Rhetorical Devices in Robert C Byrd’s "The Arrogance of Power"


One of the most effective way of communicating to the mass is through a speech. Speeches, delivered right, can uplift ones will and revive morale. This probably is one of the greatest instrument in challenging one’s belief.

Speeches do not only rely on intonation and applying great deal of emotions. Their effectiveness are improved with the use of Rhetoric. Rhetorical Language was used in oral communication even during the times of Plato and Socrates. Information and beliefs are creatively spread through the use of this magnificent device. Rhetoric is reflected in a lot of forms. The use of figurative language is one of its famous forms. Playing with the syllables and sounds of words is another type. These forms no matter how they were devised guarantees spice to a speech.

Taking a look at, Robert C. Byrd’s speech, delivered on March 19, 2003 at the Senate Floor in Washington, D.C., which contains some generous amount of rhetorical devices.

In the first paragraph of the speech, the lines: “I have studied… I have glorified… I have marveled” (Byrds, 2003) appeared consecutively. The form is primarily composed the pair “I have” then a verb in the past tense. This pattern is actually a rhetorical device referred to as Anaphora.

Another repetitive statement was presented in the second paragraph. The lines, “our friends mistrust us; our word is disputed; our intentions are questioned”. The continuous negation of concepts in threes indicates that the statement is an example of Tricolon. This rhetorical device is sometimes called the “Rule of Threes”, because of having three consecutive statements with the same pattern.

The sixth paragraph gave somewhat a brief look back of the devastating event. What happened in the event was still fresh in the minds of the people so the reason of refreshing the memory is debunked. Rather, the run down was stated to make the audience evoke their feelings during those times. Asyndeton, was utilized to invoke these feelings again and lead them into a realization. The absence of conjunctions or connectors made the flow of statement smooth and fast, enough for the feelings to resurface.

“… Pentagon towards a tangible villain, one we can see and hate and attack. And villain he is. But he is the wrong villain… ” (Byrds, 2003) The villain referred to here is Saddam Hussein. There was direct relation to Saddam and a comparison to how he was sought to be vindicated by all his alleged crimes. The villain here is, clearly, Saddam Hussein. A light and indirect use of Metaphor was portrayed in this statement.

“What is happening to this country?! — my country, your country, our country?” Taken from the tenth paragraph is another example of Anaphora. The sentence made use of succeeding statements that are filled with emotions that penetrates through ones senses. The rhetorical device intensifies what is being delivered with the use of succession.

“Why can this President not seem to see that America’s true power lies not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire?” (Byrds, 2003) A rhetorical question, left to be reflected by the audience before the end of the speech.

“Rhetorical Devices in action” which is clearly presented in the speech. Rhetorical Devices, indeed, spices up the speech into a more impressive look.


Source by Louise Aldrin Bognot Pineda