What Is a Rhetorical Criticism Writing Definition?

What Is a Rhetorical Criticism Writing Definition?

Rhetorical Criticism Definition

According to the rhetorical criticism definition, this is the method of analysis and interpretation that lets us understand how different phenomena impact us and the people around us. As the rhetorical criticism definition states, this is nothing else than the means of identifying the ways colors, symbols, expressions, and other rhetorical tools help us create a picture of the things surrounding us.

For instance, if the billboard which you are looking at makes you smile, it helps you create a positive image of the company which has made it. The advertisement featuring ill children may encourage you to make some donations to help them recover. When dealing with rhetorical criticism, you may start asking yourself the questions like: Why did this billboard make me smile? Why did that advertisement make me feel sad? How can my reaction be explained? What exactly made me feel that or another way? What can one say about my culture, character, surroundings, etc. seeing my reaction to the billboard, advertisement, etc.? Why do some things make us react in specific ways? To get precise responses to these questions, you start analyzing the colors, symbols, text, and other rhetorical means that made you experience particular emotions.

Thus, why is rhetorical criticism significant? Everything is simple, you as well as anyone else communicate some ideas all the time and vice versa some messages are conveyed to you. It can be said that communication is a never-ending process or state which all of us are living in. TV shows, movies, speeches, books, art, music, and many other things circulate information to us involving us in the process of communication. To get a better understanding of the influence made on us by posters, banners, shows, presentations, etc., you should be aware of the peculiarities of communication.

Ways of Making Rhetorical Criticism

Pick a Phenomena

A phenomenon or artifact is the object which you desire to learn more about. It can be a presentation, speech, painting, song, movie, or any other thing. When you decide to immerse in rhetorical criticism, it means that you are attracted by something and want to detect its peculiarities. For example, you may be curious as to why the speeches of eminent politicians have a significant influence on people. You may also wonder why some people pay meticulous attention to the cultural growth of the city they are living in. There are many other things that may arouse your interest. One of such aspects is, for example, the way the beauty industry affects women’s perception of their body. Thus, any of the items listed below may refer to the rhetorical artifact:

  • Website
  • Play
  • Speech
  • Advertisement
  • Billboard
  • Movie
  • Building
  • Song
  • Location
  • Transport
  • Poster
  • Painting
  • Research project
  • Anything that catches your attention (usually, it is something made by people)

Examine the Chosen Matter (or Artifact)

To get a complete picture of the selected artifact, you need to make a detailed analysis of each of the elements it consists of. However, at first, you may be required to break the artifact into several items which then should be arranged into groups according to some common features. Then, you will have to explore how language, visuals, sound, the model which the information is presented in interact with each other. In this way, you will be able to identify the idea or message the analyzed facets try to convey to you.

Though there are no strict instructions as to how an artifact has to be analyzed, you need to create an engaging research question and know what techniques to use to cover it fully. For instance, you may ponder over inspecting a marketing campaign for a food product. After learning all the ins and outs of the campaign, you will need to classify the elements it comprises and analyze each of them. Close attention has to be paid to the colors applied, the way people are depicted on the images used by those who arranged the campaign, their expressions, etc. Additionally, you should consider the used language, the means with the help of which the campaign is broadcasted, etc.

Discuss the Research Question

When analyzing your artifact, some questions about its aspects will probably arise. There may be several questions coming to your mind, but you need to pick just one. While examining the effect which the artifact may create, you should find out what impact it (the artifact) has on the creator (rhetor), how it influences the consumers, how it changes the situation which it is presented, and how the idea it conveys can be interpreted.

Rhetor. When discussing the position of a rhetor, you need to detect what goal they pursued when creating the artifact. If to take some food product as an example, you may want to find out how it influences people’s health and, as a result, the image of a company which it advertises.

Consumers. When analyzing consumers (or audience), you will be probably interested in the way the idea conveyed by the artifact may impact them. To consider this aspect from different angles, you may pose the following question: How do the slogans highlighting positive features of a product used in the advertisement affect the consumers’ perception of it?

Situation. The situation or conditions which the artifact is presented in may also encourage you to put some interesting questions. When talking about food products, there may be numerous aspects which you may want to explore. For example, you may investigate the food industry as a unity or you may consider the age of people which the marketing campaign is focused on. Examining a financial facet of the campaign may be useful as well. In this case, you may ask the following question: How has the competition in the market made the company advertising the artifact use specific visuals to attract customers?

Message. When pondering over the message the artifact under analysis conveys to the audience, you may want to know how the very message or idea was arranged and not what effect it creates. It follows that the most important is to detect what means the rhetor uses to communicate a specific idea in the best possible way. If to get back to the discussed example, i.e. a food product, you may pose such question as: What colors encourage the consumers to buy the advertised food product?

