Rhetorical analysis paper

Eli Sheintoch
Professor Bedell
CAS 137H
12 October 2012
The Nobel Peace Prize is an internationally recognized award that is delivered to an individual or organization that has accomplished an ameliorative effort for mankind. In a world where logging onto a website one is flooded with information of global tragedies occurring and new wars being fought and human rights being shirked, it is difficult to imagine that people are achieving peace. Unfortunately, the media does not believe peace sells stories, but that does not mean it is not happening. Organizations like the Nobel Prize are there to serve as reminders. In the year 1986 the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize was a man named Elie Wiesel, a holocaust survivor and humanitarian. A day after receiving the award, Elie gave a Nobel lecture entitled “Hope, Despair and Memory,” with the speech focusing on the importance of remembering. The speech was successful at persuading the audience to believe in the importance of memory by using the pathos that is intrinsic to Holocaust recollections, his own ethos established from surviving the Holocaust and winning an award given on fighting for peace, and using logos to show the detriment of forgetfulness and passivity by listing current issues in the world that need help. Elie provides a dichotomy: recognize the truth from the past to provide the foundation for a better world, or choose ignorance and allow for the irreverence of human rights.
The exigence of Elie’s speech is that people seem to be opting to allow lessons gleaned from the past to gradually ebb from memory or not remember at all, and choosing to allow global tyranny to continue versus getting involved to bring about tyrannies end. The audience was composed of people who could make a difference, for the audience was the Nobel committee, intellectuals, people of influence, and people with an interest in the improvement of humanity. This composition of audience allowed Elie to take a more aggressive stance. These people knew what he had to say, his nomination signifying that, and with this in mind, Elie constructed a speech where he did not curb his ire, hide his thoughts, or hint at his point. Elie directly told the people, with a tone of fury, begging, and most greatly disappointment, that now was the time to remember. To help aid the audience in remembering, Elie gave a speech replete with fables, anecdotes, and facts, to either remind the audience of what they knew or to enlighten them of what they should know.
Elie begins “Hope, Memory and Despair” with a concise story that exemplifies the benefits of memory. The story is of a rabbi with mystical abilities who attempts to use his powers to catalyze the coming of the messiah, for the coming of the messiah would signal an end to the persecution of the Jewish people. The rabbi is punished for attempting to involve himself in the course of history and is exiled with his servant to a deserted island. The servant asks the rabbi to bring them back to civilization using his powers but the rabbi has forgotten everything, from his abilities to the Hebrew alphabet. The servant replies that he has forgotten everything as well, except for the Hebrew alphabet. The rabbi urges the servant to chant the alphabet and soon the rabbi and servant are chanting the alphabet together. Eventually the rabbi regains memory of everything, including his powers, and uses his abilities to bring the both of them back to civilization. The servant’s memory, despite only recalling the alphabet, proved their salvation. Elie is communicating to his audience that a single memory, no matter how fundamental or seemingly useless, is always beneficial.
Elie transitions from Jewish fable to his actual experiences, starting post-Holocaust, and instantly establishing pathos. He refers to himself as, “A young man [who] struggles to readjust to life. His mother, his father, his small sister are gone. He is alone. On the verge of despair” (Wiesel). According to Aristotle, Pathos is an appeal to emotions. Elie tells of a man left orphaned by human savagery, on the verge of depression. This evokes strong sensations of sympathy, for it is the clear, unjust destruction of a man. Making it effective use of pathos for it draws the audience towards him, and therefore draws them closer to his point. The pathos also begets Elie’s ethos.
The factoids of Elie’s life that cause people to connect to his suffering establish his credibility as a speaker on suffering. According to Sharon Crowley and Debra Hawhee in Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students ethos is, “the character or reputation of a rhetor”(Crowley and Hawhee 352). Elie’s ethos works for he has first-hand experience of severe human abuse, and can therefore serve as effective delegate of those abused who need to speak, but are forced quiet.
Elie’s speech then continues to tell of his severe human abuse, and in the recounting of his severe human abuse Elie returns to the speeches theme of the importance of memory. He tells how the prisoners during the Holocaust were told to forget, to only experience the present. How people did seem to forget, how ages and relationships dissolved, the interdependence between people broken down until there was only the individual, the ego. Until for people, the self was all that mattered. How after the liberation, the self soon met others, and bonds returned, and with the bonds came identities, and with the identities came memories. Elie says about these memories that, “For us [Holocaust survivors], forgetting was never an option” (Wiesel). The reason they could not be forgot is twofold, the minor reason is for their nightmarish qualities, the major reason is that these survivors were the witnesses and thereby designated carriers of all the Holocaust memories, the memories of the events, the memories of the dead, the memories of the few moments of courage, and the many moments of barbarism. Moments that caused compassion and sorrow such as, “the little girl who, hugging her grandmother whispered: ‘ Don’t be afraid, don’t be sorry to die… I’m not.’ She was seven, that little girl who went to her death without fear, without regret” (Wiesel). It was their job to keep these memories alive, for these were the memories that effectively conveyed the cruel absurdity during moments of the Holocaust, and recalling them could hopefully bring about a change in mans attitude.
