Rhetorical devices


Allusions and direct references

Bernie Sanders' commencement address is filled with rhetorical devices such as direct references and allusions (indirect references) to people, events, and situations which help Bernie Sanders put economic inequality and discrimination into a wider context. One example is the direct reference to “Hitler and the holocaust” (l. 24), which serves as a powerful introduction to issues related to discrimination in the US.

In another instance, Sanders mentions “developing countries around the world that were oligarchic societies” (ll. 34-35) without naming them directly, creating an allusion. This has a dramatic effect because it appeals to Americans’ fear of losing the values they believe in and becoming an oligarchic country.

Another allusion is: “20 Americans now own as much wealth as the bottom half of America” (ll. 38-39). Sanders avoids directly identifying the 20 wealthiest Americans. This has the effect of emphasising the idea of inequality, of the gap between a large majority and a small minority. Not mentioning them directly helps Sanders make a generalisation and get readers to focus on the fact that they are a minority.

Other examples of direct references include “the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision” (ll. 54-55), as well as Medicaid, Planned Parenthood, Head Start, and Pell grants (ll. 59-61). These references help the speaker explore issues related to inequality and social programs in detail, and show that he is aware of the specific areas in which inequality is manifested in US society.

When he mentions the “Republican leadership” (l. 59), Sanders alludes to Donald Trump’s administration and to the fact that Congress had a Republican majority at the time. The effect of this allusion is that it puts all Republicans in the same basket, and it makes it easier for the audience to identify them as an ‘enemy’.

A positive direct reference is: “We are going to do what Ger...

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