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Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Exploring Beyond the Surface

Prof. Wesley Spencer
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Last updated:
Nov 2, 2023
Nov 2, 2023
Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Exploring Beyond the Surface
Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Exploring Beyond the Surface

Short Description

What is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Exploring Its Definition and Purpose

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Structure

Understanding Rhetoric: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay in 7 Steps

AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Wrapping Up

Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, with its mere 272 words, is hailed as one of the most powerful speeches in American history. But what makes these few words resonate so profoundly? The answer lies in the art of rhetorical analysis, a discipline that not only dissects the techniques used by these great orators but also teaches us how to harness those techniques in our own writing. Rhetorical analysis is like having a magnifying glass for language, revealing the subtleties and nuances that make words persuasive and influential.

Short Description

In this comprehensive guide, the team of experts at our online paper writing service will explore the definition and purpose of a rhetorical essay, provide you with a real-world example, break down the essay structure, and dive into the influential trifecta of ethos, pathos, and logos. You'll learn how to craft a compelling essay in 7 simple steps and discover the art of mastering this skill. If you're preparing for the AP Language and Composition exam, we've got you covered with essential tips for excelling in the rhetorical analysis examples. Let's elevate your writing to a new level!

What is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Exploring Its Definition and Purpose

A rhetorical analysis essay is a distinctive form of academic writing that delves deep into the intricate art of persuasion through language, examining key rhetorical concepts.

This essay genre isn't just about summarizing or reviewing a text; it's about dissecting it piece by piece, uncovering the persuasive strategies, and understanding how those techniques impact the audience. But what precisely is the purpose of this essay?

At its core, the purpose is to equip students with the analytical skills required to critically assess written and spoken discourse. It's an exercise in developing a keen eye for persuasive tactics and recognizing how words, phrases, and stylistic choices can influence and sway an audience. By analyzing a text through a rhetorical lens, students are able to unearth the hidden layers of meaning and intent, appreciating the craftsmanship of effective communication.

A well-crafted rhetorical analysis essay should not only break down the key components of a text but also evaluate its effectiveness. It's akin to a literary detective work, where you uncover the 'hows' and 'whys' behind the persuasive success of a given piece of writing.

For students pursuing advanced placement in language and composition courses, the AP rhetorical analysis essay is a crucial part of the curriculum. This specific essay format challenges students to apply their rhetorical analysis skills in an exam setting. In the subsequent sections, we will provide you with a sample rhetorical analysis essay for deeper insights.

Meanwhile, if you're curious about what is a critical analysis essay, we've got you covered on that, too!

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Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example

Now, you may be wondering - What is a rhetorical analysis essay example? That's why we've put together an example to help you see what it's all about.

Title: The Power of Persuasion: A Rhetorical Analysis of President John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address


In the heart of the Cold War era, on January 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered his inaugural address, a speech that would not only set the tone for his presidency but also resonate throughout history. With the world on the brink of nuclear conflict, Kennedy's speech played a pivotal role in shaping global politics and inspiring hope. This rhetorical analysis delves into how President Kennedy skillfully employs ethos, pathos, and logos to rally the nation and reassure the world during this tense period in history.

Body Paragraph 1: Ethos

President Kennedy begins by establishing his ethos, emphasizing his credentials as the newly elected leader of the United States. He reminds the audience of the recent election and the democratic process. He states, 'The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.' This reinforces his authority as the President, underscoring that the nation chose him to guide them through this critical period.

Body Paragraph 2: Pathos

Kennedy's inaugural address is infused with pathos, aiming to evoke a sense of patriotism and unity among Americans. He employs emotionally charged phrases such as 'ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.' This call to selflessness and collective action appeals to the audience's emotions, kindling a sense of duty and shared responsibility.

Body Paragraph 3: Logos

The speech also leverages logos to underscore the need for rational and diplomatic solutions in a time of heightened international tension. Kennedy uses logic to explain that the United States seeks peace through strength, not conflict. He argues that 'both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind's final war.'


