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One Message, Delivered Two Ways Essay

2088 words - 9 pages

The types of rhetorical choices an essayist uses can determine both the audience the essay reaches and the essay’s impact. Henry Louis Gates Jr., a contemporary essayist, deploys a variety of rhetorical choices to speak to different audiences and convey multiple messages. Gates’ use of different rhetorical choices manifest in his essays “Prime Time” and “Writing, ’Race,’ and the Difference it Makes” (Abbreviated as “WR&D”). In “Prime Time,” Gates creates a less serious mood that might appeal to a more general crowd. Gates also uses personal anecdotes and historical facts from his childhood to communicate that he feels the word-- and more importantly the idea of-- race is misused and ...view middle of the document...

A more serious mood lends authority to the writer because readers often associate seriousness with credibility. When observing Gates’ writing in this essay, many readers might be more likely to take Gates seriously because the complicated language Gates uses confers a sense of authority and seriousness. This complicated language and serious mood targets a specific, scholarly audience. Gates wishes to target this scholarly audience in order to raise awareness of the misunderstanding of race that is prevalent in today’s society.
Conversely, in “Prime Time,” Gates uses less formal, colloquial language and creates a slightly less serious mood than in “WR&D.” For example, Gates often uses informal words such as “Daddy,” “Mama,” and “I”. The use of such informal words gives “Prime Time” a less serious mood because readers often associate informal words with a relative lack of seriousness. This less serious mood allows Gates to use personal anecdotes and other rhetorical devices not available to writers of scholarly essays because these rhetorical devices come across as informal. Additionally, “Prime Time” appears to be written with a sense of nostalgia. In multiple places, Gates refers to events from his childhood. For example, Gates recalls, “I first got to know white people as “people” through their flickering images on television shows. It was the television set that brought us together at night, and the television set that brought in the world outside the Valley” (“Prime Time”, 241). Gates’ words here clearly confer a sense of nostalgia to many readers because Gates’ uses a personal memory of a good entity in his life, the television. This communicates a sense of nostalgia because nostalgic feelings are often felt when reflecting on a good time from the past. This sense of nostalgia is relevant because it communicates emotion to many readers through Gates’ various personal examples. This emotion, combined with the familiar diction of “Prime Time,” targets a more general audience in comparison to the audience Gates targets in “WR&D.” This more generalized audience encapsulates a group that Gates wishes to reach: the underprivileged African-Americans of the United Sates. Gates is petitioning against misuse of the idea of race. By writing “Prime Time” in easy, colloquial language, Gates hopes that his work will reach the underprivileged African-American readers for whom the message is relevant.
In the same way that the word choices differ in “Prime Time” and “WR&D,” the historical facts Gates’ offers differ. In “WR&D,” Gates uses historical facts from general western history to illustrate his points. Gates gives the specific example of Phyllis Wheatley to test his thesis that “literacy… could be the most pervasive emblem of the capitalist commodity functions” (“WR&D”, 220). This thesis accurately describes how Gates views the treatment of African-Americans was historically unfair because African-Americans were denied education and then assumed...

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