Commencement Speech: This Is Water By David Foster Wallace

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David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech “This is Water” at Kenyon College is often thought of as one of the most influential speeches because it calls the graduates to observe the world around them through a different lens. However, he does not accomplish that by calling the graduates to action, but instead challenges them to use their education. He also appeals to the students’ emotions through his use of ethos, logos, and pathos. Although people mostly only remember the antidotes, it is the message associated with reoccurring emotions and literary devices throughout the speech that moves the reader into action. Wallace is able to captivate his audience and persuade them to view the world without themselves at the center through his tactful use of rhetoric. He encourages them to first find who they are and what they stand for, to then effectively determine…show more content…
David Foster Wallace uses a combination of rhetorical literary devices and modes of persuasion to convince his audience, Kenyon College’s graduating class, that in their adult life it is not only important, but necessary to look past themselves and view the world without themselves at the center. If they do not do so, it will cause them daily misery and pain when having to interact with people when they are tired or bored. Wallace is able to persuade his audience by first gaining credibility with them, so they are more willing to listen to what he has to say. Then, he uses logical reasons as to why they should not put themselves above others in their lives, and solidifies the lesson through emotional appeals that most of the class can relate to and use to grow from. Throughout his speech he uses a variety of rhetorical tools to persuade the audience further, such as his use of anaphora, and syntax in the way he presents his ideas. He calls the students to action in a way that they can relate to by talking about the necessity to use their education outside of the workplace and question the world around
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