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David Sedaris' Book Me Talk Pretty One Day: Rhetorical Analysis

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In “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris, the author spends the first part of the book describing his childhood years in North Carolina with his many siblings. He talks about how he had to go through speech therapy, music lessons, and art school. He spends the second part of the book talking about how he lives in France with his boyfriend and learning French day by day. Every time he goes there, he learns a few more words and he even enrolls in school to learn French fluently. The other book, by William Zinsser, called “On Writing Well”, talks about how to write non-fiction. The author goes through all of the different techniques that are needed to write non-fiction. For example, some of the topics he goes over are the style and clutter of the writing. Sedaris uses many of Zinsser’s techniques, which makes his book more interesting.

Based on many of Zinsser’s writings, “Me Talk Pretty One Day” was an effective book. One example of this was the chapter that Zinsser was discussing how a nonfiction novel should start off. He states that “The most important sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead.” Sedaris uses a hook to drag in a reader within the first sentence to continue reading to the next one and considering the entire book is short stories, Sedaris manages to create this for every single one of them. Every new chapter started discussing a new phase in the characters life and each began with a sentence that would make the reader finish the chapter before putting the book down. One of the most memorable sentences that Sedaris wrote to start a chapter was “When Hugh was in the fifth grade, his class took a field trip to the Ethiopian slaughterhouse.” This shows one example of how Sedaris drags the reader into the story. This sentence is not one that you might usually find to be normal, which makes the reader want to find out more about what really happened to Hugh and why that would be considered a normal class trip for fifth graders. These are some of the ways that Sedaris follows some of Zinsser’s advice in order to make the book more interesting.

Throughout the book Sedaris uses many rhetorical devices such as pathos. One instance when he uses pathos is in the second part of the book when he is in school learning French and gets bullied by the teacher. He uses this as an opportunity in the book for the reader to feel pity for him because he doesn’t know how to speak French while the rest of the class does. In the book he states “I absorbed as much of her abuse as I could understand,”, “The teacher proceed to belittle everyone”, and “My fear and discomfort crept beyond the borders of the classroom.” In these quotes Sedaris shows how much his teacher bullied him and his other classmates and how much it hurt him to be there. He uses pathos in order to get the sympathy of the reader to make them feel bad for him while he is in the class. He goes on to say how the teacher threw chalk at the students and the rest of the students were scared that she might punch one of them sooner or later. These are the ways that Sedaris uses pathos in his writing in order to convey his experience in school with more empathy.

Along with pathos, Sedaris also uses imagery in his book as another rhetoric technique. He states that “She led me through an unmarked door near the principal’s office, into a small, windowless room furnished with two facing desks.” As soon as someone reads this description an image pops into the reader’s head right away and it isn’t a pleasant one. In this case Sedaris is trying to get the reader to see the room through his eyes. He had to attend this meeting with his therapist, who was going to try to get rid of his lisp after he was singled out in front of all of his classmates. He also states “I arrived to find him dressed in flared slacks and sung turtle-neck sweaters, a swag of love beads hanging from his neck.” This quote describes David’s music teacher when his father wanted him to play the guitar. Sedaris describes his teacher in a very different manner as he has never seen anyone like him. He also does not believe that a person that is shorter than him should be teaching him. Imagery is this book uses the reader’s senses in order to see the details vividly, making the text come to life. Sedaris uses many different rhetorical devices in this book including pathos and imagery. By using these devices he makes the book a more interesting read by making the reader be involved in the book. Pathos makes the reader emotionally involved and imagery makes the reader see the text even while reading it. This adds on to one of the main purposes of the book, which was to express how difficult it was to live at that time while being a homosexual. Including how hard it is to try to fit in and learn an entirely new language. The target audience for Sedaris was anyone that ever went through an awkward stage in their life or never felt like they fit in somewhere.

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David Sedaris’ Book Me Talk Pretty One Day: Rhetorical Analysis. (2021, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 6, 2022, from
“David Sedaris’ Book Me Talk Pretty One Day: Rhetorical Analysis.” GradesFixer, 14 May 2021,
David Sedaris’ Book Me Talk Pretty One Day: Rhetorical Analysis. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 Aug. 2022].
David Sedaris’ Book Me Talk Pretty One Day: Rhetorical Analysis [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 May 14 [cited 2022 Aug 6]. Available from:
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