze the Effect: For each rhetorical device you identify, analyze its effect on the audience. How does it contribute to the author’s persuasive or expressive goals? Does it enhance the text’s emotional impact, clarity, or emphasis?
  6. Discuss the Author’s Purpose: Explore the author’s purpose in using these rhetorical devices. Is the author trying to persuade, inform, entertain, or provoke a particular reaction? Discuss how the chosen devices align with this purpose.
  7. Consider Tone and Style: Analyze the overall tone and style of the text. How do these elements contribute to the author’s message and the audience’s perception of it? Discuss whether the tone is formal, informal, serious, humorous, etc.
  8. Examine the Structure: Evaluate the structure of the text. Look for patterns, repetitions, and the organization of ideas. Discuss how the author’s use of rhetorical devices contributes to the overall structure and flow of the piece.
  9. Discuss the Audience Response: Consider how the rhetorical devices are likely to affect the audience. Are they intended to evoke certain emotions, elicit agreement, or challenge existing beliefs? Discuss the audience’s likely response to these devices.
  10. Provide Examples: Throughout your analysis, provide specific examples from the text to support your observations. Quote or paraphrase relevant passages and explain how they illustrate the use of rhetorical devices.
  11. Draw Conclusions: Summarize your analysis by drawing conclusions about the effectiveness of the rhetorical devices used in achieving the author’s goals. Discuss the overall impact of these devices on the text and its audience.
  12. Organize Your Analysis: Organize your analysis logically, typically in a structured essay format. Start with an introduction that introduces the text and its context, followed by body paragraphs that each focus on a specific rhetorical device or aspect. Conclude by summarizing your findings and their significance.
  13. Revise and Proofread: Review your analysis for clarity, coherence, and accuracy. Ensure that your analysis is well-structured and free of grammatical errors.
  14. Provide Citations: If you’re analyzing a published text, provide proper citations and references according to the appropriate style guide (e.g., MLA, APA) for any quotes or references you include.

Remember that a successful rhetorical devices analysis should not merely identify the devices used but also explain their purpose and impact in the context of the text’s overall message and goals. It should demonstrate a deep understanding of how language and persuasion work together in communication.


Here are five examples of rhetorical devices used in various specific texts, films, ads, speeches, and letters:

  1. Anaphora in “I Have a Dream” Speech by Martin Luther King Jr.
    • Example: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
    • Explanation: Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses. In this famous speech, Martin Luther King Jr. uses anaphora with the phrase “I have a dream” to emphasize his vision for racial equality.
  2. Irony in “The Shawshank Redemption”
    • Example: The film’s title, “The Shawshank Redemption,” is ironic because it suggests a story of redemption and salvation, while the plot is centered around prison life and escape.
    • Explanation: Irony is a rhetorical device that involves saying one thing but meaning the opposite. The irony in the title creates a sense of surprise and curiosity.
  3. Slogan and Persuasive Appeal (Pathos) in Nike’s “Just Do It” Ad Campaign
    • Example: “Just Do It” slogan
    • Explanation: Nike’s famous slogan is a concise and powerful example of persuasive appeal through emotion (pathos). It motivates consumers by evoking a sense of determination and empowerment.
  4. Antithesis in Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
    • Example: “We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.”
    • Explanation: Antithesis is a rhetorical device that juxtaposes contrasting ideas in parallel structures. In this excerpt, Lincoln contrasts the “great battlefield” with the “final resting place,” emphasizing the sacrifice made for the nation’s survival.
  5. Soliloquy in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”
    • Example: Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, “To be or not to be, that is the question…”
    • Explanation: A soliloquy is a speech delivered by a character alone on stage, revealing their inner thoughts and feelings. In this soliloquy, Hamlet contemplates life and death using a rhetorical question and antithesis.
  6. Symbolism in the Film “The Great Gatsby”
    • Example: The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock represents Gatsby’s unattainable dreams and aspirations.
    • Explanation: Symbolism is a rhetorical device where an object or symbol represents a deeper, often abstract idea or theme. In this case, the green light symbolizes Gatsby’s pursuit of the American Dream.
  7. Dystopian Imagery and Irony in Apple’s “1984” Commercial
    • Example: The iconic commercial features a dystopian setting and presents Apple’s Macintosh computer as a revolutionary alternative.
    • Explanation: The use of dystopian imagery and irony highlights the Macintosh as a break from conformity and control in the tech industry, emphasizing its uniqueness and innovation.
  8. ¬†Repetition and Parallelism in Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” Speech
    • Example: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets…”
    • Explanation: Churchill’s use of repetition and parallelism emphasizes the determination and resolve of the British people during World War II.
  9. Inclusive Pronouns (We, Our) in John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address
    • Example: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
    • Explanation: Kennedy’s use of inclusive pronouns encourages a sense of national unity and shared responsibility among the American people.
  10. Allegory in “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”
    • Example: The One Ring symbolizes the corrupting influence of power.
    • Explanation: Allegory is a rhetorical device in which characters, events, or elements represent abstract ideas or moral qualities. In “The Lord of the Rings,” the One Ring serves as an allegory for the destructive nature of unchecked power.
  11. Foreshadowing in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”
    • Example: The narrator’s repeated insistence that they are not mad foreshadows the narrator’s descent into madness.
    • Explanation: Foreshadowing is a literary device where the author hints at future events. In this short story, Poe uses foreshadowing to create tension and anticipation.
  12. Pathos in Maximus’ Speech in “Gladiator”
    • Example: Maximus speech rallying his troops before a battle.
    • Explanation: This speech employs pathos by appealing to the soldiers’ sense of duty, honor, and camaraderie, motivating them for the upcoming battle.
  13. Personalization in Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” Campaign
    • Example: Coca-Cola bottles featuring common names like “John,” “Sarah,” and “Emily.”
    • Explanation: The use of personalization in this ad campaign creates a sense of connection and inclusivity, encouraging consumers to purchase and share Coke with friends and family.
  14. Repetition in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” Speech
    • Example: Repetition of “a date which will live in infamy” i.e. “December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy…”
    • Explanation: The repetition of this phrase emphasizes the significance of the Pearl Harbor attack and stirs emotions of shock and outrage among the American people.
  15. Appeal to Ethos (Credibility) in Abigail Adams’s Letter to John Adams
    • Example: Abigail Adams uses her role as a wife and mother to persuade John Adams to consider women’s rights and freedoms.
    • Explanation: Abigail Adams employs ethos by drawing on her position and moral authority within the family to advocate for women’s rights in her letter.

These examples illustrate how rhetorical devices are employed in various forms of communication to convey deeper meanings, engage the audience, and enhance the overall impact of the message.