Rhetorical Analysis Of David Foster Wallace's Commencement Speech

Good Essays
In his commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005, David Foster Wallace was tasked with the responsibility of imparting some wisdom onto the graduating class. Wallace’s message to a room of full soon-to-be college graduates at the precipice of the of their impending true adulthood, he offers them a message that cuts through the mess and concisely delivers a message that many would ironically overlook, which is for the students to realize that at times, imperative life lessons are not only the ones that they cannot conceive or believe, but the ones that are obvious but hard to acknowledge let alone discuss. The lesson in this is that no matter how instinctive that cynicism is, it is imperative that people must try to more honest and open…show more content…
I know that I do not know the man in the slightest or how he felt inside, but knowing that he committed suicide, this speech feels all the more honest. He purposefully comes off as honest by not giving the standard allegory that portrays himself - as he called it - “...the wise old fish explaining what water is to you younger fish…”, that in a way that at times could come off a disingenuous; however, in reading and listening to this speech I felt like he really opened up to the audience in a raw way, by sharing the lesson, which is not to be a prisoner to our instinctive cynicism and to trying to be more open to different possibilities is probably a more effective way to live a healthier life . In his attempt to be open up he uses cynicism to fuel his drive, or rather his fear of letting it consume him that could lead him to do something drastic that could adversely affect his or other’s lives, instead recommending to take a step back and think about the world of possibilities that could come from - however, maddening - being more aware and honest to the world that they are a part of. Obviously, the exact thoughts that led David Foster Wallace to take his life were only known by him, but I think that while he could not emulate his advice, he wanted others to live better lives. The devices he used in the structure of the speech - even if not by design - are essential parts of making this speech’s message not only come off as sincere, but as effective as it would have been had gone the more traditional
Get Access