Rhetorical devices are language strategies through which writers capture their reader’s attention and try to make their ideas more appealing. The main rhetorical devices used by Binyavanga Wainaina in “How to Write about Africa” are satire and irony. In what follows, we will outline these and other relevant rhetorical devices.
Allusions and direct references
Whereas direct references explicitly name people, events, or literature, allusions are indirect references to historical people, situations, etc.
For example, the writer explicitly mentions “the Nobel Prize”, but when he mentions that an “African has won the Nobel Prize” the reference becomes an allusion to all Africans who are Nobel prize laureates, such as Nelson Mandela, a former South African President.
At the end of the essay, Wainaina makes a direct reference to Mandela, but also an allusion to his famous inaugural address as President of South Africa from 1994: “…Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances.”
Other examples of direct reference in the essay are mentions of diseases, names of tribes, countries, and different nationalities: “Ebola fever or female genital mutilation”, “the Gikuyu, the Igbo or the Shona”, “Aids and War”, “the Chinese and Indian traders”, etc.
At another point in the text, Wainaina makes a few direct references to British politicians, South Africans of Dutch descent, and the World Bank: “Tory cabinet ministers, Afrikaners, employees of the World Bank.”
The “nightclub called Tropicana” is an ironical direct reference to a famous Cuban night club. It is meant to suggest that Western writers include geographical inaccuracies when writing about Africa or utilise exotic details from non-African countries to give their texts colour.
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