Elie says how an historian, Shimon Dubov, propagated this belief in the concentration camps that remembering the Holocaust could bring about a change in mans attitude. Before his death, he told the Jews in the concentration camps to write everything down, believing the memories of the camps would prove the salvation of the Jewish people and perhaps even the salvation for man. Elie and many other Holocaust survivors did just that, writing down the memories of themselves and memories of others they carried. It took Elie ten years after the Holocaust to write and speak about his experiences. Other Holocaust writers as well as Elie were under the impression that revealing one night of Holocaust cruelties, one night where human beings were treated worse than the lowliest animals, treated as if unfit for life, would get people to desire no more war, to desire only peace. That was not the case. Elie says how when him and others started to speak, “the people around us refused to listen; and even those who listened refused to believe; and even those who believed could not comprehend. Of course they could not. Nobody could. The experience of the camps defies comprehension” (Wiesel). It is possible to imagine how first-hand witnessing of the Holocaust cannot be comprehended, but it is also possible to imagine the pain and disappointment Elie felt. This quote is a successful use of pathos for the audience is capable of understanding the feelings Elie and others must have had, and understanding how much animosity they must have felt for mankind for not only allowing the Holocaust to occur, but then attempting to deny its existence or not even try to understand it.
Elie openly admits that at times he feels he has failed because people do not try to understand the Holocaust or seem to forget the magnitude of depravity that occurred. Elie says, “If someone had told us [Holocaust survivors] in 1945 that in our lifetime religious wars would rage on virtually every continent, that thousands of children would once again be dying of starvation, we would not have believed it. Or that racism and fanaticism would flourish once again, we would not have believed it” (Wiesel). The Holocaust survivors, who remember the depravity they lived through, now see the crassness in bloodshed over a difference of beliefs, but it seems others do not. Elie has the feeling of failure because people seemed to have learned nothing, basing this idea on the wrong actions people continue to commit. Elie is also making his case for the importance of memory, showing that those who remember the genocide seem only to desire mans best, while those who seem oblivious to history desire only their own.
This desire of people wanting only their own best is easy for anyone reading current global events to notice, but despite this Elie provides a list of these current global events, utilizing logos by deftly listing current complete disregards for human rights. Elie mentions the Apartheid, Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment, terrorism killing innocent people, dissident’s of countries being imprisoned for their beliefs, and the Jewish people, after two thousand years of exile and thirty-eight years of sovereignty, still having no peace over Israel. Elie is making the argument that people forgot the Holocaust lessons, and proving it through facts, effectively appealing to audience logos by using disreputable information. Elie is also showing the audience proof of the existence of forgetfulness. Elie’s point that forgetfulness and passivity are only conducive for mankind degenerating is proven here as well, since people, after seeing the crippling effects of flippancy on human rights throughout history, still seem to forgo memories, based on the truth that global mistreatment continues. This listing also adds to the pathos and ethos of the speech. Guilt is summoned in the audience, for the world they live in still allows such maltreatment of human beings to occur, and Elie continues to establish himself as a qualified speaker, by demonstrating his erudition on current global suffering, and his adamancy that it cannot continue. Elie effectively uses logos, ethos, and pathos here for each is used in a separate manner to form a cogent message for the audience that is easily understood, a message that when man opts to forget or to be passive, he opts for man to regress.
Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his humanitarian efforts, and for never opting for man to regress. Words however are not enough to describe what Elie has done, for words that can be comprehended are not capable of aptly describing this man’s life and mission. Elie is a man who experienced mental and physical torture, and from this torture found the will to believe that there could be a world where man would never torture again. Elie discovered along the path of bringing this world to manifestation however that people choose to forget suffering rather than remember it, live in a world of dishonest peace than acknowledge oppression. Elie proved in his lecture though that remembering is one of the most important things a person can do, for it is from memories that we are capable of molding a fair future. Elie’s speech served as an address to an audience, and also a tribute. A tribute to those killed because of where or to whom they were born, a tribute to those punished for fighting injustice, a tribute to all the good people of the past, and a tribute to their memories. Elie’s speech utilized rhetorical devices to make these tributes and his point that when mankind chooses to remember he chooses to progress, poignant and keenly felt, and therefore Elie’s speech was successful. However, it is when Elie’s speech and message go from just being successful, to being a creed people live by, that humans will create the reality that so many great people dedicated their lives to achieving: a reality where there is no more suffering. A reality where no one forgets.

Works Cited
Crowley, Sharon and Debra Hawhee. Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2012. Print.
Wiesel, Elie. Hope, Despair and Memory. 1986 Nobel Lecture. Oslo, Norway.

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