Rhetorical Analysis Of J. K. Rowling's Speech

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Falling into Failure

“As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters…” (Rowling). One would imagine that a good life is that of continual happiness; a life where you must only be rescued from a tower or find your glass slipper. A life where your only setback is some extra sleep while the prince slays the vile witch, but J.K. Rowling shatters that idea while giving her Harvard Commencement speech in 2008. The speech takes root in the benefits of failure, and the importance of imagination. Her speech is not saturated in rhetoric like those of political speeches (though every speech contains rhetoric). She is not trying to really persuade the audience, as much as she is reaching out to them, wanting to enlighten and embed a
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What would have been a simple string of words in her speech is now transformed. “I saw photographs of those who has disappeared...I read the testimony of torture victims...I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts…”(Rowling). Rowling is able to enhance the magnitude of what she did while working at Amnesty International Headquarters in London, causing the listeners to feel more depth, and gain more interest as she goes. She uses parallelism for both the somber as well as the uplifting. Rowling gives parallelism a new tone further into her speech saying that "If you [Harvard graduates] choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice...if you choose to identify not only with the powerful...if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have you advantages." She takes two phrases, with differing moods carried by each, both having the potential to be only superficially impacting, and makes them traps to ensnare her audience. Parallelism acts as a spell upon her words, working only to draw listeners in, keeping a grip on her spectators. If any passerby were to hear J.K. Rowling giving a speech on imagination (a key point