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Analysis of Rhetorical Strategies in Beyond Katrina, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1220

Essay

Beyond Katrina is author Natasha Trethewey’s account of how people’s lives along the Mississippi Gulf Coast were changed forever as a consequence of hurricane Katrina. Although many are aware of the damage and travesty that the hurricane and its aftermath brought to families living near the Gulf Coast, this is a more personal account of the story compared to the compressed stories we’ve heard from reports on the news. As such, Trethewey uses many rhetorical strategies in her writing that bolster the emotional connection that readers feel when reading her novel. Her use of genre/theme, voice, and audience, supports the strength of her description of the storm and its impact.

While the main goal of Beyond Katrina was to demonstrate the impact of the storm on families living on the Gulf Coast, the author uses many themes to convey this message. Fear, poverty, and despair are all themes that are reiterated throughout this book and many quotes reflect these feelings that both the author and the people of Mississippi shared both during the storm and its aftermath.

Fear is a theme in this book because it is difficult to read through the novel without gaining a concrete understanding of how afraid Trethewey and other inhabitants of the Mississippi Gulf Coast became both during and after the storm. Although the storm itself was frightening, people had a greater reason to be afraid after storm due to the increase of crime and looting. What was formerly a safe neighborhood became an area in which families needed to independently have the ability to protect themselves from criminals. She says, “In some areas of the coast you can still see abandoned buildings, boarded up and spray–painted with the words We are here, We have a Gun, We will shoot. These are reminders of the crimes committed and the actions people took to protect their homes. Burglaries and looting became major problems”. If people needed to arm themselves during after the storm, there was a clear need for protection and the police presence in the area was clearly not enough to defray these criminals. Trethewey also describes that shop owners were afraid that they would be looted and as a consequence preferred to hand out their goods to people on the streets. Overall, she demonstrates that fear that people felt after the storm was a result of the complete chaos it caused. So many people were left in poverty and without the basic needs they required to survive, and many resorted to violence and thievery.

Poverty is a theme of the book because it is discussed in the beginning of the novel when the author details her life and family experiences. The most striking examples of this theme occur when Trethewey discusses her younger brother who went to jail for selling drugs as a result of the financial stresses he felt as a result of the storm, the description of her poor African-American community, and her detailed and emotional descriptions of the impacts of the storm. When describing how the storm affected her personally, she says, “weep not only for the residents of the coast but also for my former self: the destroyed public library is me as a girl, sitting on the floor, reading between the stacks; empty, debris–strewn downtown Gulfport is me at the Woolworth’s lunch counter—early 1970s—with my grandmother; is me listening to the sounds of shoes striking the polished tile floor of Hancock Bank, holding my grandmother’s hand, waiting for candy from the teller behind her wicket”. When Trethewey walks through her damaged town she sees many places she visited as a young girl, and what were once happy memories became immediately saddening. Since she was very connected to this community that she was raise in, she feels as if she were damaged in additional to the buildings because they are a part of her.

The book’s epigraph, “Where you came from is gone. Where you thought you were going to never was there. And where you are is no good unless you can get away from it”, is constantly referred to in order to emphasize the sense of despair that many people felt because they lost their homes. A home is typically a place where one can find comfort, and the storm robbed these people of both their comfort and sense of security. A part of this statement, “Where you are is no good unless you can get away from it”, specifically alludes to the sense that people felt the need to get away from these negative feelings somehow, but it is nearly impossible because to return to how they felt before, the storm would have needed to never occur.

The three themes that Trethewey used, fear, poverty, and despair were dramatic examples of how the storm impacted the lives of many people living in Mississippi, it allowed us as readers to gain a greater feeling of the hardships people faced. As the reader reads through the book, they gain a greater sense of these feelings as a result of the events described and are able to connect more easily with the words.

A second rhetorical device that Trethewey uses in this novel is the use of voice. Although this story is from her point of view, she occasionally becomes the voice of other Mississippians, including her grandmother, brother, and others, in order to ensure that their voices are heard in this account as well. A specific example of this occurs when she describes the opinions of her neighbors; when she asked they how they survived, they said things like, “Man, the people here would be ok, we know how to survive under stressful times.” “We are used to making the best of what little we have. Joe, you know that.” And, “It’s the upperclass people who panicked most under these conditions. Besides the Bible warned us that this was gonna happen”. These occasional digressions from Trethewey’s personal account allowed us to connect what she was personally experiencing to the community as a whole.

A third use of rhetoric in Trethewey’s novel is her appeal to the audience. Broadly, her audience is other citizens in the United States who were curious about the impact of the storm or people who lived along the Gulf Coast who were personally impacted and wanted to hear from another person about how they were able to cope. Occasionally, however, Trethewey herself becomes the audience; in many instances, she is writing for herself to somehow lessen the damage that the storm has caused her. The shifting audience positively impacts how the novel’s message is conveyed; it allows both internal and external views that allows both survivors of the storm and people elsewhere in the world to connect with her message.

In conclusion, Natasha Trethewey uses the rhetoric devices of genre/theme, voice, and audience to appeal to the readers throughout the book. The themes of fear, poverty, and despair occur throughout the book to remind the readers about the consequences of the storm and the conditions that people had to live in throughout its aftermath. She uses voice and audience in order to appeal to a broader group of readers; she speaks for all hurricane survivors, not just herself. Overall, these devices allowed Trethewey to convey emotions through her words and allowed her readers to connect to the story at a deeper level.

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