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David Foster Wallace’s Use of Rhetoric in This is Water

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In the text “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace although many people may seem to the center of the universe, Wallace guides them to be aware of the world around them. Wallace uses emotional and logical appeals in his main argument that people can choose to look at anything in life differently than their default setting. People should view the world in the shoes of others and their own.

The primary rhetorical device that Wallace relies upon is emotional words. The persuasive effect of emotional words is felt during Wallace’s walk through on a grocery trip in which he talks negatively to be in comparison to people’s default setting. As it states in paragraph 9, “Now it turns out there aren’t enough checkout lanes open even though it’s the end-of-the-day-rush, so the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating”. In this instance, Wallace intends to illustrate how quick a person’s day can turn left when they are mentally unconscious. He also does this when he states, “And look at how repulsive most of them are and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem here in the checkout line”. This detail shows how deep and selfish a person thoughts can be as to why many people keep that part to themselves.

Throughout the text, Wallace continues to demonstrate the fact that humans are never always right so there is always going to be individuals with different perspectives. With the use of logical reason, Wallace was able to show how humans can change their point of view. As it states in the text, “Look, if I chose to think this way, fine, lots of us do – except that picking this way tend to be so easy and automatic it doesn’t have to be a choice.” This detail shows how Wallace wants people to be reasonable with others instead of being one minded. Another thing that Wallace states is, “you get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship…”. Furthermore stated, Wallace wants people to know they have a choice and whatever you do with they would leave them down one of the two pathways.

All in all, David Foster Wallace’s strength as a persuasive writer comes from his ability to use ethos and pathos to impact people’s better judgement. He challenges people to critically think by opening up their mind to that second choice that brings out the positive in every negative situation.

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David Foster Wallace’s Use Of Rhetoric In This Is Water. (2020, September 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 23, 2022, from
“David Foster Wallace’s Use Of Rhetoric In This Is Water.” GradesFixer, 01 Sept. 2020,
David Foster Wallace’s Use Of Rhetoric In This Is Water. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 23 May 2022].
David Foster Wallace’s Use Of Rhetoric In This Is Water [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Sept 01 [cited 2022 May 23]. Available from:
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