What are some examples of rhetorical devices in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Rhetorical devices are devices that somebody uses in order to help persuade their audience concerning the truth of what they are arguing. In this text, the rhetorical devices are used on the whole to explore the situation facing the Lacks family and the way that they have been left to live lives of poverty and lack of opportunity whilst the cells of their mother and grandmother have been sold and traded all over the world. Skloot makes many references to the Lacks family and the kind of lives they have lived, but perhaps one of the best examples of where she seeks to persuade the reader that something should be done for them comes in the Afterword of the book, when she gives the final words of the text to Sonny:

And besides, I'm proud of my mother and what she done for science. I just hope Hopkins and some of the other folks who benefited off her cells will do something to honour her and make right with the family.

Giving the final words of the book to Sonny, Henrietta's son, and also quoting these particular words gives the Lacks family massive dignity in the eyes of the reader as they show pride in how their mother has helped advance cancer research. However, at the same time, his final hope that something can be done to "honour" his mother and "make right" with the Lacks family also clearly indicates that a wrongdoing has occurred in the way that Henrietta's cells were taken without her knowledge and how they have been used and studied so much. Ending the text in this way is a powerful example of a rhetorical device that engages the sympathy of the audience and helps persuade them that something does need to be done in order to "make right" with the Lacks family.