Create a Profound Essay

Essays may be produced in different ways. However, the algorithm listed below is considered the most efficient:

  1. Write an introductory section;
  2. Characterize an artifact;
  3. Discuss the used methods of analysis;
  4. Present the results and make their analysis;
  5. Create a conclusion contributing to the rhetorical theory.
Introductory Section

In this part of your paper, you need to introduce an artifact so that readers can get the basic understanding of it and can follow your arguments. Additionally, you have to produce a thesis statement which will serve as the answer to your research question (which was discussed above). Your introduction should present the artifact you are examining as the matter that is worth being studied and that makes the effect which people should be aware of.

Characterization of the Artifact

In this part of your piece of writing, you have to provide a detailed description of the artifact. There is no need to explain what steps you followed to analyze the artifact. What you need to do is make things clear for your readers. It means that you should provide the basic data about the artifact so that readers can understand what they are going to deal with. You can explain when the artifact was made, what it was made of, how it looks like, what language is used, etc. Try to be thorough so that it is easier for readers to comprehend your argument.

Methods of Analysis

Now, you are supposed to state how you analyzed the artifact. What techniques did you use to make its in-depth analysis? What points did you pay attention to? Tell readers what method of criticism you used and how exactly you applied it to your artifact. For instance, if you decide to adopt the Fantasy-Theme method to examine how the well-known Disneyland attracts its customers, you will need to describe the peculiarities of this method and the way you assessed your artifact, e.g. the Disney theme part. Remember that the main function of this part of your essay is to give readers a detailed description of the analysis process.


Here, you are required to tell readers what information about the artifact you gained owing to your research. If to refer to the Disneyland example, you may admit that you have found out what training their employees undergo to help their visitors enjoy the theme parks and feel themselves the participants of a real play.


Quality essays are the ones that can contribute to a specific field of study. In your piece of writing, you need to tell how your research can be useful to the area of rhetoric. You may scrutinize other writing projects discussing either your artifact or the method of criticism you have used, write down important data, and state what points require more thorough investigation.

Rhetorical Criticism Example

The sample presented below is provided for educational purposes only. You may examine it to see how a paper about rhetorical criticism should be constructed. If you want to get a customized piece of writing, place your order on our website. Our qualified experts do know how to write a rhetorical criticism paper properly and are ready to help you handle your assignment.


One of the memoirs by a famous American writer is the memoir, Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. The widely read memoir details the life of the author from his childhood in Ireland and in America and how the author struggled with poverty and other problems such as his father’s alcoholism. McCourt’s memoir has been criticized by some as lacking the proper persuasion that such a text should have while others praise it for its ability to persuade readers that poverty is real. Since the text is widely read by many, an assessment of the text is necessary to determine whether the text is convincing or not using some of theorists’ ideas such as those of Aristotle.

A Brief Summary of the Text

As mentioned in the introduction, McCourt’s book, Angela’s Ashes is an account of the author’s life in the US and in Ireland. Right from when he was small, the author’s life was characterized by poverty, but according to him, this did not keep him from having great adventures or enjoying the humor in his life. Although the poverty in his life continues, the author uses his skills and his desires to make it in life and eventually finds a ticket to the US where he is set to begin a new life.

Why the Text Deserves Studying

The text deserves a critical study as it is widely read and it led the author to win a Pulitzer Prize. The text has also attracted various criticism and appraisals that requires from different people. Some praise the text for its ability to convince them, while in my case, the text fails to convinces me in relation to its major theme, which is the theme of poverty. This means that a detailed description of why the text fails to convince me while it seems to convince others is needed. The text also fails to clearly show the time, place and its relationship with the audience and this unaccountability makes the text to deserve a critical study. Another reason for a critical study on text of Frank McCourt is because the text clearly details the exigence, but fails to persuade readers about this issue. As the exact person that went through the poverty, the author is indeed qualified to tell the story. To ascertain that he is really detailing his life, the author starts with statements such as “When I look back on my childhood, I wonder how I survived”.

Was the Selected Text Convincing?

As mentioned before, the text of Frank McCourt is not convincing enough. The book starts off very well and continues like this until the author loses meaning and the text becomes boring at the end of it. In the first chapter, for example, the text is able to use various convincing words, but the author fails to maintain these same words as he continues. Ethos, pathos and logos among other appealing have been well applied in the first part of the text, therefore, capturing readers’ attention. For example, ethos, which the credibility of the author is established right at the beginning of the text. The author presents his childhood when he argues that “When I look back at my childhood, I wonder how I survived at all”. Such words together with others on poverty where the author argues that “nothing can compare the Irish version” also continues to evoke readers’ emotion on poverty, and specifically about the Irish people’s poverty that they passed through in the hands of the English.