In his inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy exemplifies the art of persuasion. By skillfully incorporating ethos, pathos, and logos into his speech, he not only motivates Americans to work toward a better future but also conveys a message of hope and unity to a world on the brink of nuclear catastrophe. Kennedy's words continue to resonate as a testament to the power of effective rhetoric in shaping history.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Structure

Crafting an effective analysis sample essay requires more than just insightful analysis; it also demands a well-structured and organized presentation. A clear structure not only makes your essay more readable but also helps you convey your insights coherently. Let's break down the typical structure with our history paper writer:

rhetorical analysis essay structure


The introduction is the gateway to your essay and sets the stage for what's to come. In this section, you need to accomplish a few key tasks:

  • Hook the Reader: Start with a compelling hook, which could be a relevant quote, an interesting fact, or a thought-provoking question. This is your chance to grab your reader's attention and establish a strong rhetorical situation.
  • Contextualize the Text: Provide some background information about the text you're analyzing. Who is the author? What is the occasion or context of the text? Why is it significant?
  • Thesis Statement: Your rhetorical analysis essay thesis statement is the heart of your paper. It should succinctly summarize the main points you'll be discussing in your analysis. In essence, it tells your reader what to expect.

Body Paragraphs

The body of your essay is where you conduct your analysis. Typically, a rhetorical analysis essay consists of three to four body paragraphs, each addressing a different aspect of the text's persuasive techniques. Here's what you should include in each body paragraph:

  • Topic Sentence: Start with a clear topic sentence that introduces the specific rhetorical element or strategy you're about to analyze.
  • Analysis: Dive into your analysis, explaining how the rhetorical element is used in the text and its impact on the audience. Use quotations from the text to support your claims.
  • Transition: At the end of each paragraph, provide a smooth transition to the next point you'll be discussing in the following paragraph.


The conclusion wraps up your essay and leaves a lasting impression. In this section, you should:

  • Restate the Thesis: Summarize your thesis statement and the key points you've made in your analysis.
  • Highlight Key Insights: Reiterate the most significant findings of your analysis. What were the most impactful rhetorical techniques used in the text?
  • Broader Implications: Discuss the broader significance of your analysis. How does understanding these rhetorical strategies enhance our understanding of the text or the author's intentions?
  • Closing Thoughts: Conclude with a thought-provoking statement or a call to action, leaving your reader with something to ponder.

Understanding Rhetoric: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

Rhetorical analysis essays often involve a deep exploration of the three fundamental pillars of persuasion: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. These principles, coined by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, provide a framework for understanding how speakers and writers use persuasive strategies to appeal to their audience.

Ethos refers to the ethical or credible appeal of an argument. In a rhetorical context, it's about establishing the author's authority, expertise, and trustworthiness. The audience is more likely to be persuaded when they believe the person speaking or writing is knowledgeable and reliable.

  • Example: Consider a pharmaceutical company marketing a new drug. To establish ethos, they may feature endorsements from respected doctors and provide data on clinical trials to demonstrate the drug's safety and effectiveness.

Pathos is the emotional appeal. It's about connecting with the audience on an emotional level, evoking feelings such as sympathy, empathy, or passion. Emotional appeals are powerful because they can significantly influence people's attitudes and decisions.

  • Example: In a charitable fundraising campaign, the use of heart-wrenching stories of individuals in need aims to elicit empathy and encourage donations.

Logos is the logical appeal grounded in reason and evidence. It involves using facts, statistics, and sound reasoning to persuade the intended audience. Logos is effective in convincing people through a rational and intellectual approach.

  • Example: In a political speech, a candidate may use statistical data and logical arguments to support their policy proposals, aiming to convince voters through reasoned debate.

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay in 7 Steps

Learning how to write a rhetorical analysis essay requires a systematic approach that involves dissecting the text, identifying persuasive strategies, and articulating your insights effectively. Here's a step-by-step guide from our dissertation writing services with unique steps and examples:

how to write rhetorical analysis

Step 1: Select Your Text

Choose a text that's rich in rhetorical elements, such as speeches, essays, or articles. Opt for something that you're genuinely interested in analyzing to make the process more engaging. For example, let's choose a rhetorical essay example - Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

Step 2: Read and Annotate

Read the text carefully, actively annotating as you go. Highlight and make notes on significant passages, rhetorical devices, and elements that stand out. In Lincoln's address, you might highlight phrases like 'four score and seven years ago' or 'a government of the people, by the people, for the people.'

