How can I approach a rhetorical essay combined present day connections for and within Super Sad True Love Story?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that there are two distinct points that need to be addressed here.  The first is how to go about in developing a rhetorical essay component for Super Sad True Love Story.  This will involve addressing some of the basic elements of the novel.  For example, you will have to engage in analysis about the speaker of the novel, Lenny Abramov.  In doing so, you will probably have to discuss his characterization and how this is divulged to the reader.  Analysis of his diary entries would be essential here.  For example, in analyzing a section of his first diary entry, a rhetorical analysis could be featured on simply that:

But what ah our chil’ren? Lovely and fresh in their youth; blind to mortality; rolling around, Eunice Park–like, in the tall grass with their alabaster legs; fawns, sweet fawns, all of them, gleaming in their dreamy plasticity, at one with the outwardly simple nature of their world.

And then, a brief almost-century later: drooling on some poor Mexican nursemaid in an Arizona hospice.

Lenny's role as a speaker gives him the necessary occasion and frame of reference to analyze the current social condition enveloping America.  The audience is reflective of a diary entry, in general.  His audience is himself as well as a general public.  Most diary entries are composed with the individual and a voice outside of the individual.  Rhetorical analysis would also yield his subject matter, which is the youth culture that has, to a great extent, crippled the nation from any reflective advancement.  Finally, in a rhetorical analysis, the tone, or the attitude that the speaker holds towards his subject, is needed. Lenny's tone is both critical and yet desiring of inclusion.  He resents the youthful emphasis of the social order, but through his inclusion of Eunice, it is clear that he envies inclusion within it.  He wants to be seen as desirable through the lens of a social order that would deem someone like him as undesirable.  In this regard, a rhetorical analysis would place focus on these elements.

The second component here would be to develop the four points in modern life that compares with what Shteyngart is making in the novel. You might be able to find different points to make, but I think that one of the most dominant points that the novel presents that could compare with present life is the idea of youth. There is an emphasis on being youthful that is essential to Shteyngart's thesis.  Lenny defines himself both with and against being young.  The entire premise of the social preoccupation with GlobalTeens is the notion of being young.  The people on the site are not teens, but yet act as teens.  The government wishes for a consumer population that has disposable income, as young people tend to possess.  Being young is where power lies, and represents a source of pride.  Modern culture features the same preoccupation with being young, something that Lenny brings out in his initial diary entry in contrasting the prowess of youth and the decay of the old. Another point that can be found in the book and in present life is the dependence on technology.  Technological advancement defines social acceptance as well as being accepted.  The activity on GlobalTeens as well as sites such as "whorefuckrevu" and the dependence on äppäräts for communication reflects a world where digital technology is not a supplement to life.  Rather, it is life.  This dependence on technology can be seen in the present setting where smartphones and tablets and the web seem to define so much in consciousness.  Shteyngart's political construction reveals a world where dissent is not tolerated as the government seeks to gain insight and information on everyone.  While it is not to the level that is depicted in the novel, the emphasis on technology and personal information that can be gained from it defines much of the modern setting.  Issues of identity theft and even how external agencies can understand more of the individual are a part of the modern setting.  Finally, the novel discusses how there is an excess of the public.  The public life is the private life, as people use online forms of social media to express their own personalized feelings for public gain.  The novel mirrors the present setting, where sites like instagram or twitter have effectively removed much in way of privacy.  Blogs and other forms of social networking have made everyone's most private thoughts public ones.  The dependence on technology possesses implications in how individuals interact with one another and themselves.  In keeping a diary, Lenny proves to be different.  Much of what he says is mean to remain in the private, outside of its disclosure to the reader.  These four points can be a part of how the present tense compares with the novel.  Your in class essay can be composed of two parts.  The first would be the rhetorical analysis while the second could be how the book compares to the present day.

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