Rhetorical Analysis “A Community of Cars”
In his essay, “A Community of Cars”, Ryan Brown uses an informal and engaging voice to pose the
thesis that our society’s increasing dependence on the automobile contributes to the breakdown of
community as well as the environmental and personal health of America. Brown begins his argument
with fond memories of afternoons spent strolling with his grandmother to the local grocery store. This
is an emotional appeal to which many people can relate.
Stressing the breakdown of communities, Brown goes on to appeal to our values, saying that “A
community is a group of interdependent, interrelating people, sharing culture, history and traditions.
Our community is our home.” He poses that Americans have disregarded the isolating effect of
convenience, and thus we are fostering the bit-by-bit destruction of our cultural heritage. Such is a
consequence that many have not thought of, and Brown makes a convincing appeal.
The decline of public health due to lack of exercise is another argument Brown uses to his
advantage. He paints an analogy of the human body as an increasingly ignored machine or, in his words,
“… [the] best designed mode of transportation known to us.” The biological miracle of the human body
is suffering due to our increasing reliance on automobiles. Testimony from scientist Paul Higgins
illustrates how the simple act of walking can cure both the public epidemic of obesity and global
Brown uses further facts from authority figures to support his claims. Statistics supplied by Amanda
Spake traverse the 1960’s phenomenon of urban sprawl to the explosive trend of fast food, ending
ultimately in the increase in childhood obesity. Further, Brown uses testimony to illustrate the impact
that automobile use has on the environment, from greenhouse gases to wildlife habitat invasion.
Paradoxically, Brown goes on to state that increasing fuel economy is only worsening the problem.
He uses irony to state that consumers use better fuel economy as a false sense of ecological
responsibility, when it only increases the amount that they drive. To Brown, this only supports urban
sprawl: “Progress at its finest.” Using a fuel-efficient car to drive miles to the superstore instead of
walking to the corner store is not helping. He poses that redistributing effort to alternative fuel sources
and a renewed focus on communities would be a better expenditure.
There is hope, however. Recent trends toward walkable communities and small businesses may
breathe new life into communities, according to Brown. He believes that that this recent reliance on
automobiles is a reversible trend. Allusions to life before surburbia and fast food pose the theory that
the return to days gone by is an achievable and desirable goal. All in all, Brown uses a variety of
strategies to argue his thesis that too much reliance on automobiles is costing America its health and
heritage. The myriad of problems cause by driving when we could walk has had far-reaching effects that
many people may not have considered. Brown assembles a triple threat by appealing to our logic,
emotion and values. To Brown, cars are one miracle of the modern age that man could rely on a little
less. On a cold February morning spent digging my car out of a snowdrift, I just might agree with him.
In Nancy’ Hall’s argumentative essay entitled “Obesity Lawsuits,” Hall presents
both sides of a debate that was highlighted in the news back in 2004. A group of
Americans decided to file lawsuits against several fast food chains, under the premise
that their greasy products were the culprits to blame for obesity in the United States.
The fast food restaurants, in rebuttal, argued that Americans are free to choose what
diet they wish to follow, and therefore the restaurants cannot be held accountable for
the people’s unhealthy choices. Hall does an excellent job of explaining both
viewpoints, offering sound reasoning and support for both sides.
“Obesity Lawsuits” is an unusual essay because unlike most argumentative
pieces, the author does not reveal her own stance on the issue until the conclusion.
Hall begins her essay with a few startling statistics in her introduction about obesity that
grab the reader’s attention. In her next paragraph, she makes appeals to logic and
throws in a few more statistics that explain the causes and hazards of obesity. This
sparks the reader’s concern. Next, Hall names several examples of enticing advertising,
connecting the fast food chains to the problem. The fact that she uses local businesses
as her examples is a powerful move that gives the reader something to relate to.
The fourth paragraph is where Hall begins to get into the meat of the debate.
Here she explains the specifics of the lawsuits being filed, still presenting both sides of
the issue in an unbiased manner. Paragraphs five and six are both turnabout
paragraphs. Placed back to back, they embody the climax of the argument in the
essay. Five starts out with the plaintiff’s (the angry Americans’) viewpoint, which is then
quickly shot down by a reference to the “Food Guide Pyramid,” which also appeals to
logic and supports the defendant (the fast food industry). The sixth paragraph is the
exact opposite. This paragraph begins with the defendant’s argument, which is
knocked down with an analogy that compares fast food to nicotine.
Paragraph seven is full of concessions, well placed after such fiery turnabouts. It
concedes to both sides, as Hall continues to hide her own opinion. This type of rhetoric
is known as “Rogerian,” in which the author takes two views on an issue and comes up
with a new and improved option or resolution by finding the common ground shared by
both sides. Hall starts to form the premise for her new resolution in paragraph eight.
She appeals to the reader’s need for public awareness and further studies on obesity.
