How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis: Guide and Outline

Unlike an argumentative essay, a rhetorical essay is written to examine the effects of words or other verbal and non-verbal signs on audiences. A rhetorical analysis rather focuses on how a piece of information or story is said and not why or what is said. Writing a rhetorical analysis means that you are concerned about everything surrounding a text and how it influences its effectiveness.

What Can You Write a Rhetorical Analysis On?

Although written texts are more often analyzed rhetorically, they are not the only ones that can be analyzed. For example, a text for a rhetorical analysis could be a speech, cartoon, or advertisement. Any production that is aimed at influencing people can be rhetorically analyzed. Depending on what the text is, you could also be paying attention to both visual and audio elements of the text.

Key Concepts of Rhetorical Analysis

When analyzing a text rhetorically, the focus is not really on the message. Instead, the focus is more on the message’s goal, presentation technique, and purpose. To analyze a text thus, the focus is on the text’s appeal- the text’s influence and impact on the target audience. To do this, three major concepts are employed. These concepts are also called the rhetorical triangle. They are logos, ethos, and pathos.

  • Logos (logical analysis): This employs reason and evidence to persuade and convince the audience. An author focused on logical reasoning will rather base his arguments on facts and evidence than anything else. This appeal is often seen in academic productions.
  • Ethos (ethical analysis): A text based on ethos will seek to appeal to ethical standards or moral standards. In this case, the author presents himself as someone qualified to approach the subject of discourse based on his moral standing or professional training. The author portrays himself as an authority in the field of discourse, thereby giving him an ethical ground to address the issue at hand. An example is a medical doctor talking about healthy living or a religious person talking about purity.
  • Pathos (pathetic analysis): In this instance, the writer does not claim to have facts or evidence, nor does he stand on any ethical ground. The author rather appeals to the emotions of his target audience. His writing or speech aims to evoke some form of emotional reaction from his audience, and he achieves this by reflecting the same emotion.

Writing A Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline

When seeking to write a rhetorical analysis, an important question students commonly ask is, “how do you write a rhetorical analysis essay?” Well, this is relatively simple. Just like any essay, a rhetorical analysis should have an outline. The rhetorical analysis outline should include the introduction, body, and conclusion.


The introduction should give necessary background information on the text to be analyzed. Information such as the author’s name, genre, and title of the text should be included in the introduction. The introduction should also address the reason for the analysis of the text. This is how to start a rhetorical analysis essay that will achieve your desired goal.


The body of a rhetorical analysis can be up to three paragraphs or more if it’s a longer essay. The body of the analysis should be divided so that different elements of a text are addressed in each paragraph. You should not address two elements in one paragraph. However, all the elements addressed in the different paragraphs must contribute to the general argument of your analysis.


The rhetorical analysis conclusion should again state the reason for the essay. It would be best to point out how the argument has been developed and how it has influenced the target audience. The conclusion could also relate the text to present-day realities and concerns.

Your rhetorical analysis outline is crucial to the success of your essay, and as such, it should be the first thing you create before writing.

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis

Rhetoric studies how writers and speakers use verbal and non-verbal signs to influence an audience. When analyzing a text rhetorically, you should pay attention to everything that surrounds the text. When developing rhetoric, you should consider some of these things:

  • Who is the author?
  • Where and when was the production made?
  • What inspired or instigated the author?
  • The purpose of the author for the production
  • The main focus of the speech or text – you should also see if the author is sticking to the main focus or branching off
  • The tone of the text- angry, sympathetic, personal, etc
  • The target audience
  • The evidence presented in the text

Rhetorics use claims, supports, and warrants as the basis for analysis. Claims are the facts or evidence that the author uses to convince the audience. The claims can either be stated plainly or implied.

On the other hand, supports are used to back up the claims. The support expressed by an author is like a consequence of the claim or fact, which establishes the claim.

The warrant in a text is the logic or assumption that links the support to the claim. Many times, the warrant in a text is not spelled out. Instead, the author usually assumes that the audience can infer from the claim and support the warrant.

Here is a free sample of a rhetorical analysis essay. So, have a look!

Rhetorical Analysis Essay

The tale of Little Red Riding Hood is known in countless versions and adaptations. While the tale takes its origin in the medieval peasant folklore, its first printed version, authored by Charles Perrault’s in the 17th century, flattened out many of its coarse authentic features, in an attempt to make the tale more refined and moralized. The later versions introduced further new details, changing the plot beyond recognition and conveying drastically different messages for the audience.

While “Little Red Cap” by Grimm Brothers is educational in its nature with emphasis being made on the negative consequences of the girl’s disobedience, the message of Goldflower and the Bear is more profound as it conveys the prevalence of intellect and courage over physical strength. The Story of Grandmother is filled with grotesque humor, which implies that the primary purpose of this version was to amuse readers rather than to teach or motivate them.

