In paragraph 13 of Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay titled "Education," where do examples of allusion, analogy, rhetorical questions, imperative sentences, and sentence variety and pacing occur, and...

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Paragraph 13 of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay titled “Education” contains a number of rhetorical techniques that are effective in various ways. Examples include the following:

  • Allusion. An one point, Emerson alludes to

an eminent reformer, of whom it was said “his patience could see in the bud of the aloe the blossom at the end of a hundred years.”

Although the “reformer” remains unidentified in most editions of Emerson’s essays, Emerson, by citing this authority, gives added weight to his own argument. Emerson implies that he is well read and that he has given serious thought to his topic.

  • Analogy. One effective example of a use of analogy occurs when Emerson writes that a teacher hampered by unruly students “knows as much vice as the judge of a police court.” The comparison of a school (a place for education) and a court (a place for punishment) is memorable and striking, implying that these two places ideally should not resemble each other at all.
  • Imperative sentences. A good example of an imperative sentence occurs when Emerson writes,Try your design on the best school.” This sentence is effective because it is brief; it is blunt; it issues a command rather than merely making a statement; and it directly addresses the reader, thus stimulating the reader’s interest.
  • Rhetorical questions. Emerson uses a rhetorical question when, discussing the frustrations of a teacher pressed for time, he asks, how can he please himself with genius, and foster modest virtue?”

By asking a question rather than making a statement, Emerson encourages his readers to think for themselves, but he also, of course, implies the correct answer. He implicitly gives the reader credit for intelligence and good sense, because he implies that of course the reader will come to the right conclusion. The rhetorical question contributes to the sheer variety of types of sentences that Emerson uses, thus keeping his phrasing from seeming boringly predictable. In this particular case, the rhetorical question stimulates the reader to examine his own conscience and admit his own imperfections.

  • Sentence variety and pacing. Consider the opening sentences of the essay:

So to regard the young child, the young man, requires, no doubt, rare patience: a patience that nothing but faith in the remedial forces of the soul can give [29 words]. You see his sensualism; you see his want of those tastes and perceptions which make the power and safety of your character [22 words]. Very likely [2 words]. But he has something else [5 words].

By creating variety in the length of his sentences, Emerson prevents them from seeming boring or monotonous. He also gives particular weight and emphasis to the short sentences. They seem especially forceful.

All in all, Emerson's use of various rhetoric devices in this essay not only helps make the essays interesting to read but also helps display, by its own example, the advantages of a good education.


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