Rhetoric in Baldwin’s and Naylor’s Linguistics Articles Essay

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer


The reason why individuals who indulge in public discourses commonly deploy the rhetorical devices of an appeal to ethos and pathos is that the skilful deployment of these devices often proves a crucial precondition of wining the audience. This simply could not be otherwise, because whereas, the appeals to pathos cause the members of listening audience to remain emotionally attuned with the line of presented argumentation, their expose to the ethos-based appeals confirms the appropriateness of such their positioning. In this paper, I will aim to explore the validity of the earlier suggestion at length, in regards to the article If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?, by James Baldwin, and the article A Question of Language, by Gloria Naylor.

Analysis of the Articles

Given the fact that in their articles Baldwin and Naylor addressed the selected population of African-Americans, as the potential readers, it does not come as a particular surprise why the deployment of a pathos-based appeal, on the part of both authors, appears being primarily concerned with exploiting the readers’ identity-related emotional anxieties.

For example, while introducing readers to the topic of discussion, Baldwin implies that, in regards to African-Americans, English conventional language has been traditionally utilized as a tool of dehumanization, “Language… is meant to define the other – and, in this case, the other is refusing to be defined by a language that has never been able to recognize him” (par. 1). By coming up with this particular remark, Baldwin was able to establish himself as a someone who is being deeply sympathetic to the cause of Black liberation – hence, wining trust with the intended audience’s members.

The identity-emphasizing appeal to pathos can also be found at the beginning of Naylor’s article, where she elaborates on her experience of having been exposed to the word ‘nigger’, while at school, “I remember the first time I heard the word nigger… I couldn’t have been more puzzled. I didn’t know what a nigger was, but I knew that whatever it meant, it was something he shouldn’t have called me” (par. 4).

It goes without saying, of course, that by stating this, Naylor presented herself as being no stranger to the experiences of racial stereotyping, known to just about any African-American. In its turn, this allowed author to assure the potential readers that, while coming up with her line of argumentation, she would be doing it from the perspective of racially underprivileged Americans. As a result, Naylor succeeded in winning the intended audience’s sympathies.

In their articles, Baldwin and Naylor also proved themselves being thoroughly aware of how the appropriate deployment of appeals to ethos in written texts can endow readers with the proper perceptional mood. For example, while presenting readers with his view on the significance of language, Baldwin states, “What joins all languages, and all men, is the necessity to confront life, in order, not inconceivably, to outwit death” (par. 3).

This particular Baldwin’s remark was meant to convince readers that, while exploring the legitimacy of his stance on the issue, the author would never cease being observant of the provisions of a ‘common sense’. This is exactly the reason why Baldwin refers to ‘all men’, as such that would be willing to subscribe to his point of view, in this respect – their endowment with the very sense of a common sense would naturally prompt them to do so.

The discursive significance of the earlier mentioned Baldwin’s statement can be well compared to the discursive significance of what Naylor believes to account for the language’s foremost shortcoming, as a communicational medium, “I consider the written word inferior to the spoken, and much of the frustration experienced by novelists is the awareness that whatever we manage to capture in even the most transcendent passages falls far short of the richness of life” (par. 1).

Apparently, by coming up with this remark, Naylor wanted to encourage readers to think that under no circumstances may linguistic dogmas be considered unchangeable. Nevertheless, as opposed to what it is being the case with Baldwin, who went about substantiating the validity of his opinion, as to the role of language, by appealing to the readers’ sense of a ‘common sense’, Naylor choose in favor of referring to the opinion of ‘experts’ (novelists), as being thoroughly consistent with her stance on the issue. In its turn, this was meant to convince readers that the Naylor’s view of language could be indeed considered perfectly sound.

The careful reading of Baldwin and Naylor’s articles also suggests that, apart from having proven themselves thoroughly familiar with how ethos-based and pathos-based rhetorical devices could be successfully applied, both authors also exhibited their ability to fuse these devices together. For example, while explaining the innate reasons why the mainstream view on the role of multicultural education in America does not stand much of a ground, Baldwin states, “The brutal truth is that the bulk of white people in American never had any interest in educating black people, except as this could serve white purposes” (par. 10).

It is quite apparent that the author’s referral to the ‘brutal truth’, as to what accounts for the White people’s actual agenda, was meant to be perceived by readers as such that connotes a self-evident truth. After all, it does not represent much of a secret that even most ‘progressive’ Whites are being endowed with a number of subtly-defined racial prejudices towards the people of color. Yet; whereas, the second part of the earlier quoted statement is being concerned with Baldwin applying the appeal-to-ethos rhetorical device, the statement’s ending is being unmistakably pathos-charged, as it prompts readers to properly identify the camouflaged emanations of the White people’s evilness.

The fact that, just as it appears to be the case with Baldwin, Naylor also showed herself an individual capable of combining ethos-charged and pathos-charged argumentations, within a single written statement, can be illustrated in regards to her following remark, “The people in my grandmother’s living room took a word that whites used to signify ‘worthlessness or degradation (nigger) and rendered it impotent” (par. 13).

Whereas, the beginning of this remark appeals to the readers’ sense of ethos (Naylor refers to ‘people’, as the potential witnesses to the validity of her suggestion), the remark’s ending is being clearly concerned with the author’s strive to convince readers that their emotionally damaging experiences of racial stereotyping do not provide them with an excuse to indulge in bitterness.

Quite on the contrary – Naylor implies that African-Americans are being thoroughly capable of ‘digesting’ racially degrading terms, invented by Whites, in such a manner that these terms in fact cause Blacks very little harm. There can be very little doubt that the members of intended audience would reflect upon this particular suggestion as being emotionally soothing.

Nevertheless, even though that the earlier conducted analysis of how Baldwin and Taylor went about incorporating the concerned rhetorical devices in their articles does reveal both authors being thoroughly aware of the main principles of rhetorical argumentation, the extents of both articles’ argumentative intensity vary significantly. For example, the line of argumentation, deployed throughout the Baldwin article’s entirety, appears to reflect the author’s intention to prompt readers to assess the significance of the discussed subject matter from an essentially close and personal perspective.

On the other hand, the line of Naylor’s rhetorical argumentation (which is being ideologically consistent with that of Baldwin’s), primarily appeals to the readers’ sense of rationale – hence, the lessened extent of this article’s discursive ‘explosiveness’. This is because; whereas, Baldwin considered the deployment of the appeal-to-ethos rhetoric as being supplementary to his strongly defined pathos-based argumentation, Naylor made a point in doing something opposite – relying on specifically ethos-based rhetorical devices, as the mean of convicting readers to subscribe to the article’s conclusions.


The earlier conducted analysis of how Baldwin and Naylor addressed the task of ensuring their articles’ high argumentative value, suggests that both of them did succeed in this particular undertaking. The fact that, when compared with Baldwin’s article, Naylor’s article appears being less emotionally charged, can be explained by the qualitative essence of the subject matter, discussed in this article. Therefore, it will be thoroughly appropriate to suggest that both articles represent fine examples of a rhetorical argumentation, while being both: intellectually challenging and emotionally inspiring. I believe that this conclusion fully correlates with the paper’s initial thesis.


Baldwin, James. “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?” The New York Times Books. 1979. Web.

Naylor, Gloria. “A Question of Language.” California State University Northridge. 1986. Web.

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