When should a homeschooler learn to write a rhetorical analysis essay? In our recent book club meeting, we had a spirited discussion of how older learners can learn to write five-paragraph essays easily if they have a solid basis in competent narration skills. We have found it is similar for other structured forms of stylized writing required for various fields of study. Like writing a rhetorical analysis essay.
What is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?
A rhetorical analysis is a paper which analyzes the arguments of another article or work and explains why the arguments are or are not effective.
My son James was required to learn this style of essay writing in his College Composition class that he took in senior year of high school. He actually found that the hardest part of what he had to learn was the citation format!
I wanted to share his actual analysis to encourage those of you learning to write essays or helping others learn to write essays. Especially if it seems like an unreachable skill. Because learning will happen. I’ve included his citations page at the end in case you want to read the original review that is the basis of his rhetorical analysis.
Rhetorical Analysis Essay of “As Not Seen on TV”
by James, Senior in High School
On November 13, 2012, Pete Wells, a restaurant critic for the NY Times, wrote a scathing review of Food Network star Guy Fieri’s restaurant in Times Square. Wells isn’t just a restaurant critic for the NY Times; he is possibly the most important food critic in New York (Lyon). A scathing review from him could put a restaurant out of business. Wells effectively convinces the reader to not go to this restaurant by using vivid language, by using rhetorical questions directed at Guy, by acknowledging that some of the food could have been good, and by unashamedly stating his opinion as fact.
Wells begins his review by addressing Fieri and asking if he’s “eaten at [his] restaurant recently” (Wells). Wells then launches into a graphic description of certain aspects of this restaurant starting with the menu, continuing on to the proportions and flavor of the food, and ending with the poor customer service. He also compares Guy’s Times Square restaurant with some of Guy’s other restaurants. Near the end of the article, Wells wonders why some of the almost enjoyable dishes have been ruined by one inedible concoction or another. The review relies heavily on rhetorical questions. In fact, all but the last paragraph, “Thanks” (Wells), ends with a question.
Wells uses the English language like it’s a paint brush. By the end of his review, the reader can see and almost taste the food. Questions such as, “[D]id you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste?” (Wells) allow the reader to envision the food as Wells saw it. Wells goes on to ask, “How, for example, did Rhode Island’s supremely unhealthy and awesomely good fried calamari – dressed with garlic butter and pickled hot peppers – end up in your restaurant as a plate of pale, unsalted squid rings next to a dish of sweet mayonnaise with a distant rumor of spice?” (Wells)
While reading this, the audience can see supremely awesome calamari, then Wells shocks them back into reality and they are almost as disappointed as he is. Wells’ vivid descriptions of the food engrave almost unforgettable images onto the readers’ brains.
Wells’ description of the food allows the reader to see through his eyes, but it’s Wells’ use of rhetorical questions that makes the reader truly believe him. The review is directed entirely at Fieri, so the reader feels like they are overhearing an address from one acquaintance to another, an address which may have been enhanced slightly for the benefit of any eavesdroppers. Wells begins his review not by saying “no one should ever eat at Guy Fieri’s restaurant because the food is terrible,” or something to that extent. Instead, he says, “Guy Fieri, have you eaten at your new restaurant in Times Square?” (Wells) This lets the reader feel like the review isn’t trying to convince them of anything and thus they cannot help but be convinced by his arguments.
Although most readers will already see Wells as being entirely honest, it’s his acknowledgment that some of the food could have been satisfactory that banishes any remaining doubt about Wells’ honesty from the minds of the reader. Statements such as, “Why does your kitchen sabotage even its more appealing main courses with ruinous sides and sauces? Why stifle a pretty good bison meatloaf in a sugary brown glaze…” (Wells) and “Why undermine a big fist of slow roasted pork shank, … with randomly shaped scraps of carrot…” (Wells) make the reader feel as if Wells genuinely wanted the food to be enjoyable, and it just wasn’t. By claiming that some of the food was edible, Wells further establishes the trust of the reader.
Although Wells’ other rhetorical devices are very effective, his most effective rhetorical device might his delivery of his opinion as fact. By stating his opinion as a fact, the readers’ brains translate his opinions into facts. Wells could have phrased his review very differently. For instance, while referencing the nachos, instead of saying, “Why augment tortilla chips with fried lasagna noodles that taste like nothing except oil?” he could have said, “I couldn’t taste any flavor on the lasagna noodles except oil.” Because Wells phrases his opinion as fact, the reader views most of his opinions as facts.
Wells has effectively convinced almost any reader to not eat at Fieri’s restaurant. Wells use of vivid language allows the reader to view the food as he does, his masterful use of rhetorical questions and acknowledgment that some of the food could have been acceptable establishes the readers trust, and by stating his opinion as fact, the reader has no reason to suspect they would think differently than Wells. Five years after the review was published, Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar closed its doors permanently. The reason(s) it closed its doors are still unknown (Price).
Price, Darren. “Guy Fieri’s Infamous Times Square Restaurant Is Closing.” nbcchicago.com. December 29, 2017. NBC, USA. 9/16/2018 <https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/national-international/Flavortown-NYC-Restaurant-Guy-Fieri-Guys-American-Kitchen-and-Bar-Closes-467193373.html>.
Lyon, Shauna. “Golden Ticket.” New Yorker, vol. 93, no. 3, 06 Mar. 2017, p. 24.
Wells, Pete. “As Not Seen on TV. nytimes.com. November 13, 2012. New York Times, New York. 9/16/2018 <https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/dining/reviews/restaurant-review-guys-american-kitchen-bar-in-times-square.html>