Rhetoric In Walt Whitman's 'O Captain ! My Captain'

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Rhetoric is a universal staple to effective communication, yet it is defined differently to various sources. Quintilian defined it as a method for good men to transmit good messages, while Aristotle coined it as the aptitude to “discover, in any given case, the available means of persuasion” (Beebe & Beebe, 2006). For instructors, it is used in student-centric “perceived caring” to establish a teacher’s character, assisting his or her messages in effectively impacting students (Tevan & McCroskey, 2009). Together, these fragmented ideas combine to form rhetoric, and those who can employ them are, in turn, effective rhetoricians. In popular culture today, these fragments form many fictional personalities: commercial characters, literary protagonists,…show more content…
My Captain!” – is a world-renowned composition, often referenced as one of the most influential poems of all time. Any student would readily recognize the poem, and, due to established ethos, regard the person who assumes its title as a knowledgeable person in the literary arts and therefore a credible source for literary instruction, making students more attuned to Keating’s message. Secondly, the “captain” the narrator of the poem refers to is usually assumed to be Abraham Lincoln, ubiquitously regarded as an American hero, an intelligent scholar, and perhaps most importantly, a good man. The opportunity is then present for Keating’s pupils to make a comparison: an American hero regarded with extremely high esteem, and Professor Keating – one who, students can deduce, is comparatively a hero, a scholar, and a good man. Finally, there is the connotation of the title Keating assumes. The word “captain” provokes images of great leaders, people who inherently possess noble character and can navigate obstacles toward success. Again, he establishes himself as a worthy guide, a leader, with a simple title, and his message therefore becomes something worth listening
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