Little Red Cap by Grimm Brothers was published in the beginning of the 19th century. As stated by Shavit (327), the primary audience of the text was not children but the members of the literary elite, as reading folklore-based literature was in vogue at that time. In the subsequent editions, though, they were trying to make the tale more suitable for children, eliminating the details that could be perceived as offensive. Even though targeted at adults, Little Red Cap by Grimm Brothers is imbued with moralization, similarly to the Perrault’s version that they obviously relied upon. Another remarkable characteristic of the tale is the naivety of narration, intended to fit the story into the pattern of a folktale as distinct from the literary tale (Shavit 328). Grimm Brothers present Little Red Cap as a beautiful and adorable girl who is loved immensely by her mother and grandmother. The idyllic intrafamily relations are also manifest in the responsibility the heroes feel for the heath of the grandmother. Even though it requires covering a long distance, the mother asks the girl to carry wine and a piece of cake to the grandmother, hoping that “they will give her strength” (Grimm 14). As argued by Shavit, it was characteristic of the 19th century to attach large importance to strong family ties, while they were not highly valued a century earlier. The family bond also comes to the foreground in Goldflower and the Bear, where the girl thinks about saving her little brother first.

The mother gives detailed instructions for her daughter: “walk properly and don’t stray from the path”, “and when you enter the room, don’t forget to say good morning, and don’t go peeping in all corners of the room” (14). In response, Little Red Cap promises that she will follow the instruction. Mother’s admonishing her daughter reflects the importance of educating children and taking responsibility for their behavior, which became prevalent in the 19th century, while previously parents placed more emphasis on amusing children (Shavit 327). The role of the mother in the other two versions is relatively unimportant as the heroines do not receive any instructions from them.

When he meets Little Red Cap in the forest, the wolf urges the girl to look at the beautiful flowers around and thus deviate from the path until he eats the grandmother. The girl follows the lead of the wolf: her choice to pick flowers rather than to proceed with her task is a symbol of her agreement with the devilish being, whom she has shown the road to her grandmother (Zipes 37). In this episode, the wolf closely resembles the Biblical serpent that tempts Eve to try the fruits of the forbidden tree, despite God’s prohibition. Just like Eve’s eyes were opened and she saw how pleasant the fruits were, “Little Red Cap opened her eyes and saw how the sunbeams were dancing this way and that through the trees and how there were beautiful flowers all around” (Grimm 14). She justifies her imprudent choice by claiming that grandmother will be pleased with a fresh bouquet. Listening to the tempter, Little Red Cap chooses to disobey the instructions of her mother and thus she has to derive a lesson from the adverse consequences of her disobedience. In contrast, in Goldflower and the Bear and the Story of Grandmother, the heroine does not carry any guilt for the adverse events that happen to them.

It is remarkable that the Grimms’ version of the tale is totally deprived of all the erotic details and innuendos, characteristic for many other accounts, even for the highly moralistic version of Charles Perrault. However, in the psychoanalytic interpretation, it still bears sexual meaning to a large extent. Thus, Erich Fromm posed that the major theme of the tale was the adolescent’s encounter with adult sexuality (Darnton 281). Bruno Bettelheim claimed that Little Red Cap followed her oedipal desires, with the wolf representing her father and her id at the same time (283). However, these interpretations still remain highly controversial as they do not apply to more authentic versions of the tale.

It is notable that, despite its moralistic pathos, Little Red Cap has a happy ending, similarly to the Goldflower and the Bear and the Story of Grandmother. The belly of the wolf is cut open by the huntsman and his victims are successfully released. As observed by Zipes in the psychoanalytic vein, only a strong man’s hand could save the girl from her lustful desires (37). Even though the desires of the girl may not be of the sexual nature, she is still guilty in that she follows her emotions rather than reason, represented in the image of her admonishing mother. After this adventure, however, Little Red Cap makes appropriate conclusions and promises herself that she will never stray from the road. The alternative story presented by Grimm Brothers in the end serves to demonstrate what would have happened if the girl had behaved in a reasonable manner from the very start, showing how much more advantageous this manner of behavior is.

The Story of Grandmother was published by French folklorist Paul Delarue who claimed that is was an authentic version, faithful to the peasant oral tradition. It is likely that this version was widespread in France in the 17th and 18th centuries before Perrault polished it in his mimetically unforgettable variant (Zipes 33). The heroine of the Story does not wear a red hood, because this detail was introduced by Perrault at his own deliberation. The resemblance of the Story of Grandmother with the Grimms’ tale is restricted to the beginning, while the subsequent unfolding of the events is drastically different. In this version, the girl is also asked by her mother to bring a present to her granny, a loaf of fresh bread and a bottle of milk. Another important similarity with the Grimms’ version is that the girl engages in a conversation with the wolf, naively informing him about the path she is going to take. However, instead of trying to divert her, the wolf goes straight to the grandmother’s house where he kills the old lady and dresses up in her clothes. He makes the girl consume the blood and flesh of her granny in the guise of wine and bread. Moreover, he asks her to undress and go in the bed with him, which is an obvious sexual implication.