Paragraph nine further opens up the door for Hall’s new argument. Here she
gives counterarguments against both viewpoints, and then points out, with an appeal to
the reader’s logic, that their debate is only a distraction from the real problem, obesity
itself. Hall also uses quotes as support in her counterarguments. In paragraph nine,
Hall explains her new resolution in full. She proposes that Americans focus less on the
debate at hand and focus, instead, on working toward healthier lifestyles altogether.
Hall uses even more appeals to logic, and another quotation to support her viewpoint.
In Hall’s final, concluding paragraph, she gives her final say on the obesity
lawsuits. She concedes to the plaintiff’s argument, but still disagrees. That, however
seems unimportant by the end of the essay. Through a well thought out line of
reasoning and Rogerian thinking, Hall cleanly dismisses both arguments and comes up
with a new solution.
Lynda Smith believes that today’s technological advances are taking over our basic human needs.
She argues that we are being brainwashed into believing that cell phones, computers, blackberries and
other technological devices help us to stay connected more easily and quicker than ever before. But the
reality is, by using these devices, we are being blind-sided to what matters more – face to face
In ¶4, Smith attempts to appeal to the reader’s emotions by using expressive words such as
saturate and bombarded, infectious, rampant desire. Smith also suggests that these companies have
lured and seduced us by “silently reinforcing” the appeals, which would have the reader believe that
these companies are not trustworthy. In using the CIA’s information on how many cell phone and
internet users there are in this country, she enforces the fact that the advertising appeals are working….
In ¶7, Smith gives anecdotes of people who have been affected by the high pressure advertising
and sales pitches of such devices. Smith also appeals to the value of time by explaining how one of her
acquaintances was lead to believe that he would save time by owning a cell phone, only to find out a
short while later that he was not saving any time at all. And, as in earlier sections of her essay where
appeals to the human need for communication is ever-present, Smith shows how much her friend longed
for it, even more so, after acquiring a cell phone….
In ¶11, Smith re-exposes the well known slogan by AT &T (“Your World Delivered”) and
helps to prove Smith’s point that the large conglomerates are just out to warp our sense of time so that
we really end up with less, while still buying their products. It’s pop culture at its best! Yet, she
discourages us from jumping on the bandwagon….
Smith concludes her argument and qualifies her stance on the subject by stating that we all have
a choice in whether we fall for the virtual world or not. In order to alleviate these technological
pressures, she believes that we should use these devices sparingly and to not forget the importance of
our basic human need for more personal contact and communication….
Fred Edwords argues that freethinkers have played an integral part in social change throughout the
ages. In this essay, he provides a brief historical sketch of their impact with specific attention paid to its
contributions to American values and social institutions. He also believes that these contributions have
been glossed over or ignored and thus unknown to the general public.
The most obvious appeal Edwords is making in the essay is to value, specifically the American
ethos of individuality as “almost every great individual in history had to in some way or another think
free- else they likely wouldn’t have stood out enough to become famous in the first place.” This
warranting assumption is an echo of Emerson’s line that great men “spoke not what men, but what they
thought.” He is attempting to situate the freethinker squarely within this core American value and not to
proffer him as some sort of outsider or threat to the American way of life.
The appeal to value relates directly to the line of reasoning in the argument. Through the use of
historical allusions, Edwords attempts to show that freethinkers are part of a historical lineage that
traces its roots down through the ages in a linked progression all the way to the American Revolution
and to the present day. He shows from era to era how freethinkers have contributed to the “evolution”
(if I may use the term) of Western culture, and this historical argument is, in a sense, an attempt to set
the record straight on what Edwords sees as a distortion of history by current day evangelicals who seek
to marginalize the importance of freethinkers and exaggerate the contributions of Christians. Edwords
points out that many of the arguments for slavery were supported through the use of a religious line of
reasoning, and he uses this to support his thesis that freethinkers are an integral part of history and to
reinforce the idea that challenging of dogma or set standards is a necessary moral action.
This close look at the historical record is also a counterargument against the prevailing Christian
nation theory that conservative pundits are so found of tossing around. He includes the story of Patrick
Henry trying to replace the Episcopal Church as the official state religion of Virginia with a tax to support
all denominations of the Christian faith. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson both stepped into block
this bill, and offered in its place a bill that blocked state sponsorship of religion. This essay is brief and
obviously any counterargument within it must be as well, but I don’t think it is out of line to say that
revealing the specific intentionality of Madison and Jefferson to separate church and state is a direct
response to the assertion often confidently made in some circles that “separation of church and state
was just something Jefferson mentioned in a letter once” and was just something made up later in the
history of our country. By revealing the Founder’s specific action in only one instance, he has
successfully debunked any such offhand dismissal.
It is important to note the one concession that Edwords does make in the essay. He notes at the
beginning that “a wide range of people have been freethinkers: not only agnostics, and atheists, but also
deists, liberal religionists, religious innovators, and those who have challenged the predominant
orthodoxy.” If this concession were not included, it would undermine the very historical foundation that
Edwords had built his essay on. It would be impossible, for instance, to imagine John Locke without
Martin Luther, or postmodernism without Kierkegaard, and by adding this brief acknowledgement,
Edwords save his essay from falling into what would inevitably seem a self-serving preen.