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In her book titled Refuge: An Unnatural History, Terry Tempest Williams uses logos (the rhetorical appeal to reason and logic) in a number of ways and with a number of effects, including the following:
- In the book’s opening paragraph, Williams mentions many specific factual details, including a precise length of time, exact geographical locations, particular names of particular places, specific turns taken while driving, precise colors of things, etc., in order to show her concern with being factual and reliable. She thus presents herself as a highly trustworthy narrator whose opinions we are more likely to take seriously when opinions are offered.
- In the paragraph beginning “I recall,” Williams offers an extremely clear analogy as she attempts to describe the breadth and depth of the Great Salt Lake. Her use of this vivid comparison implies her desire to communicate as lucidly as possible to the reader. She wants to make sure we can “see” in our “mind’s eye” the kind of lake she is discussing.
- A few sentences later, she says that Great Salt Lake lies
on the bottom of the Great Basin, the largest closed system in North America . . . .
By announcing with such confidence this unusual (indeed, unique) fact, Williams shows that she has done her research and can speak with a self-assurance the reader can trust. She implicitly presents herself as a writer who “knows her stuff.” The paragraph that succeeds the one from which I just quoted is another perfect example of Williams’ precision as well as of her ability to make facts seem fascinating.
- Williams writes in a style that is at once very personal and very lucid. The clarity of her style suggests the clarity of her thinking. She manages to avoid seeming too casual and too arcane. She strikes just the right balance between writing for anyone and writing for experts. In all these ways, her style exemplifies the logical nature of her mind, but her logic never seems cold, abstract, convoluted, or remote from the experience of most human beings.
All in all, then, Williams presents herself as a very rational person who is, nevertheless, also a person with feelings and emotional insights. Her prose makes her sound credible, logical, and perceptive.
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