The dialogue that takes place between the wolf and the girl is much alike the Grimms’ version, though it points out some additional details of the wolf’s appearance (e.g. nostrils, shoulders, hairiness). When the girl asks the wolf about his large nostrils, he responds “The better to sniff my tobacco with, my child” (11), which is reflective of dwn-to-earth peasant humor. The request of the girl to go out to relieve herself and the talking cat who calls the girl “a slut” (10) are manifestations of grotesque, which would be considered improper for the high literary style, characteristic of the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault. In contrast to the passive heroine of the Grimms’ version, the girl in the Story of Grandmother does not hesitate to take action and manages to escape by using her cunning. The heroine of Goldflower and the Bear shows similar independence and smartness: moreover, she uses the identical trick of appealing to her physical needs in order to escape the bear.

The version rendered by Delarue thus presents a young peasant girl who is shrewd, courageous and is able to cope with difficulties without any help from the outside. The path of needles and the path of pins mentioned in the story are suggestive of the sewing ritual where the maturing woman was required to show that she could handle sewing accessories, replacing an older woman (Zipes 35). The mother does not play any notable role in the story: in contrast to the version of Grimm brothers, she does not admonish her daughter on the proper behavior. The educational motif is generally absent from the Story: instead of trying to instruct or advise their readers (as typical of Grimm brothers), the sole purpose of this version is to amuse the readers and demonstrate the independence and braveness of peasant girls in dealing with difficulties. The Story is more feminist in its tone than Little Red Cap because it suggests that women do not necessarily need strong male protection. Moreover, if the act of eating the girl can be considered as a symbol for rape, the Story of Grandmother does not imply that the women are responsible for their being raped, in contrast to the classical version of Grimm brothers where it is the girl’s disobedience that leads to her downfall (Zipes 37). References to cannibalism, smoking and physical needs make it clear that the audience for the tale was limited to adult readers, while Goldflower and the Bear was intended for children and the Grimms’ version was adapted for younger audience after some amendments.

Goldflower and the Bear, rendered by the Chinese writer Chiang Mi, presents an Asian perspective on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood. The heroine of the tale, Goldflower, is described as a “clever and brave” girl (Mi 19): therefore, the tale emphasizes the inner qualities of the girl, while Grimm brothers merely describe her as lovable and the Story of Grandmother does not provide any description at all. In contrast to other versions of the tale, Goldflower does not go anywhere, but stays at home with her grandmother and brother while her mother is away. She uses her cunning to save herself, though she primarily thinks about saving her brother. The remarkable similarity with the Story is that Goldflower uses her physical needs as an excuse to leave the Bear. However, her smartness and courage go much beyond this trick as she also climbs the tree, greases it and talks with bear without any fear. Using her obvious intellectual supremacy over the bear and her advantageous position, she laughs at him and finally kills him with the spear after much mockery. The actions of Goldflower are presented as a heroic deed, which deserve the praise of both her mother and the community.

Depicting a courageous girl who prevails over a frightful beast with her cunning, the Goldflower and the Bear suggests that smartness and braveness are more important than physical strength. The independence of the girl and the use of tricks to deceive the beast account for the tale’s close similarity with the Story of Grandmother. However, Goldflower and the Bear is even more feminist in its tone, because it shows the girl as absolutely unyielding to the seduction and powerful enough to triumph over the attacker. It creates a stark contrast with the version of Grimm brothers, where the girl is not only defenseless in front of the wolf, but also becomes the cause of her own misfortunes. These two versions present the behavior of the girl on the opposite ends of the spectrum: while Goldflower acts in a laudatory and heroic manner, the actions of Little Red Cap are shameful because she disobeys her mother. As contrasted with the other two versions, Goldflower and the Bear was targeted at children and sought to motivate them to fight their fears.

Little Red Riding Hood is an archetypal image, which has allowed for different and even opposite interpretations over the centuries. In the classical version of Grimm brothers, the girl is a powerless creature, who bears the guilt for her own downfall because she disregards reason and obedience. In the vein of the 19th century, the authors placed large emphasis on the need to educate children. In contrast to this version, the Story of Grandmother is devoid of any moralistic message and simply aims to amuse the readers with the depiction of shrewd peasant girl who can escape any dangers. Goldflower and the Bear invests the heroine with the largest power, smartness and independence, conveying to the readers that frightening situations can be overcome with cunning and courage. 

Works Cited

Brothers Grimm. “Little Red Cap”. The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1999. Print.

Darnton, Robert. “Peasants tell tales: The meaning of Mother Goose”. The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1999. Print.

Mi, Chiang. “Goldflower and the Bear.” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1999. Print.

Shavit, Zohar. “The concept of childhood and children’s folktales: Test case – Little Red Riding Hood”. The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1999. Print.

“The story of grandmother”. The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1999. Print.

Zipes, Jack David. Why Fairy Tales Stick: The Evolution and Relevance of a Genre. London: Taylor & Francis, 2006. Print.


A rhetorical analysis is not an argumentative essay because it does not agree or disagree with any argument. Instead, a rhetorical essay focuses on the different techniques deployed by an author to relay his message.

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