Name three rhetorical devices Sojourner Truth used in "Ain't I a Woman?" and give an example of each device from the speech.

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teachertaylor's profile pic

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Three rhetorical devices that Sojourner Truth uses in her speech "Ain't I a Woman?" include metaphor, rhetorical questions, and repetition.  Midway through the speech, Truth uses the metaphor of pints and quarts to discuss the rights held by black women in comparison to others:  "If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?"  Through this metaphor, Truth argues that the black woman has fewer rights than other citizens yet those who have more are keen to take all they can away from the black woman.  Truth also uses a rhetorical question here to push her audience into her logic; she uses several rhetorical questions throughout the speech, most notably the repetition of "And ain't I a woman?" to build emphasis and intensity into the speech.

samcestmoi's profile pic

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Sojourner Truth uses, among other things, juxtaposition, allusion, and an appeal to logic in her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech. 

In the following section, Truth juxtaposes her own capabilities with those traditionally attributed to men, as well as the traditional, expected actions of men toward women with how they behave toward her:

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

By doing this she is drawing attention to the hypocrisy of these actions – why should women be forced into an inferior social position when they can do everything a man can do?  And indeed, when men are expected to behave as gentlemen, they obviously do not do so toward her.  Truth laments the lack of sympathy she has received over the years, and her dismissal in society despite the fact that she has labored – she has labored and suffered and lived a very hard, intense life, and she got nothing back because she was an African-American, and because she was a woman.  The repetition of the title phrase – “Ain’t I a woman?” throughout the speech really drives home this point.  She is a woman – she is deserving of the best seats in the house, of doors being held for her; she is deserving of respect, because she is a woman and yet she can do all that a man can do.  By repeating this question she emphasizes the injustice of it all, and challenges her audience to deny this injustice.

This challenge is an appeal to logic for her audience – since women are deserving of these things, and she is a woman, it follows that she should receive these things.  And since she is a woman, and is capable of all these things that a man is capable of, it follows that she should be regarded as equally strong and deserving as a man.  She should be respected as a man is respected.  By forming a logical argument, Sojourner Truth once again emphasizes that something is wrong with the organization of society that these things in fact do not follow, when they should.

Finally, she makes several Biblical allusions to the Virgin Mary and to Eve, asking first “Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him,” thus using perspective to completely invalidate a common argument for the superiority of man.  When mentioning Eve, she does the same – instead of framing the exile from Eden as a direct result of woman’s weakness, she inverts the story, saying that woman, from the beginning of time, has been so powerful that she could cause such a tragic, monumental occurrence as the fall of man.

amarang9's profile pic

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This rhetorical question "Ain't I a Woman" could also qualify as anaphora or symploce. Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses for added emphasis. Symploce is a combination of anaphora and epistrophe (repetition of a word or phrase at the end of successive clauses), but symploce means "interweaving." It seems that in this speech, symploce is the rhetorical device Truth uses since it is interwoven throughout the speech. 

Truth also uses logos (logical arguments). She argues that she can do the same amount of work as a man; therefore why shouldn't she have the same rights as a man. When she uses a Biblical allusion, she is appealing to Christians in the audience. This is called ethos: appealing to a crowd's or a community's ideology, religion, beliefs, etc. One could also argue that Truth uses pathos (appealing to the emotions of her listeners) since this is an emotional issue - particularly for women. 

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legan03's profile pic

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repetition: this question is repeated, "Ain't I a woman?"; allusion: it's a biblical allusion, "If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down,"; rhetorical question: could be the title again, "Ain't I a woman?"

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