Examples Of A Visual Rhetoric Essay

(3-5 pages, double spaced, MLA format)


The purpose of this assignment is to introduce you to some key aspects of visual rhetoric, with the hope that you will think deeply about how persuasion works within the visual realm. Like the “Rhetorical Analysis of Spoken/Written Text” essay, you will analyze the rhetorical situation of the text/advertisement, the context surrounding it, and the rhetorical appeals and strategy at play. In addition, you will analyze and explain the intended effects of the visual rhetoric within these texts, e.g., color usage, camera angles/lenses, texture, use of space, etc. Many of these strategies are explained in our course readings, and we will be exploring some samples in class as well.


Identify a piece of visual rhetoric (commercial, magazine spread, museum piece, campus monument, poster/visual artifact from the University Archives, a graphic novel, etc.) that uses rhetoric (visual – and spoken/written, perhaps) in an interesting and persuasive manner. By “interesting,” I mean that the text in question should be genuinely sophisticated–there is no point in analyzing the obvious. Write an analysis that will help your readers understand how the text works to persuade its audience(s).

Take some of your answers to the “Invention Prompts” and shape them into a claim about the piece. You want to link the rhetorical aspects of the piece to distinct subtext(s)you identify that make the persuasive argument float. In other words (and though this sounds a bit abstract), I want you to identify what argument or commonplace assumption the piece first has to present or draw upon (say, about the nature of women, a certain quality of a celebrity, or a certain style of living) to persuade us in a more specific way.


1. Be interesting. Go beyond the obvious. Have fun.
2. Make a strong claim about the piece and utilize good analysis sentences.
3. Present a context for the piece of rhetoric.
4. how a strong capacity for rhetorical analysis and reveal the piece’s ideological underpinnings, commonplaces or subtext(s)..
5. Write in a lively, unique, memorable voice and style. Do not merely present a report.
6. Expand/challenge/transform the audience’s understanding of the text.

You initially might want to ask:

  • How does the piece’s creators target an audience, respond to an audience, and/or construct an audience?
  • How does the text’s style and delivery make meaning?
  • Why is the text arranged as it is?
  • How are logic and emotion deployed to persuade?
  • How does ethos function in the text?
  • How do social, historical, and/or metaphysical contexts inform the text’s meaning?
  • Where (and when) did the text appear, and how is this significant?
  • Does the text make interesting references, suggestions, or connotations?
  • What is the key purpose of the text?
  • What sort of world does the text desire?

Stylistic/Grammatical Focus

For this essay, our focus will be on the following :

“How to Read a Film” Resources (Potentially helpful but not required)

Take a moment to look at the advertisement shown above.From a distance this image appears to be nothing more than a typical advertisement of this day and age- an image of a thin, minimally dressed woman who is more than willing to expose her “perfect” body to the world for the sake of selling a product.Harnessing present-day society’s obsession with the female body and even sexuality, this image seems to possess all the ingredients necessary to be what some would consider a successful and convincing ad. However, all is not as it would seem in relation to this ad.With a closer observation of this image, any onlooker finds himself unpleasantly surprised and uncomfortable with the discovery of a rather shocking element within this picture. Finding the flaw within the seemingly “perfect” beauty, a deformity within the model’s body is discovered, as it is now clear that one of the model’s breasts is actually absent from her body.Left behind in its vacancy is nothing but a harsh, painful scar.A scar of this nature is sure to have a heart-wrenching story behind it, and that story undoubtedly begins with the development of one thing- breast cancer.

Unfortunately, in recent years, more and more women have obtained similar scars that are inevitably the result of a long, tragic battle with breast cancer.This disease has become an epidemic across the globe, infecting women in every cultural and social background imaginable.In fact, this disease has impacted the world so much so that nearly one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Despite the incessant and horrible imprint that this disease is engraving so harshly into the world, modern-day society still maintains a rather nonchalant and unmoved attitude towards breast cancer.Preoccupied with petty aspects of life such as the female body image or the latest celebrity scandals, society, as a whole, has yet to approach this disease with the seriousness it deserves.As this disease devastates the lives of more women, the people of present-day society must asks themselves this question: What am I doing about breast cancer?

Due to the drastic increase in women diagnosed with breast cancer, organizations are now attempting to greatly emphasize the importance of both awareness and the willingness to take action.The Breast Cancer Fund is one specific example of an organization working to make a difference through the publication of a very unique ad.In the eyes of the Breast Cancer Fund, it is absolutely vital for people to become much more conscious of the terrible effects and realities of breast cancer.Before any person can develop the ability and drive to fight against breast cancer, the foundation desires for more people to truly understand, and acknowledge all the pain and hardship that these women have to go through.Above all, this foundation strives for modern-day society to look beyond just the superficial aspects of our world, and to finally recognize what is most important.So, conscientious of the goals of the Breast Cancer Fund, the “Obsessed with Breasts” ad has been created in an attempt to raise awareness for breast cancer across the world.With its explicit image and clever slogan, this ad possesses a vast amount of potential to meet the goal of awareness set forth by the Breast Cancer Fund, as it challenges the American public to reevaluate its blasé attitude regarding breast cancer and to become more active.

