Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 5

Pierre Faa Jr Rhet 1302 Mrs.

Susan White 2021190346

Rhetorical Analysis
Of This Is Water
David Foster Wallaces commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005, This is Water, is a well renowned masterpiece which can be said to adequately reflect its authors own prestige. Countless inspirational speeches are given around the globe every day, so it is very difficult to isolate a single one and celebrate its message. David Foster Wallaces discourse is recognized as remarkable not so much because of its content, but because of its unorthodoxy in general. Dr. Wallaces word choice, sentence structure and sequence of thought all contained most of the oddities which would normally not be included in a standard graduation speech, but made Wallaces oration so special. One of the most striking elements in Wallaces speech was certainly his word choice. When Kenyon Colleges graduating students and their parents learned that a brilliant professor and celebrated essayist with a doctorate degree in literature would be giving their commencement speech, one might infer that they expected to be thoroughly confused at times by otherwise unheard words and expressions. Instead, they heard Wallace use common terms, some sarcastic, some insulting, some even vulgar. For example, he spoke of glacially slow old people, spacey

people, ADHD kids, fat, dead-eyed, over-made lady, stupid, cow-like, nonhuman, and ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers. On occasion, Wallace uttered curse words such as crap, goddamn, and bullshit. In short, the address was composed primarily of common language, as opposed to the formal tone that can be considered customary for commencement speeches. This word choice seemed to veil Wallaces high and mighty celebrity status and create a down to earth atmosphere. David Foster Wallace found a clever way to impart some of his wisdom without sounding like the wise old fish. A second interesting point of interest in an analysis of David Foster Wallaces tone in This is Water is the sentence structure. It is true that spoken language is generally much more lax and informal than spoken language; however, it must be said that the same grammatical guidelines and restrictions apply. David Wallace seemed to bend the rules that had undoubtedly been nailed into his head since elementary school, not out of delinquency, but rather, to create an effect which adequately represented the corresponding content of his speech. For example, in one of his narratives, Wallace explained in detail how someone goes to work in the morning, works hard for eight to nine hours, and then wants nothing more to return home, eat and rest. His next sentence was as follows: But then you remember theres no food at home. Here, Wallace separated the build up from the twist in order to emphasize the negativity of the situation he wished to convey. It is interesting to notice that a man with a PhD in literature made the mistake of using but and then, two subordinating conjunctions, consecutively. Furthermore, Wallace also wrote lengthy paragraphs that were actually a single run-on sentence.

In his meticulous account of the evening supermarket scene, Wallace used long sentences with several clauses to express the melancholy he was describing in such detail. David Foster Wallace used sentence structure as skillfully as he did content to get his point across. In cinema, there is a phenomenon known as breaking the reality of the play which occurs when an actor or actress abandons her role and speaks directly to the audience. Likewise, Wallace often interrupted the logical flow of his speech to add a thought about his own intentions or something else that was completely unrelated to his message. Wallace opened his speech beautifully with the story of the two young fish who asked, What is water? , but immediately disconnected himself from the story to reassure the audience that he didnt plan on presenting himself as the wise old fish who would define water. After a brief explanation of the short story, Wallace never brought up the fish again, offsetting the story for over ten minutes before ending his great speech with This is water, this is water. Wallace uttered several such interruptions of the speechs logical flow as if he sought to check himself, perhaps even second-guessing. At the conclusion of his discourse, Wallace said But please dont dismiss this as a finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon to erase the impression that he was some authoritative figure telling Kenyons graduates what they did not want to hear. All his interruptions were aimed at keeping the students from ignoring his words as the undoubtedly had done to their parents and professors before. The resulting effect was quite similar to the down to earth aura created by Wallaces use of common vocabulary.

This is Water by David Foster Wallace is bountiful in unusual rhetorical devices and manipulations that were as loud as his own voice on the microphone. Dr. David used long sentences, simple and vulgar vocabulary, and interruptions of thought to back up his simple message. This is Water is, in short, a work of art from a brilliant essayist.

Work Cited Wallace, David Foster. This is Water. Alumni Bulletin. 2005. Web

<http://buletin.kenyon.edu/x4280.xml>.