This is Water talk by David Foster Wallace

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This is Water Talk by David Foster Wallace is the artifact I've selected to investigate (2009). The artifact was a 2005 inaugural speech given at Kenyon College. The speech is a well-known masterpiece that is said to reflect the author's standing. Furthermore, the work is regarded as noteworthy not so much for its details as for its overall unconventionality. The speaker's pattern of thought, sentence form, and word use comprised the majority of the oddities that could not be included in a regular graduation speech but distinguished Foster's oration. The author addressed three audiences: faculty, parents, and graduate students. Throughout the speech, Wallace employed consequences, motive, and contradictions with the aim of emphasizing his point to the audience.


The rhetorical approach entails studying how speakers and writers utilize words to influence the audience by breaking the work into sections, as well as elaborating how different parts work mutually to establish a particular effect including entertaining, persuading or informing. Based on the rhetoric notion, any argument must have pathos, ethos and logos in order to be successfully persuasive (Dixon & Velten, 2016). When used to the bookish work, rhetorical scrutiny views the work as the creatively structured device for conversation rather than an aesthetic object. The approach is relevant to Wallace’s speech analysis since it will help in exploring the speaker’s goals, techniques, examples and effectiveness of the methods used to deliver the message. Further, the concept will provide a clear discussion on how the writer made his argument as well as determining if the goal was achieved (Foss, 1984).

Besides, the approach aims at assessing the motive of the speaker by checking all the devices used to make the audience understand his or her point. Through the approach, one is able to recognize how the author or narrator is conducting himself or herself in front of the public, as well as if the listeners, readers or audience are emotionally moved by his or her work (Dixon & Velten, 2016). Also, the principles of rhetorical analysis are founded on the aim of taking into consideration the genre, audience, media, stance and purpose of the work being analyzed. Furthermore, the method involves a lot of critical thinking for the purpose of establishing the means of communication used by the writer or speaker.


Wallace uses different methods to stress his message and create harmony with the audience. Throughout the speech, the orator utilizes several persuasive methods by establishing common ground with the listeners, telling parables as well as utilizing repetition and parallelism. Initially, the speaker starts the speech by telling a narration of the two young fish that face the older fish that asked them about the water. The tale illustrated that the largely recognizable realities in the globe are difficult to see (Wallace, 2009). People intuition may result in unknown incarceration by making an individual to pay attention to the inner dialogue of the mind rather than what is on the outside.

After the fish story, Wallace uses the hypothetical parable when talking about the religious man and an atheist in a bar discussing the existence of God. During the argument, the atheist illustrates how he was trapped in a snowstorm: “Oh God, I am vanished in this snowstorm and I will die if you do not assist” (Wallace, 2009). The religious man argues that the nonbeliever should believe in God since he is still safe but he refuses saying that he was helped by the Eskimos, who showed him way back to the camp. Additionally, Wallace explains his reasoning by narrating another hypothetical situation regarding an American, who wants to go home, relax and eat dinner but finds that there is no food: “The point is frustrating, insignificant, crap like this is precisely where the vocation of choosing will come in” (Wallace, 2009). He persuaded his audiences that if an individual does not make a mindful choice regarding how to suppose, as well as what to pay concentration to, then he or she becomes irritated and morose.

The use of parallelism and repetition is depicted when Wallace says, “If you worship things and money, then you will not have adequate, reverence your body and you will sense unattractive, worship influence and you will feel afraid and weak, worship intelligence and you will feel brainless” (Wallace, 2009). The repetition of the word “worship”, as well as parallelism of the sentences, reflects the day-to-day habits that individuals live.

By debasing his power and constructing general ground with the spectators, the speaker fabricates his reliability as well as building a relatable link. While utilizing the figurative language, Wallace describes mundane conditions hypothetically, which are frustrating and relevant to everyone. Through the skilful structuring and delivery of the speech, the work appeals to pathos and logos as illustrated by the audience emotional reaction. He describes daily situations that people face so that to capture listeners attention and have the emotional response with the aim of stressing his message. The repetition of the word “maybe” at the start of the three sentences creates a rhythm that induces emotion and augments his thought.


Dixon, R.K., & Velten, J.C. (2016). Donald Trump’s process of political persuasion: Using communication theory to explain an unexpected voter-rally during the 2016 presidential campaign. American International Journal of Contemporary Research, 6(3), 5.

Foss, S.K. (1984). Women priest in the Episcopal church: A cluster analysis of establishment rhetoric. Religious Communication Today, 17.

Wallace, D.F. (2009). This is water: Some thoughts, delivered on a significant occasion, about living a compassionate life. New York: Hachette Audio.

October 13, 2022
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