Date of publication: 2017-08-24 18:50
This book contains definitions and examples of more than sixty traditional rhetorical devices, (including rhetorical tropes and rhetorical figures) all of which can still be useful today to improve the effectiveness, clarity, and enjoyment of your writing. Note: This book was written in 6985, with some changes since. The devices presented are not in alphabetical order. To go directly to the discussion of a particular device, click on the name below. If you know these already, go directly to the Self Test . To learn about my book, Writing with Clarity and Style , see the Advertisement .
The actor Will Rogers said this about a political candidate that he was (supposedly) endorsing for public office. The hidden premise here is that if Rogers had met the candidate, it would be harder to speak positively about him. The humor, of course, is that Rogers knows this, and still supports the candidate all the same.
In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar , Marc Antony delivers a funeral oration in which his purpose is to convince the audience that Caesar was not ambitious. One part of his argument is to show that Caesar refused to accept the crown, and therefore he was obviously not ambitious. The hidden premise is: an ambitious person would have accepted the crown, and indeed would have eagerly leapt at the opportunity.
A motif is a symbolic image or idea that appears frequently in a story. Motifs can be symbols, sounds, actions, ideas, or words. Motifs strengthen a story by adding images and ideas to the theme present throughout the narrative.
To go directly to the discussion of a particular device, click on the name below. If you know these already, go directly to the Self Test . To learn about my book, Writing with Clarity and Style , see the Advertisement .
Both of the premises are stated in this argument, so it’s not an enthymeme. However, the author has failed to account for some confounding variables : for example, it could have been a lack of medical science, not poor hygiene, that caused the plagues. Since all the premises in this case are stated, there’s no hidden premise and therefore no enthymeme.
Enthymeme is also a common feature of political rhetoric. For example, watch out for cases where someone is attacking a politician using a “dirty word” like anarchist, socialist, imperialist, or Nazi. This is almost always hyperbole , but it’s also enthymeme. Here’s a typical example:
Motifs provide compositions with a traceable pattern: if a red dress or the idea of guilt or even a song continues appearing throughout a narrative, chances are, it means something. Motifs allow authors, writers, and directors to create a more poetic and structured narrative, cluing in readers and audiences to symbols of larger ideas. Motifs are partners to themes, as repetitive images and symbols emphasize the overarching themes of the work.
Just as symbols fit within the definition of motifs, motifs are a smaller aspect of theme. Themes are overarching, central ideas in stories. Motifs serve to emphasize themes with specific images and symbols throughout the story. Here is an example of how themes and motifs work together: