Rhetorical Analysis Outline
What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to bum their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their masters? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood and stained with pollution is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment opportunities for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.
What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is past.
At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.
What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelly to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”
Students will write an analysis of the rhetorical appeals and strategies deployed by Frederick Douglass to convince his audience that slavery should be abolished.
Frederick Douglass, “What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July.”
Areas to consider:
Length: Essays should be within 10% of the required word count. In other words, essays should be in the 450–550 word range.
Use of Text to Support Analysis: Students should select appropriate evidence from the text to support their argument. This can be done through both direct quotation and summary. All points should be thoroughly supported and illustrated with evidence from the text.
Understanding and Deployment of Appropriate Terminology and/or Concepts: Students should use appropriate terminology to support their analysis of the rhetorical appeals and strategies deployed within the text.
Development and Clarity of Argument: The central argument of the essay should be clearly stated in the introduction and maintained throughout. Subsequent analysis of the text should illustrate and further the argument.
Structure and Organization: Essays should be clearly and logically structured and organized around a clearly defined theme or approach.
Grammar, Spelling, and Syntax: The strongest essays will have no or minimal mistakes regarding grammar, spelling, and syntax. Essays that are marred with these kinds of errors will likely have difficulty clearly expressing the central ideas and explaining them effectively.
Presentation and Format: Adheres to guidance stated in the requirements including correct formatting according to MLA Style and includes Works Cited page.
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