Rhetorical Analysis Of Speech By David Foster Wallace

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David Foster Wallace starts his speech with the use of anecdote through his quick narrative about two young fish. Wallace tells the story of two fish who encounter an older fish who asks “How’s the water?”, which prompts one of the younger fish to later ask “What the hell is water?”, indirectly describing the idea of a link between immaturity and a lack of understanding of surrounding environment. While this anecdote serves as a simple thought provoking prelude to Wallace’s speech, it’s actual purpose is to open the minds of Wallace’s audience to better perceive their surroundings by demonstrating that some of the most obvious realities in life are the hardest to observe. Wallace uses the strategy of anecdote to illustrate this principle and build the foundation for the life lessons later detailed in the body of his speech.…show more content…
Wallace establishes this persona from the very beginning of his speech by saying, “If anybody feels like perspiring, I’d advise you to go ahead, because I’m sure going to.” This makes Wallace appear much less like the famous novelist commonly known by the students at any liberal arts college, and much more like any average Joe. This creates ethos and establishes common ground with his audience, reinforcing his statement when he insists that “I am not the wise old fish,” which may seem ironic in the sense that he is the wise old fish. Regardless of this, the importance of Wallace’s ethos is found in the idea that he does not seem like the wise old fish. Instead, Wallace alienates his sense of authority and presents himself as an average person attempting to give some advice about life. Wallace’s use of ethos makes him monumentally easier to listen to, powerfully opposed to the norm of commencement speeches involving a pretentious author lecturing about the true meaning of
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