In analyzing this ad, it is clear that it is attempting to modify present-day society’s explicit view of the female body, and, ultimately, proceeds to raise awareness of a problem that has been ignored for so long. It is safe to say that modern-day society has evolved into one of the most superficial cultures this planet has ever seen.Rather than being concerned with the true issues that plague our world, such as disease, poverty, and crime, the general public is much more intrigued with the trivial subjects of body image and the latest trends in the greater pop culture.For some reason or another, modern society has taken particular interest in the female body.Objectifying it as nothing more than a means of persuasion and a symbol of unreachable perfection, society has manipulated and skewed the common perception of the female body, so much so that people, especially women, feel as though they need to live up to the impossible standards set forth by advertisements.With the knowledge of society’s view on the female body, this ad takes advantage of this knowledge, and uses a female as the central figure in this ad. Placed directly in the center of the ad is the long and lean torso of a woman with a seemingly perfect body.The woman, who is naked, uses her arms to cover one breast, while the rest of her chest if bare, displaying not a breast, but a scar.In front of the image is a phrase written in large font that reads “Obsessed with Breasts.”Underneath this script, at the bottom of the page reads this: “But what are we doing about breast cancer?”After carefully observing this ad, it appears as though the image very closely mimicking that of a very popular ad of the time period- an ad for Calvin Klein for his perfume named “Obsession”.There is something great to be said about the clever reference, as it proves to be a total stab at society in general and its priorities.There is so much concern and pressure in relation to the perfect female body, which seems to be defined by a stick thin body with large breasts.The public is so blinded by concept of unattainable perfection that people cannot recognize such a horrible problem of breast cancer.With the utilization of the female body within the Breast Cancer Fund’s ad, this ad almost instills a sense of guilt into society, as people realize their ignorance in regards to such a major issue of the world today. It effectively challenges society, questioning the belittlement of the breast cancer epidemic and refusal to see it for the ugly and harsh disease that it is.Ultimately, this ad enables the public to realize the ridiculousness of the importance of superficiality and successfully enables people to become more aware of the true problems of today.

One of the most effective aspects of this ad is its ability to reach out to such a wide audience, men and women alike, through the utilization of pathos and, more specifically, emotional appeals.Most apparent is the ad’s usage of the need for affiliation.Within the ad itself is a variety of universal characteristics that form a connection to the life of any person.For instance, in the ad, we are shown only the torso of a naked woman.Displayed in a black-and-white hue, we are presented with a faceless body, leaving people with virtually no clues or indications as to the woman’s own identity or life story.With a lack of any sort of true identity, this ad reaches out to people, particularly women, on a very personal and universal level.As previously mentioned, breast cancer possesses no sense of prejudice, as it has the ability to arbitrarily infect any women throughout the world with no particular specifications.As such, this ad spawns a tight bond amongst women across the globe, as they are treated as one entity in the battle against breast cancer.As a result of this undeniable sense of unity, women feel more confident and willing to stand up and, ultimately, find a cure for the sake of all women.While the ad’s usage of the appeal to affiliation almost exclusively reaches out to the female race, this ad also utilizes the appeal to nurture, through which it is able to grabs the hearts of men and even the youth.Again referring to the headless image of a woman, men and the youth are given the opportunity to relate this mystery women to loved women within their own lives.From mothers and sisters to simply friends, this ad allows any given person to evaluate breast cancer in potential relation to his own life. All-in-all, with the usage of emotional appeals, this ad reaches out to the public on a deeply personal level, and creates a connection between each observer and breast cancer in relation to their own lives.

As the Breast Cancer Fund’s ad creates touching emotional connections to observers, this ad also harnesses one emotion that proves to be quite effective in its nature: fear.As stated earlier, this ad portrays an image of a female body that has obviously undergone a mastectomy, a surgery in which the breast is actually removed.As a result, a rather graphic image of a large scar is displayed on this model.An image like this is not that of a typical advertisement of the twenty-first century.In plain terms, the image displayed within the ad is so raw and true to life.There truly is no sugarcoating when it comes to displaying the effects of cancer, and, in order to meet the Breast Cancer Funds goal of exposing cancer for the ugly disease that it is, sugarcoating was not even an option.In all honesty, this ad is meant to disturb and cause discomfort, as it is a direct reflection of the effects of breast cancer.Without a realistic and raw depiction of breast cancer, society would never truly understand just how devastating and painful this disease really is.With an explicit and brutally honest portrayal of breast cancer, people will be much more inspired to take action, and join the battle against breast cancer. However, as this method may inspire many, there is no doubt that the usage of scare tactics in attempt to raise awareness is a rather risky and questionable of persuasion.This image, which is undeniably graphic in nature, could easily have some harsh emotional impacts on certain people, especially the young and immature.While there is a great chance of harm to some, it is chance worth taking, as this has the great potential to reach out and inspire to many individuals to take action and find a cure for breast cancer.

As it attempts to raise awareness and inspire a willingness to act, this ad touches the hearts and consciences of so many different people.Through the utilization of pathos and the current methods of modern-day adertising, the ad directly challenges society to reevaluate what it considers to be important in the world today.

Works Cited

“The Inspiration Room Daily”. Google.com 2003-2009.

Client’s Goals:

-To raise awareness for breast cancer.

-To challenge modern-day society’s ignorance and indifference towards breast cancer.


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