Prompt: Read the following excerpt from William Hazlitt’s Lectures on the English Comic Writers (1819). Then write a well-developed essay analyzing the author’s purpose by examining tone, point of view, and stylistic devices.
William Hazlitt’s purpose in writing this passage was to enlighten the reasons of why with so much tragedy and despair around us we are still able to feel happiness or laugh at a poorly told joke.
Hazlitt’s tone is a mixture of condescending and explanation. The passage is written to explain our faults and why we at times express or feel stronger emotions for events, or actions that have some humor. However, at the same time, there is an event or action that is very sad that the emotions produced should be greater, although, they are not. In sight of something of great remorse, we will laugh at something insignificant before we would express remorse. Hazlitt patronizes people in general for laughing at nothing, and for not crying at something tragic. We as humans have the capacity to feel and express strong emotions, both positive and negative, yet we only express the positive emotions, or only allow ourselves to feel the positive emotions.
William Hazlitt writes from a neutral point of view, however it is an un-biased neutral point of view. Hazlitt writes as if he is excluded from the human race, as if he is just an observer. It sounds like he removed him-self in order to describe what he saw and observed how people express emotion. By writing the passage from this perspective, he gives the reader the impression that they may be able to achieve a plateau that would allow them to fully feel emotions in a pure manner.
Hazlitt’s stylistic devices are clearly recognized and unique, throughout the entire passage he uses hyperbole and overstatement in order to emphasize what he feels. Hazlitt’s purpose was to clearly explain to the reader the oddity of human emotions. To achieve this Hazlitt uses repitition; he repeats the main ideas repeatedly to ensure that the reader will understand his point. In addition to this, Hazlitt also uses a punctuation mark that is rarely seen in lectures today; the exclamation mark. In using this mark he ads more spice to his writing, it increases the subject’s importance. He persuades the reader that this is a serious subject, and could be the downfall of morality in society.
In conclusion, to get his point across Hazlitt uses many different rhetorical strategies in order. The stylistic device he uses makes the readers feel inferior, and in order for them to better themselves, they must recognize their own faults. Hazlitt uses many techniques to inform the reader of the chaotic way in, which a person feels, and expresses emotions.
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