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Jarvy Gomez Rosas
English 112-72
Rhetorical Analysis
Professor Alexander
March 22, 2014
Don’t Regret Regret
In the Ted Talks video “Don’t regret regret” speaker Kathryn Schulz, a writer, uses her
experience of regret as a way to talk about a life lesson that she taught herself, which is that
regret is natural but people should use it to “love the flawed, imperfect things we create”. Schulz
speaks about how she got a tattoo that she regrets when she was younger, how she immediately
regretted getting it, and how it taught her a life lesson that all people should learn as well. Her
purpose was to explain her lesson that she learned from ink on her arm and the process of regret
and remorse that followed. Schulz presentation was both effective and succeeds in going over a
topic that is difficult to explain under different circumstances due to her effective use of
allusions, logos, and ethos.
For Schulz’s argument to work she had to gain her audiences’ trust and confidence; she
started with her use of allusion. She used a quote from a Shakespearean play, from the character
Lady MacBeth, “things without all remedy should be without regard; what’s done is done”. This
instance of allusion made her argument stronger because of how accurate the quote was and how
many people try to live by that philosophy. To her favor it is true that many try to live their lives
without any regret, people go as far as tattooing “no regrets” on themselves. Schulz assumes that
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at one point most of the audience have tried to live by the philosophy stated above. She
demonstrates this by saying “that is an admirable philosophy, that many people can agree to sign
on to”. She also acknowledges the audience’s intelligence by discussing Shakespeare and his
work while also referring to the fact that living without regret is a characteristic of a sociopath.
Later in the speech she then makes another allusion by referring to how anyone can live without
regret if they had orbital frontal cortex brain damage. Schulz was able to gain her audiences’
favor by making a quick joke about how a lobotomy would rid a person of all regret. This little
joke allowed she made worked good and allowed her to capture more of the audience’s attention.
That joke was also a small use allusion which was effective because, it was reference to a
medical procedure that people received when they were diagnosed with schizophrenia or suicidal
depression that made them lose or forget basic humane functions; it also got the audience to
laugh. She also assumed that many people in the audience have experienced buyer’s remorse.
Schulz made a reference to how small things such as replying to the wrong email or person can
lead anyone to a large amount of regret. She said that people have lost their jobs or have been
embarrassed by such small mistakes, so it is important to take all the small regrets and learn from
them. She assumed that everyone in the audience was familiar with how emails work, and that
they might have made a similar small mistake in the past. That reference added to her purpose,
because it was an example of how something so small could make a big change in any person’s
life, and that they will most likely regret their mistake. She made a comment on how people
debate with themselves on a vehicle to purchase, and then suffer that regret wondering how
things would be different with the opposite choice. This was an effective allusion because, many
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people have experienced buyers’ remorse when they decide to purchase a new vehicle, and are
not certain which specific vehicle they want.
In Schulz’s argument logos was used very effectively. She began by explaining what
regret is, why it is important to humans, and why it is better to live with regret than without it.
She then proceeds to use visuals and some psychological facts that make her point very strong.
She explains that there are four consistent components of regret “denial, bewilderment,
punishment, perseveration” that all contribute to regret. She made her points very strongly, but
spoke with a slight bit of bias again because of her personal experience. Shculz assumed that
people in the audience had experienced their remorse in a similar manner as her by talking about
her personal cycle of the four components and simplifying them. She acknowledged the
audiences’ regrets by implying that people would rather undo things rather than letting them be,
which is true for many people with shameful or painful experiences. She made a good point
when she used a graph to show a study from Harvard University, to prove that many people
regret many things other than financial decisions. This chart explained that the majority of
people had regrets regarding their educational choices. Although the chart was a little weak, it
made a valid point that people can have remorse about anything involving decisions they decide
to make. She had built a strong connection to the audience by giving them intelligent and logical
explanations to why people feel regret. She refutes herself when she explains that sometimes
there are instances of decisions that can cause “irreparable or terrible consequences” and that
those regrets would be exponentially greater than just regular regrets. Also that those regrets
would be the regrets that anyone would want undone or erased. She uses logos effectively to
explain her purpose, argument, and build a connection to the audience on a semi-personal level.
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When a person speaks about a tattoo that they received when they were younger, and how
they have regretted their decision ever since; it seems like a cliché. Schulz’s entire argument was
based on a personal event that happened in her life, therefore she had established a level of
authority in the subject. She was able to turn this cliché into a highly compelling argument, and
educate the audience on some aspects of regret. She used ethos to make her purpose and
argument very effective. Near the end of her presentation she finally decided to show the
audience the tattoo that she regretted so much. She assumed the audience was comfortable with
tattoos and the idea of body modifications by removing her shirt and exposing it to them. Her
tattoo was a compass that represented her lifestyle when she was younger. She liked to travel,
and had visited many places, so this made her a bit more credible when it came to her big reveal.
Her use of ethos and words like “I have done it, and I have regretted it, but I have learned from
it” helped her purpose, because she was explaining to the audience that she lived that sense of
regret, the process of remorse, and instead of dwelling on it she learned from it. Although her use
of ethos was very effective in this portion, her argument became very biased due to that it was a
personal experience. Showing the tattoo was a way for her to establish to the audience that she
was a normal person just as themselves. That aided her for when she came back to her main
point on how regret is a natural emotion that should not be ignored, but acknowledged and used
as life lessons.
Kathryn Schulz was able to compose an effective argument through her uses of allusions,
ethos, and pathos. Her purpose was well explained with minimal fallacies. Although everything
seems in order, there was a fair amount of bias in her argument, but that was due to the fact that
she was speaking on a personal experience. However, her attitude seemed as if she still regretted
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getting her tattoo. Her audience really left the seminar with a new perspective on the emotion of
regret and remorse. All in all, Schulz’s argument was very effective, and she was able to
captivate the audience’s attention and keep it as well.
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Works Cited
Schulz, Kathryn. "Don't Regret Regret." Tedtalks, Nov. 2011. evideo. 22 Mar. 2014.