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Analysis of Rhetorical Modes: Essay on How It Feels to Be Colored Like Me

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A person’s race has always had relevance in his/her life in ways that sometimes don’t necessarily make sense or are simply just racist. Two African Americans who have been impacted by their race are Brent Staples and Zara Neale Hurston. In “Just Walk On By: Back Men and Public Spaces”, Staples claims that black men are automatically labeled as criminals and treated as such even when they have done nothing wrong to prove it, while, throughout “How It Feels to Be Colored Like Me”, Hurston argues that race isn’t an essential feature that a person is born with, but instead emerges in specific social situations: these two themes, though very different, have a similar base that “race isn’t everything” and people should not be judged based on the color of their skin. Throughout both texts, Hurston and Staples develop varying themes using the same rhetorical modes: narrative/personal anecdotes to draw sympathy from the reader and demonstrate one’s recognition of their color, imagery to assist readers in fully experiencing the story and also appeal to their senses, and comparison to enhances the descriptions of the fear (onomatopoeia) and to use a more simple-widely known example to explain a more complex argument (analogy).

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From the very beginning, to develop each of their themes, the two authors use narration and personal anecdotes that serve their own purposes in each text. Brent displays an example of a time when he entered a jewelry store for an article but instead witnessed the worker in the store bring out “enormous red Doberman pinscher” to make readers realize the hardship of the lives of black men who can’t even enter a jewelry store without causing alarm. Several of these kinds of examples makes the reader feel sympathy towards black men as a whole and the prejudice they are forced to endure. However, Zora remembers the “day that I became colored… I was not Zora of orange county anymore; I was now a little colored girl,” demonstrating that she loves her culture, even if it was what determined who she was and where she stood in society, and she recognized her color.

Furthermore, to develop each narrative, Staples and Hurston use very vivid imagery and diction: Staples to help readers fully experience his story and imagine the situations he has to cope with and Hurston to appeal to the reader’s senses. In Brent’s very first sentence, he states that his “first victim was a woman”, which causes readers to assume that Staples hurt this woman in some way, the same way people assume the worst about Black people in most situations. Soon after, readers understand that they made this assumption and may even have a realization that they make these prejudicial assumptions often. On the other hand, Zora talks about the jazz orchestra in the New World Cabaret that “constricts the thorax and splits the heart with its tempo and narcotic harmonies

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Analysis of Rhetorical Modes: Essay on How It Feels to Be Colored Like Me. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from
“Analysis of Rhetorical Modes: Essay on How It Feels to Be Colored Like Me.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
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Analysis of Rhetorical Modes: Essay on How It Feels to Be Colored Like Me [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Feb 1]. Available from:
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