Although such convincing words have been used, the relationship that the text establishes with the audience is not open and clear. The unclear audience is mostly caused by the speaker not being given his purpose in the text. However, in this case, the changing role of the speaker in relation to the main theme leads to him not being able to manage his purpose. If the speaker in a text managing his purpose, then it cannot be clearly established the audience that he is addressing. The text, as explained earlier, is about poverty and convincing people that poverty existed among the Irish people. The audience therefore should be the poor in the society, but this shifts as the author shifts his voice at the latter part of the text. For example, at the end of the text, he shifts his audience to the rich as he praises them. At one point, he says, “Rich Americans in top hats white ties and tails must be going home to bed with the gorgeous women with white teeth”.

Apart from this, an analysis of ethical values on the text shows that they are not clearly reflected. The author establishes that his purpose is to encourage the poor in the society by constantly referring to the “miserable Irish.” However, the ethical purposes of the text changes later as he introduces other values such as family values, which are not related to the theme of poverty that he introduces to his readers. For example, at the end of the text, richness seems to be emphasized through the ability to get “gorgeous women with white teeth”. The uncertainty of the values in the selected text for case study makes it not be convincing enough. Such can be categories as texts that mislead and can do harm due to lack of ethical value. Despite the fact that, an ethical analysis will deter from Aristotelian analysis of not giving the speaker his purpose, some ethical values would be merit, establish the role of the text to the reader.

The Intended Audience

The intended audience in the text of Frank McCourt is the poor in the society and the author establishes this right from the beginning of the text. The audience in the text can be established by the use of narrative and dramatistic analysis of a text. Such is done through examining the dramatic and elements of the storytelling as presented in the text. Elements of the storytelling will play a role in determining the achieving impact with the audience and as a result the targeted audience. Some of the features in the selected text that depict the intended audience as the poor society is the presence of values of the culture.

These dramatic elements, which points out to the poor in the society include the plot, which largely speaks about the author’s family and how he overcame poverty. The setting too also confirms the audience since the Irish people in the author’s time have been presented as poor people that upheld religion, but lived in abject poverty.

Other elements such as characters like the author’s drunkard and non-helping father together with the poor mother have also been used to speak directly to the poor in the society. This is well captured in the sentence, “the poverty; the shiftless loquacious alcoholic father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire..”.

The audience can also be identified by the rhythmic structure of the text where the words used have a flow directing up to a particular audience. The rhythm can only be established by reading in between the text so as to come up with the correct intended meaning of the text. Such words like the quote above about the “shiftless loquacious alcoholic father” and words on the afflications and poverty that the author passed through also confirms that the poor are his audience. In fact, the author keeps pressing his readers to work hard for they will get out of their situation. For example, in one of the narration, the author encourages readers to “Stock your mind, stock your mind. It is your house of treasure and no one in the world can interfere with it.”

The originality of words is another Aesthetic criticism that helps in the determination of the audience in the poem. The text involves the use of words such as impoverished, inferior and pitiable when referring to individuals. The words used are of a poor originality as they are used to refer to the poor in the society. Another aspect of Aesthetic criticism used in a determination of the intended audience is the use of metaphor Metaphors usually have a hidden meaning and are critically analyzed can lead to the establishment of what the author was referring to. In the text, I selected there is the use of metaphors such as poor like a church mouse. Such comparisons portrays between the relationship between poverty and a church mouse in referral to the poor in the society.

The View of the Speaker/ Creator on the Audience

Frank McCourt who is the creator of the article I selected is optimistic about the poor in the society. He is compassionate to the poor and encourages them with a hope of a better future. The speaker’s view is established by considering the constraints of the return. Firstly, consider the reputation of the rhetor. There should be credit on the rhetor’s reputation. How the persona speaks in the text, gives his perception on the target audience. This will include putting into consideration the tone involved in the poem. Secondly, the falling and rising of the personas intonation give the emotions and feelings of the speaker. In the test, I selected the speaker is compassionate to the poor in the society as he uses falling intonation. When addressing the challenges facing the poor in the society and when a rising intonation in the solutions offered to the challenges implying that there is hope on their lives heading in a positive direction.

Thirdly, the ability of the Frank McCourt to create identification with the audience gives his view of the addressed audience. The speaker creates a personal relationship with the audience showing them that he is concerned and totally understands the hardships that the poor undergoes in the society. The personal relationship created by the speaker with the audience implies that he views the poor in the society as people with equal with individuals in other social classes and should not be despised or mistreated as he feels the pain they are going through.

