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Speech Analysis: Margaret Atwood Essay

1.Atwood uses a personal anecdote of herself as a child, and then her daughter, which becomes an intriguing motif throughout her speech

2.Atwood frequently adopts an ironic tone in order to appeal to both Logos and Pathos. She uses logic (Logos) to undermine logic (appealing to Pathos) and this can be shown in the paradoxical line ‘We con-artists do tell the truth’. Overall this paradoxical voice and polyvocal shift between the complexities of an academic argument to simple description of a narrative engages all intellectual levels of her audience. The universal purpose of the speech is made engaging through her use of this tone as it brings light humour to the controversial theme of the dissatisfaction of the current state of the feminist movement.

3.Atwood’s presents an informal and humorous relationship with her audience. Through her use of personal anecdotes in the early paragraphs of the speech Atwood sets a personal yet casual mood. Here again she uses her polyvocal registers to undermine a position previously taken and to lighten her assertive opinion. This can be shown in the line ‘Is Pride and Prejudice about how a sensible middle-class nineteenth-century woman can snare an appropriate man with a good income…? Partly. But not completely.’

4.Margaret Atwood presents a strong theme of the dissatisfaction of the current state of the feminist movement. She introduces this theme through her use of an anecdote which ultimately highlights the influence men have on deciding the appropriate role of the female. In her aside, she appeals purely to the feminist audience. In describing her brother’s method of teasing her “He did manage to make ‘very, very good’ sound almost worse than ‘horrid’.” And it is here that Atwood at large reveals her intended point of discussion for the rest of the speech. She continues to appeal to the feminist audience by questioning their ‘feminist’ values. “‘But is it not today- well, somehow unfeminist – to depict woman behaving badly? Isn’t bad behaviour the monopoly of men?” through Atwood’s use of rhetorical questions the feminist responder is forced to consider their values.

5.In Atwood’s speech, ‘Spotty-Handed Villainesses’, many ideas and values are communicated to the audience through her wide use of rhetoric devices. By appealing to all groups within her audience, Atwood presents an engaging and challenging speech, which is largely achieved by appealing to the categories of human rhetoric. Atwood’s use of Logos, instinctively appeals to her logical audience, and by then undermining this with Pathos, Atwood’s paradox engages and unifies her audience, and this is can be seen in the line ‘We con-artists do tell the truth’. Atwood recognises the diverse intellects within her audience and adopts a polyvocal tone, to easily shift between the academic argument and the simple telling of a narrative. Atwood continues to use her polyvocal registers to appeal to both her academic and non-academic audience and this can be shown in the line ‘Is Pride and Prejudice about how a sensible middle-class nineteenth-century woman can snare an appropriate man with a good income…? Partly.

But not completely.’ Here Atwood mentions a famous novel but also continues to outline the structure of the tale in order to convey her point to her audience as a whole. By answering this rhetorical statement with a contradictory answer Atwood forces her opinion and values upon the responder. It is through these techniques that Atwood effectively communicates her ideas and values to all members of her audience


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