Rhetorical Analysis Essay: “Notes Concerning the Savages” by Benjamin Franklin
When one thinks about Indians and colonists, it is commonly assumed that colonists have more civility than Indians. We as humans, at this generation think of Indians (Indigenous People) as people who are unaware of common civility. Benjamin Franklin, an intelligent man, wrote “Notes on Savages”, which provides evidence that the statement above may not be true. Ultimately, the author makes the reader think the opposite. Benjamin Franklin happened to be one of the firsts advocates for the abolition or slavery, as well as seeking protection of rights for the indigenous people. The reader can only assume that “Notes Concerning the Savages” is just a tad bit bias in favor of the Indians. Franklin effectively uses rhetorical devices such as an antithesis, a metaphor, and alliteration to strongly show the reader the real depiction of the Indians and the colonists, and who the real savages are.
In “Notes Concerning the Savages”, Benjamin immediately introduces the argument to the reader. The first sentence of the excerpt leads with “[s]avages we call them, because their manners differ from ours, which we think is the perfection of civility; they think the same of ours” (Franklin 218). This quotation demonstrates the rhetorical device: antithesis. An antithesis is a comparison or opposition between two different things. The antithesis that is used neatly organizes the different perspectives and aspects of both the Indians and the colonist. The colonists and Indians both think that they have the correct idea of civility, they also think that the other party’s idea of civility is incorrect. Assuming that the reader typically goes with the cliché that Indians do not know anything compared to the colonists, who are “more experienced with civilization”, Franklin tries to open up the readers’ minds and tries to lead them in another direction: Indians are just as civilized, or even all the more civilized compared to the colonists. Later in the text the reader will come to know that Indians are very respectful and reject the idea of disrespecting anyone. Using the rhetorical device, Franklin simply shows that there is more than one side of the story to things, and the other side may be useful when deciding who the real savages are. In the excerpt, he goes on to prove that Indians are just as civilized as colonists.
As the reader continues to read the text, many more creative writing techniques further opens the readers’ mind and perspective on the argument. The colonists have tried to convert the Indians into Christianity many times, and many times have they failed at this task. According to Franklin, the Indians would “hear with patience the truths of the Gospel explained to them, and give their usual tokens of assent and approbation; you would think that they were...