Lastly, the social power of the speaker equally gives his view of the intended audience. Power implies the view of the speaker’s ideas on issues relating to gender, race, sex, religion and social class as well. The manner in which the speaker addresses the issues will give us his view and perception of the audience he is addressing. The view of the speaker views the, society as a society with potential for both the male and female. From the text I selected for the case study, the speaker is not gendered biased as he perceives both the male and the female in the poor society equal and should be given same opportunities.

Why the Text Merits Criticism

Frank McCourt text on the poor in the society merits criticism because there is no legality of the information provided by the speaker. There exists no conformity in the text as it follows no particular rules, conventions and social expectation. The merits criticism since according to rhetorical criticism and argument the critics in a text can be perceived according to the perception of the speaker. The critics imply; see as I see, value and I value and understand as I understand. Through the theory, the text merits criticism more than praise.

Another reason as to why the text merits criticism is because the critic employs or uses is value-neutral and is not in the favor of any particular side. Such is perceived from the values discussed by the person who is given his own purpose. The speaker elaborates on the values without giving and end opinion of his one conclusion on the matter.

The speaker of the selected text focuses on the biography to some extent which leads to claims of a contested historical import. Biography is a concept of historical criticism that greatly merits criticism in a text. Understanding of the speech and bodywork as presented by the speaker on the history of the text is all that is involved in historical criticism. The speaker has the liberty to contest on the historical import of the biography.

Equally the elements of the style used in the text merit criticism. Such is in relation to stylistic criticism and the styles involved include grand, middle and plain. In style used in the selected text is grand which is a part of stylistic criticism therefore in support of criticism. The style may also involve the accessibility of the language used and evidence of generic forms in the text. In the selected text, generic form is present symbolizing the support and merit for criticism.

Lessons from the Rhetorical Theory

There are several lessons learned about rhetorical theory. Firstly, the rhetorical theory can be used to establish the audience that the speaker is addressing. In the text, the audience was not clear and through the use of rhetorical theory determining the audience was possible. Use of rhetorical tactics available based on a particular situation is relevant to the establishment of the time an event is taking place in the text, the particular place and the topic under discussion as well.

Secondly, from the text, we learn that rhetorical theories are important in the assertion of values and their intended guide to managing the aspirations of the speaker. In the text, we are able to conclude that the speaker has a positive aspiration of the poor in the society. The positive aspiration is established from the rhetorical theory of hegemony that organizes principles responsible for structuring the power relationship of the speaker in the text.

Thirdly, from the text, we can establish that rhetorical theory is responsible for influencing the behavior of individuals. The influence mainly appertains to individuals entering the hierarchies. The selected text assists in positively impacting a good behavior among the poor in society. Instances of the speaker discouraging individuals from engaging in theft for survival due to poverty has a positive impact on the behavior of individuals in the poor society.

Fourthly, another lesson learned about rhetorical theory from the text is that rhetorical theory does not any individual the right to speak which is not shared equally. Some individual’s voices are denied others are amplified to be heard. Inequality in the right to speak not being shared equally is due to the existence of hierarchical systems. In the text, only the personal is conversing in text creating his own target audience. Any form of interruption of the speaker in the text will create a totally different audience and aimed values contrary to the ones established by the speaker.

Fifthly, the rhetorical theory holds estrangement, value and commodity fetishism. Such helps in the facilitation of ideology through commodification and exploitation. In the text, the rhetorical theory has been used to elaborate on the values the speaker has on various issues in the society of the poor people. To some extent, it even involves the use of metaphors. Alienation in the text is symbolically brought out by rhetorical theory as the speaker shows how the poor in the society are emotionally isolated and dissociated from the larger society composed of people of different social class.

Lastly, from Frank McCourt text on the poor in the society we learn that rhetorical theory can be used in liberation. For instances of raised awareness of injustices, liberation is possible. In the text, the speaker talks about an injustice act seclusion where the poor are secluded from the rich. For the purposes of liberation, the act is tackled with an in-depth attention where the speaker gives suggestions of possible solutions such as carry out community projects that will bring both rich and poor together. Furthermore, we can learn that calls of instances of corruption can also be liberated. In the text, the author addresses the issue of corruption where the rich use backdoors in acquiring employment opportunities leaving the poor with no option. To liberate the situation with the rhetorical theory a solution of severe punishment is given out by the speaker.


In conclusion, rhetorical criticism is vital in the establishment of the time an event occurs, the venue of the event and the cultural context in which the event is in. For a text, speech, editorial media, and media story that is not convincing deserve to undergo a study with an aim of understanding the inner an intended meaning of the information passed across. Not only must the text or speech not be convincing as it may undergo studying even of its convincing as well. The main objective of text study is to appreciate the importance of the use of rhetorical theory and identify the target audience. Based on the discussion above rhetorical criticism is important in challenging the values and solutions offered by the speaker in a text as well as the legality of the information in the text.