Rhetorical Analysis of ”Cabeza de Vaca” by Alvar Nunez
A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteedOrder Now
In Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca’s Relacion, Cabeza de Vaca writes an account of his disastrous expedition to the New World, as well as providing a legal document in which the rhetoric of his narrative transforms his story of failure into a story of success. In chapter thirty-four, Cabeza de Vaca uses the three elements of rhetoric; ethos, logos, and pathos, to express that Spanish law is unsuitable for the circumstances encountered in the New World.
During the sixteenth century, Spanish expeditions to the New World were pursued under the power of the Spanish King, who enforces Spanish law. Specific people were appointed certain positions on these journeys and the entire crew was expected to follow Spanish law and fulfill their responsibilities, on of which includes converting any natives to Christianity. Despite the fact Cabeza de Vaca essentially failed as being treasurer of his expedition, he believes that he, unlike the majority of the other Spaniards, carried out Spanish law correctly and is willing to prove himself to his King with his account. Throughout his document, Cabeza de Vaca carefully selects his choice of words to convince the King he is not one of the men responsible for the deterioration of the voyage.
The purpose of chapter thirty-four is to specifically demonstrate how the Christians differed from Cabeza de Vaca and his men in carrying out their duties as Spaniards and as Christians. Since Cabeza de Vaca witnessed the disasters that happened, he doesn’t hold Spanish law in high regards. He also believes the King should change certain aspects in order for a society to run successfully in a new environment as well as approach the act of converting any natives to Christianity in the correct manner.
In his argument, Cabeza de Vaca uses ethos, an appeal to his own credibility, to further explain to the King that he’s not a failure. When Cabeza de Vaca and his men meet up with the Christians, Cabeza de Vaca helps them out by sending some Indian followers for some food. “He [Alcarez] wanted me [Cabeza de Vaca] to ask them [the Indians] to bring us food, although this was not necessary since they always took care to bring us everything they could” (109). Although Cabeza de Vaca disagreed with most of the Christian’s ways, he still helps them out, preventing them from starving. Cabeza de Vaca and his crew of men also “gave the Christians many buffalo-hide blankets and other things…”(109) as yet another act of generosity.
Adding to his own credibility, Cabeza de Vaca explains how much better he is versus the Christians. “…we [Cabeza de Vaca and his men] had come from the East and they [the Christians] had come from the West; that we healed the sick and they killed to healthy; that we were naked and barefoot and they were dressed and on horseback, with lances; that we coveted nothing but instead gave away everything that was given to us and kept none of it, while the sole purpose of the other was to steal everything they found, never giving anything to anyone” 110). Cabeza de Vaca wisely inserts these kinds of passages because it gives him more credibility for his actions which will help the King make his decision on weather Cabeza de Vaca truly came out as a success or not.
Making his argument even stronger, Cabeza de Vaca uses logos in the chapter. Logos refers to the structure of the argument using logical reasoning. The Christian’s approach to converting the Indians failed and instead of pulling them into Spanish society, the Christian’s ended up pushing them away. Cabeza de Vaca keeps emphasizing that the Indians hold him and his men in high respect, whereas the Indians have no respect whatsoever for the Christians. “He [Alcarez] wanted me [Cabeza de Vaca] to ask them [the Indians] to bring us food, although this was not necessary since they always took care to bring us everything they could” (109). Throughout the chapter, Cabeza de Vaca clearly points out the differences the Indians observed between his group and the Christians’ group, proving that the Christians weren’t abiding Spanish law.
“Speaking amongst themselves, they [the Indians] said the Christians were lying, because we [Cabeza de Vaca and his men] had come from the East and they [the Christians] had come from the West; that we healed the sick and they killed to healthy; that we were naked and barefoot and they were dressed and on horseback, with lances; that we coveted nothing but instead gave away everything that was given to us and kept none of it, while the sole purpose of the other was to steal everything they found, never giving anything to anyone” 110). Cabeza de Vaca specifically uses logos to clearly distinguish himself from the Christians where it is at a point where he even separates himself from the other Spaniards, referring to them as “Christians.” The Indians refuse to believe that these two groups of men are the same since the two groups act contrary to one another. Cabeza de Vaca’s use of logos presents how the Indians viewed the Christians with such distaste.
To further insist his innocence, Cabeza de Vaca uses pathos to trigger the King emotionally. He uses pathos in the chapter as a plea for sympathy for the poorly treated Indians, further proving the Indian’s un-acceptance of Cabeza de Vaca and his men are of equal status with the Christians. “The Indians could not be persuaded to believe that we were the same as the other Christians” (110). The Indians are treated so unethically that they hide in fear in their own lands. “…the Christians had forced to go up the mountain, where they [the Indians] were hiding” (109) Because the Indians fled away from their homes, they ended up leaving great land uncultivated and wasted, certainly something the King doesn’t want if he wants to establish order and a working society in the New World. “They [the Indians] have many fruits and beautiful rivers and many other very good bodies of water.
There is great evidence and signs of gold and silver deposits…. This truly is a land that lacks nothing to be very good” (110). Later on, after Cabeza de Vaca finally convinces the Indians to return to their villages and continue their life, the Christians secretly drag Cabeza de Vaca and his fellow men into the wilderness, so they have no power to prevent anything happening to the Indians. “They [the Christians] took us [Cabeza de Vaca and his fellow men] through the wilderness for two days without water, lost and without a trail. We thought we would all die of thirst and, in fact, seven men did” (110).
This prime example of pathos indicates the hardship Cabeza de Vaca and his men went through at the hands of the Christians. Cabeza de Vaca reveals the fate of the Indians whom they had previously sent home in peace, explaining that the Christians attacked them while Cabeza de Vaca and his men were lost in the wilderness. Cabeza de Vaca portrays the Indians as victims to the Christian’s inhumane actions and that the Christians are the one’s responsible for the disasters on the expedition. Using pathos, Cabeza de Vaca hopes to explain in his account that the Indians are indeed capable of converting to Spanish society but will refuse to, based of their ill treatment from the Christians.
After eight long years of hardships and suffering, Cabeza de Vaca writes his Relacion logically, also using credibility and an appeal to the King’s emotion, in order to persuade him that he can’t be held responsible for the failure of the expedition. Within chapter thirty-four, Cabeza de Vaca presents the Indians as mistreated civilized people, who would be willing to convert to Christianity if it wasn’t for the Christians terrorizing the lands. Subsequently, living through the expedition has allowed Cabeza de Vaca to return to Spain with knowledge the King could put to use when creating a new system of Spanish law.