Step 3: Identify Rhetorical Strategies

Identify and categorize the rhetorical strategies used in the text. This includes ethos, pathos, logos, and other devices such as metaphors, repetition, or analogies. In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln uses repetition with 'of the people, by the people, for the people' to emphasize the idea of a government for the people.

Step 4: Organize Your Analysis

Create an outline for your essay. Decide how you'll organize your analysis, which strategies you'll discuss in each paragraph, and what evidence you'll use from the text. For instance, you may dedicate one paragraph to ethos by discussing Lincoln's credibility and use quotes from the text to support your analysis.

Step 5: Craft a Strong Thesis

Formulate a clear and concise thesis statement that encapsulates the primary elements of your analysis. Your rhetorical analysis introduction example could include a thesis like, 'In the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln effectively employs ethos, pathos, and logos to convey the significance of the Civil War and the principles of a unified nation.'

Step 6: Write Your Essay

Follow your outline and start writing your essay. Each body paragraph should focus on one specific rhetorical strategy, provide textual evidence, and analyze its impact on the audience. For example, when discussing pathos, you might write about how Lincoln's use of emotional language stirs feelings of unity and patriotism.

Step 7: Revise and Edit

After completing your essay, revise and edit it carefully. Ensure that your analysis is well-structured and that you've effectively supported your claims with evidence from the text. Pay attention to grammar, spelling, and clarity.

AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay

If you're preparing to tackle the AP Language and Composition exam, understanding the unique requirements and expectations of the AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay is crucial. AP courses demand a higher level of critical thinking and a more sophisticated approach to rhetorical analysis. Here's what you need to know according to our presentation writing service experts:

  1. Sophisticated Analysis: AP Lang essays expect a deep and nuanced analysis of rhetorical strategies. You're not merely identifying devices; you're exploring how they work together to persuade the intended audience.
  2. Complex Texts: The texts you analyze in the AP exam tend to be more complex and challenging. They might be drawn from various sources, such as historical speeches, essays, or contemporary editorials.
  3. Timed Writing: You'll have a limited time to write your essay during the AP exam (typically around 40 minutes), so it's essential to practice timed writing and efficient organization.
  4. Scoring Rubrics: AP Lang essays are graded using specific rubrics, focusing on your ability to craft a compelling argument and analyze rhetoric effectively. To score well, you must meet the criteria outlined in the rubric.

Let's consider an example of rhetorical analysis essay on FDR's Pearl Harbor Address:

Thesis Statement: 'In FDR's Pearl Harbor Address, he masterfully employs a combination of ethos, pathos, and logos to not only inform the American people about the attack but also to unite them in support of the impending war effort.'

Body Paragraphs:

  • Ethos: The essay's first body paragraph delves into the ethos, emphasizing FDR's credibility as a leader during a time of crisis. The writer provides evidence of FDR's presidential authority and past accomplishments. For example, they might discuss his experience as the only president elected four times, making the point that he was a respected and trusted leader.
  • Pathos: In the second body paragraph, the writer examines the emotional appeal. They discuss how FDR skillfully evokes a sense of national unity by expressing the anger and resolve of the American people. The analysis highlights phrases such as 'a date which will live in infamy' to illustrate the emotional impact.
  • Logos: The third body paragraph focuses on the logical appeal. Here, the writer explores how FDR presents the facts of the attack, using statistics and evidence to make a compelling case for America's involvement in the war. They might highlight FDR's enumeration of the attacks on various Pacific islands and ships, demonstrating the need for a decisive response.

In an AP Lang Rhetorical Analysis Essay, you're expected to dive deep into the text's complexity, providing an in-depth analysis of rhetorical strategies and crafting a well-structured, coherent essay within a constrained time frame. Practice and familiarity with the unique requirements of the AP exam are key to success in this endeavor.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, the art of good rhetorical analysis essays empowers us to decipher the power of language, enabling us to dissect, appreciate, and harness persuasive strategies. By understanding the subtleties of ethos, pathos, and logos, and mastering the skills required for crafting effective essays, we unlock the ability to engage in meaningful discourse and shape our world through words. So, whether you're a student honing your academic prowess, or a professional perfecting persuasive communication, this is a skill that transcends disciplines and enriches our understanding of language and influence.

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