Summary Of Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air

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What does life stand for? Paul Kalanithi explores this question in When Breath Becomes Air through various rhetorical devices. When it comes to figuring out the meaning of life and supporting his claims, however, Kalanithi’s most effective rhetorical strategy is deductive reasoning. The book is formatted to allow the reader to understand Kalanthi’s arguments through his experiences, rather than statistics. For example, Kalanithi writes, “Other romantic poems led me and my friends on various joyful misadventures … we often ... [serenaded] the captain of the cheerleading team. (Her father was a local minister and so, we reasoned, less likely to shoot.)” (27). This example of reasoning allows the reader to understand the motivation behind Kalanithi’s actions later in life. While he may provide light-hearted examples of deductive reasoning, Kalanithi also uses this rhetorical strategy to deliver controversial arguments and profound realizations.
For instance, Kalanithi proposes the disputed claim that since “There is no proof of God; therefore, it is unreasonable to believe in God” (168). Through deductions, Kalanithi is able to present a sensitive topic and explain the reasoning behind his claim, creating support for the argument, as well as a more receptive environment. He also presents an epiphany through this strategy: the connection between
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He plainly writes, “There it was. A new tumor … I was neither angry nor scared. It simply was” (174). The reader instantly understands what Kalanithi has deduced - his cancer had resurged, and that this time, he would not receive extra time. It is this straightforward style that make Kalanithi’s claims so compelling - he does not belittle the reader, but instead explains the logic behind his argument. This approach accurately represents Kalanithi’s personality, and what he stood for as patient, writer, and
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