Must be 200 words for each peer response.
Rhetorical Analysis: “The Last Straw” by Alice Wong
In “The Last Straw” by Alice Wong, Wong is writing to make her feelings known about the ban on plastic straws and how it has personally affected her. Wong is an activist and a research consultant for the disabled. She is also the founder of the Disability Visibility Project. Wong does this by making a compelling argument on how the ban affects not only her but also other members of the disabled community. In my essay, I will discuss the various rhetorical elements that Wong uses throughout her essay.
To make a foundation for ethos, Wong, who is considered the rhetor, begins her essay by sharing with the readers, who would be considered the audience, her background, accomplishments, and her experiences dining out in public. Wong uses her experiences to paint a picture for the audience of the struggles that the disabled community deal with daily. Wong gives examples of questions she asks herself before leaving home, such as, “Will the counter be too tall for me to order,” or “Will the door be open when I arrive.” Wong builds her credibility on this topic in these statements by allowing the audience to feel her vulnerability when going out and help them realize she has dealt with them firsthand.
In her essay, the design of the text is to appeal to the emotions of the reader to change their minds on the straw band. This is considered the use of Pathos, which covers the reason for the article and the actual text itself. Specific ways that Wong appeals to the emotions is the use of tweets in her essay. The tweets come from other individuals who have experienced a negative impact from the ban on plastic straws. One of the tweets stated, “Accessibility is a human right issue, not an individual problem.” I found this statement to be a major emotional appeal to the reader. The use of other individuals’ statements lends credit to the points and ethos that Wong tries to establish in her writings. To me, the most emotional statement Wong uses is, “I live in a world that was never built for me, and every little bit of access is treasured and hard-won.” (Wong, 2018)
Wong uses several examples of logos in her writing. Wong explains what and why there is a current ban on plastic straws. Wong states that environmentalists consider plastic straws to be harmful to wildlife, but Wong counters with her ideas on how the ban negatively impacts anyone who has become dependent on the use of straws in their daily lives. One of the authors of the tweets Wong posted gives the example of how, due to her personal disabilities, her glass is too heavy to continuously lift to drink. Having a plastic straw allows her to not have to pick up the glass to drink from it.
I believe Wong completed an essay that does a wonderful job of the rhetorical appeals. She clearly argues her point to the readers and explains the exigence that the straw ban has on the disabled communities. Wong’s use of numbered and bulleted points makes it easy for the reader to follow her points and allows room for expanding on the idea if necessary. The context of the writing follows her views and gives a great amount of information for the audience to mull over as they decide which side of the ban they want to be on.
After reading “The Last Straw” and breaking it down into the rhetorical elements, I now understand why she really emphasized her personal experiences along with the experiences from the individuals on twitter. The whole purpose of this writing is to engage the reader and have them empathize with the struggles that the disabled community is facing. I also understand the use of each logos, ethos, and pathos and how they all work together to develop a written piece that is well rounded and easy to understand. The value of completing the analysis is to gain a deeper meaning and knowledge from the material. By breaking it down, it forces you to give extra thought into each sentence instead of just reading and not comprehending the complete meaning.
Lutzke, J., & Henggeler, M. F. (2010). School of Liberal Arts The Rhetorical Triangle: Understanding and Using Logos, Ethos, and Pathos. https://www.lsu.edu/hss/english/files/university_writing_files/item35402.pdf
Wong, A. (2019). The Rise and Fall of the Plastic Straw. Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, 5(1), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.28968/cftt.v5i1.30435
Professor Elizabeth Brown
Academic Writing ENG-121-OL02
May 17, 2022
A Rhetorical Analysis of Alice Wong’s, “The Last Straw”: Module Two Assignment
Every single piece of writing we read and every single thing we watch utilizes rhetorical devices in order to more efficiently convey a message to its intended audience. A rhetorical device is defined as a persuasive or stylistic technique that an individual utilizes. Alice Wong is no exception to this. Wong uses – or does not use – a multitude of rhetorical devices to further convey her message of the use of single use plastic straws are necessary for the disabled community in her article, “The Last Straw”. The rhetorical devices that will be discussed in relation to Wong’s article are: rhetor, audience, exigence, context, text, and the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos.
