In Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, what effect does Williams achieve by employing different modes of discourse throughout her essay?What is the effect of transitioning from...

In Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, what effect does Williams achieve by employing different modes of discourse throughout her essay?

What is the effect of transitioning from narrating a series of events (Williams' dream of a clan of women reclaiming the desert for their children), to analyzing information through relevant evidence (references to the "Irene Allen vs. the United States of America" case and Operation Plumbbob), to proving the validity of an idea (that nuclear testing had been the cause of cancer)?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Terry Tempest Williams artfully employs different modes of discourse throughout her work to convince the reader of the validity of her theory concerning nuclear testing and rising cancer rates.  As she alternates between forms of writing, Williams utilizes one of the earliest and most effective strategies in rhetoric--Aristotle's Modes of Persuasion.  Aristotle proposed that the most effective argument could be broken down into three parts:  pathos, ethos, and logos.   Terry Tempest Williams uses all three with great effect.

Pathos:This mode of persuasion artfully convinces the listener, or in this case--reader, to buy into an argument for sympathetic reasons.  Pathos plays on the reader's emotions.  As Williams utilizes the dream of women, cancer survivors, attempting to reclaim the desert for their daughters, she uses pathos; the reader feels an emotional connection to these women.

Ethos: This mode of persuasion persuades the reader on the basis of the speaker's crediblity.  Williams establishes her credibility through her analyses of relevant information.  Williams even furthers this credibility through her first-hand accounts of her mother's cancer and death. 

Logos: Logos appeals to our logic.  Persuasion using logos usually happens through charts, graphs, and scientific information that supports the speaker's argument.  Williams also provides plenty of material that logically supports her argument that nuclear testing had resulted in increased cancer rates among women in Utah.  Her naturalist view point concerning the rise of the Great Salt Lake, threatening the migratory birds adds merit to her claim.

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