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Barbara Lazear Ascher Rhetorical Analysis

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Compassion is seen around the world. Or so it’s thought. Barbara Ascher questions whether or not compassion is real or if it’s driven by fear in her essay “On Compassion.” She takes an attitude that it is fear-driven, and tries to sway the reader to think as she does. Trying to sway the reader, Barbara Ascher starts her essay On Compassion with a story-like tone. This part of the essay feels fictional, and has very persistent diction. She uses words like “unwavering stare” and “eyes fix on the baby.” By doing this she makes the reader feel like the homeless man is consistent with his begging, like it’s an everyday routine. Also in this part of the essay she uses diction that makes the reader feel like the homeless man is almost unwilling to take the dollar that he was begging for. Ascher says that the lady was “growing impatient” and “finally” the man takes the money. After telling the story she throws in an anecdote to show that she has seen this personally. She stresses the fact that she has seen the same thing happen twice. Ascher shows that this isn’t just a one-time thing; it is more like a routine.

This makes the reader question if the story is really showing compassion, or if it’s just a daily routine like earlier in the essay. After she uses the anecdote she has a very subjective tone, and uses “I” and “we” often. Ascher includes her personal opinion on the matters going on in New York. Having a subjective tone provides ethos and gives the reader a reason to believe her thinking. To also make the reader question whether or not compassion is true act, Ascher uses rhetorical questions. She uses questions like, “Was it fear or compassion that motivated the gift?”, to make the reader really think about what she says on the idea of compassion. It’s also the placement of the rhetorical questions that help with their effectiveness. She places one in the middle of the essay to get the reader thinking and then again at the end to leave a ring in the readers mind.

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