Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood Of 1927 And How It Changed America, By John M. Barry

910 words - 4 pages

In a passage from his book, Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, author John M. Barry makes an attempt use different rhetorical techniques to transmit his purpose. While to most, the Mississippi River is only some brown water in the middle of the state of Mississippi, to author John M. Barry, the lower Mississippi is an extremely complex and turbulent river. John M. Barry builds his ethos, uses elevated diction, several forms of figurative language, and different styles of syntax and sentence structure to communicate his fascination with the Mississippi River to a possible audience of students, teachers, and scientists.
From the very beginning of the passage, John M. Barry “sucks” the reader in- similar to the way the Mississippi River would do to anything in its way-through elevated diction. He uses words like “extraordinarily dynamic”, “turbulent”, and “complex.” He goes on to say that studying the river is a science of “chaos.” All of these words transmit Barry’s fascination. He is so perplexed and astonished by how dynamic the river is that he says it is chaos, or having unpredictable and seemingly random behavior. His elevated and well-chosen diction shows that he has actually studied the river and is knowledgeable about the way it works. By doing this, Barry builds his ethos, something he continues doing in the first paragraph by alluding to a renowned physicist, Werner Heisenberg. A physicist would very obviously know about the inner and complex mechanics of a river like the Mississippi, yet the very appropriate expression he is quoted for shows that he is just as surprised as Barry and believes that not even God could explain the mechanics of the river.
After establishing himself as a credible and knowledgeable source and letting his audience know about his fascination with the Mississippi, Barry begins to elaborate using a varied sentence structure and other forms of figurative language. The syntax in the second paragraph is complex. Sentences are long. One of the sentences lists only a few of the many possible factors affecting the river’s behavior. Different forms of punctuation are used. Some, like the commas in the list of factors, make the sentence seem to go by fast. Other forms of punctuation, like hyphens, make the reader make an unexpected stop and think more thoroughly about how chaotic the river really is. In that second paragraph, the ever-changing sentence structure models the behavior of the Mississippi River itself. This varied sentence structure begins once again in the fourth paragraph. There, Barry begins with three shorter sentences, compared to those that follow. The following sentences are much, much longer and vary in style. This once again reflects the movement of the...

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