Analysis Of Rhetorical Devices Used In Judy Brady’s I Want A Wife

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Imaging living the life of an average wife in the mid 1900’s, where the sole purpose transcribed upon you by a male dominant society was to take care of those around you without question. The 1970’s gave way to a turning point for woman’s rights in America. The idea of feminism came to life during this time as woman demanded to be treated equally to their male counterparts. Some of the most famous developments that took place throughout the woman’s rights movement were the battles challenging sexism, fighting for free access to abortion, and overcoming oppression socially, economically, and politically. At the head of these battles were woman led organizations that consisted of the National Organization for Women, the Equal Rights Amendment Ratification Council, and the Coalition of the Labor Union Women. These times led way to woman moving to the forefront of society as they began to leave behind their traditional lives to take part in things such as college, the work force, and establishing successful careers. The essay “Why I Want a Wife”, written by Judy Brady in 1970 immediately took to the headlines, seen as a piece that encompassed and critiqued the stereotypical life of a wife in the mid 1900’s. Brady, in “Why I Want a Wife”, persuades her audience to see reasoning and feel a multitude of emotions towards her plea through the use of rhetorical strategies, logos, ethos, and pathos, writing not only to critique but shed light on the absurdity of a typical wife’s life in the mid-19th century.

Brady uses the rhetorical strategy of satire throughout her essay as a way to exemplify her criticism of the jobs a typical housewife had in the mid-19th century. Brady truly begins her essay within the third passage, writing about the wife she would like to have. She states:

I want a wife who will work and send me to school. And while I am going to school I want a wife to take care of my children . . . I want a wife who takes care of the children when they are sick, a wife who arranges to be around when the children need special care, because, of course, I cannot miss classes at school. My wife must arrange to lose time at work and not lose the job.

Here, Brady depicts her perfect wife as someone who will work while sending her husband to school, and will take care of the kids while maintaining a job. The importance of this passage is that Brady uses satire as a way to ridicule the unrealistic expectations that men have of the wives. Blatantly, and rightfully without discern for manners, she calls upon an example so far-fetched and the complete opposite of fair, with the purpose of humoring the audience in order for them to realize how absurd the expectations placed upon wives during this era are. In addition, this specific example clearly exemplifies the how the relationship between husband and wife operated in the mid-19th century, as it was acceptable for the men to further their careers at the complete expense of their wives. Brady’s use of satire only increases as her essay continues, as she later writes, “I want a wife who is sensitive to me sexual needs, a wife who makes love passionately and eagerly when I feel like it, a wife who will not demand sexual attention when I am not in the mood for it”. While the first half of this excerpt may seem somewhat normal for a greedy husband in any time period, the ending during which Brady says that her perfect wife would not desire any sexual fulfillment herself, is where she strikes at her point. Using satire, she states the obvious societal expectations that are set upon a wife, but within the lines she criticizes the stupidity of those expectations through the use of irony. Brady means to point out how ironic it is of men who see themselves as sexually dominant and above women, are unable and unwilling to reciprocate any loving feelings onto their wives. Doing this, she justly hints at how men can apparently do so much for the world, yet do so little within the household for the family and the wife.

Brady uses logos in that she clearly states her argument towards the typical duties of a wife. Brady writes, “I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs. I want a wife who will keep the house clean . . . I want a who cooks the meals, a wife who is a good cook”. Here, Brady begins rambling off her expectations of a perfect wife as she overloads the reader with her wants and needs. Doing this, she clearly and logically allows the reader to come to the realization that she is arguing that the disparities between the role of the husband and the role of the wife are unfair. Similarly, she italicizes the words “my” and “good” to emphasize them, doing so to further argue that wives are expected of too much, as they both need to be able to satisfy only the husbands physical needs and have the ability to cook, and cook well. Following this onslaught of unrealistic duties a wife has, Brady, in a short passage, brings up something more personal and meaningful than materialistic expectations. She writes, “I want a wife who will not bother me with rambling complaints about a wife’s duties. But I want a wife who will listen to me when I feel the need to explain . . . And I want a wife who will type my papers for me when I have written them.” Here, Brady addresses the social inequalities between the ideal husband and wife, as the husband is allowed to voice his explanations and complaints to his wife, yet his counterpart is expected to be silent in regards to her own emotions and needs. Similarly, Brady writes this last line in a way that trips up the reader as it logically, and forcefully exemplifies the unfair expectations of wives. The pure ridiculousness of this last line is a way for Brady to voice how utterly unfair the roles of the wife are, as they are supposed to complete a task that can or has already been done by the husband.

Brady also uses ethos to become believable to the audience and pathos to gather the readers emotions in a manner that makes them agree with the stereotypical housewives’ plight. In the beginning, Brady writes, “I am A Wife. And, not altogether incidentally, I am a mother”. Doing so in the very first passage of her essay, Brady immediately allows the reader to infer the knowledge and experience that she has. This allows the reader to understand that the following argument she lays out are critiques from her own experience as a wife and mother, rather than endless complaints from someone who has no business complaining, giving her the ultimate credibility to speak on these problems. Along with her credibility, Brady uses her personal experiences to enrage the emotions of the readers into agreeing with her side of the argument. She does so by writing:

And I want a wife who understands that my sexual needs may entail more than strict adherence to monogamy. I must, after all, be able to relate to people as fully as possible. If, by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one.

Here, Brady addresses the idea that men need open relationships in order to fulfill their sexual desires. This sentence is specifically addressed with the purpose of making her female readers angry at cheating husbands. She includes the phrase, “I must, after all, be able to relate to people as fully as possible”, as a way to continue to anger her female readers by confronting them with a meaningless excuse men may use to try to justify their egregious acts. In doing so, they become more emotionally sympathetic to her argument. On the other hand, this sentence caters to male emotions in that the men reading this tend to feel attacked, and in order to step out of the heat, they are forced to agree with Brady, regardless of their standpoint on wife’s expectations before this excerpt. Knowing that she has her readers’ emotions in her control, she writes the next sentence about finding another woman to further induce anger into her female readers. The word “replace” is specifically used by Brady as a cold representation of woman from the viewpoint of men, in that they are just an object that can be replaced. Just as something so insignificant as toilet paper would be replaced when it is all used up.

Using rhetorical strategies like satire, her logical argument in the form of complaints, her credibility as a wife, and her readers emotions, Brady is able to critique the stereotypical lifestyle of a mid-19th century wife and the disparities faced between husbands and wives. Brady uses her writing ability to illustrate the absurdity of the typical wife expectations, basing her complaints against societal norms through her emphasis on wives overbearing duties. In addition, the uses her personal experience to sway the reader through the use of their emotions by creating preposterous, yet realistic scenarios that induce anger in woman and guilt in men. The reason that Brady continues to focus on her female readers is because this essay is written during the woman’s rights movement, and was intended to sway both for and opposing audience members to side with her argument. While writing like Brady’s has definitely shaken up the social standards in America between men and woman, today’s society still see’s disparities between genders, and much more is to be done. However, to persuade modern day opposition of women’s rights, arguments may have to be so catchy and ridiculous, like Brady’s work, that their true meaning is hidden within the lines. 

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