Rhetorical Devices in Frederick Douglass

Rhetorical Devices in
Frederick Douglass
Birth of Logos
Logos = One’s reasoned argument
Exigence = The drive to speak
Definition: the art of using words in speaking (or
writing) to advance the author’s Logos so as to
persuade or influence others
We study rhetoric for two reasons:
1. to perceive how oral and written language is
at work
2. to become proficient in applying the
resources of language in our own speech
and writing
Rhetorical Devices
Definition: specific, identifiable
language techniques used in rhetoric.
Two types of Rhetorical devices are
1. content-centered (what)
2. form-embedded (how) Speakers utilize
form-embedded devices to emphasize
Content-Centered: Pathos
Appeal to emotion
– e.g., empathy, compassion, outrage
– “…after rolling up his sleeves, he commenced
to lay on the heavy cowskin, and soon the
warm, red blood (amid heart-rending shrieks
from her, and horrid oaths from him) came
dripping to the floor” (5).
Content-Centered: Ethos
Appeal to common values and community
 Ethos reflects…
– Ethical values and/or the character or spirit of a
– shared assumptions of a people
– universal components of the human experience
– “I would sometimes say to them [the white boys who
helped Douglass learn to read], I wish I could be as
free as they would be when they got to be men. ‘You
will be free as soon as you are twenty-one, but I am
a slave for life! Have not I as good a right to be free
as you have?’ ” (23).
Content-Centered: Irony
A contrast between what is expected to
happen and what actually happens
The general characteristic of irony is to
make something understood by expressing
its opposite
Content-Centered: Irony
3 types of irony in literature:
– Verbal: a writer or speaker says one thing and
means something entirely different
– Dramatic: a reader or audience perceives
something that a character in the story does
not know (R&J example—Juliet is not dead…)
– Situational: a writer shows a discrepancy
between the expected results of some action
or situation and the actual results (Of Mice
and Men example—friendship/murder)
Form-Embedded: Alliteration
Repetition of initial consonant sounds
– “I nerved myself up again, and started on my
way, through bogs, brier, barefoot and
bareheaded, tearing my feet sometimes at
nearly every step…” (40).
Form-Embedded: Assonance
Repetition of vowel sounds within a
sentence or across several sentences
Example: How now brown cow?
(Repetition of the vowel sound “ow”)
Form-Embedded: Repetition
Repeating of words and/or phrases
throughout a passage or text for dramatic
– “Work, work, work, was scarcely more the
order of the day than of the night” (37-38).
Form-Embedded: Parallelism
Repetition of a grammatical pattern
– Used to emphasize and link related ideas
– Adds balance, rhythm, and clarity to the
– “He [Covey] was always under every tree,
behind every stump, in every bush, and at
every window, on the plantation” (36).
Form-Embedded: Antithesis
Establishes a clear, contrasting
relationship between two ideas by joining
them together, often in parallel structure
– “The longest days were too short for him and
the shortest nights were too long for him”
Form-Embedded: Apostrophe
When a speaker addresses an absent person, an
abstract quality, or something non-human as if it
were present and capable of responding
– “My thoughts would compel utterance; and
there, with no audience but the Almighty, I
would pour out my soul’s complaint, in my
rude way, with an apostrophe to the moving
multitude of ship: -- ‘You are loosed from your
moorings, and are free…’ ” (38).
Form-Embedded: Allusion
A brief (usually indirect) reference to a
person, place, or event, or to another
literary work or passage
– “In coming to a fixed determination to run
away, we did more than Patrick Henry, when
he resolved upon liberty or death” (51).
– Patrick Henry: “I know not what course others
may take; but as for me, give me liberty or
give me death!” -from Speech in the Virginia Convention
Form-Embedded: Hyperbole
To utilize exaggerated language to call
attention to the situation and/or to
emphasize emotion
 Examples: “I haven’t seen you in a
century!” “That necklace must have cost
you your life’s savings!”
Form-Embedded: Oxymoron
An expression in which two [or more]
contradictory words are put together for
dramatic effect
 Examples: free slave; benevolent slave
owner; oppressive freedom; benign
dictatorship; cute ugliness
Note: An oxymoron can be clever or it can be
an error in diction; the context makes all the
Form-Embedded: Paradox
contradictory statement which is
nevertheless true or which reveals a
“It is a paradox that every dictator has climbed
to power on the ladder of free speech.
Immediately on attaining power each dictator
has suppressed all free speech except his
own.” Herbert Hoover
Form-Embedded: Compare/Contrast
To examine the similarities and differences
between two (or more) people, places, objects,
ideas, or situations. Often the similarities are
established to set up and emphasize the
– “There were horses and men, cattle and
women, pigs and children, all holding the
same rank in the scale of being, and were all
subjected to the same narrow examination”
Figurative Language or
Literary/Stylistic Devices
Simile: a comparison between two
different things using “like” or “as”
Metaphor: a direct comparison between
two unlike things. Unlike a simile or
analogy, metaphor asserts that one thing
is another thing.
Figurative Language or
Literary/Stylistic Devices
Sensory details/imagery: images and
details that emphasize or appeal to the
five senses (touch, taste, sight, smell,
Personification: the act of giving human
qualities to a nonhuman thing.
Figurative Language or
Literary/Stylistic Devices
Symbolism: any object, person, place or
action that has a meaning in itself and
that also stands for something larger than
This presentation was created by
Michelle Lew, Eric Unti, and M. Clare LePell
with inspiration from Kevin McKinney