Before discussing the rhetorical elements that lie within the text, it would be beneficial to discuss the text itself first, along with its intended audience. This text is an article that is published on Eater.com. It also seems that Wong’s intended audience are non-disabled eaters and employers of eateries to argue the point that although yes, plastic straws are harmful for the environment, they should not be completely taken away as it is beneficial for the disabled community (Wong, 2018). The benefits of having Wong’s text being published on a mainstream website is that it will get read by her intended audience. The downfall however, is that because it did get published on such a mainstream site, there is the possibility that it will just get lost among all of the other articles being posted on there, and not have the impact Wong had hoped for. It begs the question of whether or not this was the best place to publish this article to help the disabled community be heard. This definitely could be a big constraint for this text.
The foundation of rhetorical devices, rhetor, can be defined as the art of utilizing effective and persuasive speaking, or in this case writing, through the use of figures of speech and compositional techniques. In Wong’s article, she does not use figures of speech, but instead focuses more so on compositional techniques. There are two main techniques that Wong uses: context and exigence. Context provides clarity for the intended message and exigence prompts rhetorical discourse about an issue. Context is used throughout the use of the article, the first time being in the very first couple sentences: “I live in the Mission District of San Francisco, where delicious taquerias, bakeries, and bars are everywhere. And as a disabled person who uses a wheelchair to get around and a ventilator to breathe, the pleasure of eating and drinking is mediated by a number of factors” (Wong, 2018). The use of context throughout the entirety of the article allows for the audience to better understand where Wong is coming from, since the majority of her audience is not apart of the disabled community and do not necessarily understand the everyday struggles for those apart of the disabled community. Exigence is also used throughout the article. Throughout the article Wong utilizes exigence through the use of rhetorical questions such as, “isn’t it all about welcoming everyone into your space with authentic and inclusive hospitality?” (Wong, 2018). These rhetorical questions allow for the audience to stop and think about what Wong has stated thus far in her article, and builds enough curiosity within the audience to keep reading.
Wong additionally utilizes the rhetorical appeals of ethos, logos, and pathos, throughout her article, intertwining them with the use of her other rhetorical devices discussed above. Ethos focuses attention on the authors trustworthiness, character, and credibility, as a way to persuade their audience. Logos focuses attention on facts, statistics, and logic, as a way to persuade their audience. Pathos focuses attention of drawing out the emotions of the intended audience, as a way to persuade their audience. Wong’s article does in fact utilize all three of these rhetorical appeals. Wong utilizes ethos through context about herself. The context about her experience and life being a disabled individual allows for the audience to believe that she is a credible source as she is in fact speaking as a primary source. Wong utilizes logos through explaining exactly why single use plastic straws are necessary for her and other individuals of the disabled community. She also utilizes logos when she is describing the problem and solution to the problem by laying the facts out clearly and making suggestions that make logical sense, such as providing both plastic and biodegradable straws as a choice for all customers. Wong utilizes ethos through the use of her rhetorical questions and the descriptions of how the lack of single use plastic straws make her feel and affect the disabled community as a whole.
In Alice Wong’s, “The Last Straw,” the very important issue of the disabled community being a marginalized group is addressed through the also important, yet smaller issue of the lack of single use plastic straws. Wong efficiently utilizes rhetor, audience, exigence, context, text, and the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos, to make her audience hear the message in which she is trying to portray. The only constraint that lies within this article, is the place in which it was published. The mainstream website of Eater.com will unfortunately not result in an abundance of awareness or change. Despite this, Wong wrote a beautiful article in which she used a multitude of rhetorical devices to effectively persuade her audience that single use plastic straws are necessary; a problem that is only the very tip of a much bigger iceberg for the disabled community.
Wong, Alice. “The Last Straw.” Eater, 19 July 2018, www.eater.com/2018/7/19/17586742/plastic-straw-ban-disabilities.
This is not the first time I have written a rhetorical analysis essay. I spent a lot of time on this in my sophomore of high school. It is definitely a tedious process, especially when you are not just focusing on one specific rhetorical device. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and using active reading of Wong’s article. The use of active reading definitely allowed me to better comprehend what I was reading and think about it more. I have a sister who has autism and I have completed an extensive research paper before that explored the disabilities rights movement, leading to the implementation of the ADA. Despite this, I had never realized that the ban of plastic straws was an issue for the disabled community. It was very interesting to read and it allowed me to learn something new. Overall, I enjoyed this assignment. I think the benefits of composing rhetorical analysis essays is that it allows individuals to analyze another piece of writing and learn techniques that they could utilize in the future for their own piece of writing, thus making them a better writer.
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