A Descriptive Analysis Of Nigger: The Meaning Of A Word By Gloria Naylor

1250 words - 5 pages

A Descriptive Analysis of Nigger: The Meaning of a Word by Gloria Naylor

What is the rhetor’s purpose?

In the essay “Nigger: the meaning of a word” Gloria Naylor discusses the essence of a word and how it can mean different things to different people in a myriad of situations. Depending on race, gender, societal status and age Naylor outlines how a word like ‘nigger’ can have different meanings within one’s own environment. Naylor discusses how a word can go from having a positive to a negative connotation merely due to how it is spoken and by whom. Naylor shares a personal experience with her audience as she describes the first time she really “heard” the word ‘nigger’. A young white boy in her third grade class spit it in her face. Naylor states, “I didn’t know what a nigger was, but I knew that whatever it meant, it was something he shouldn’t have called me.” (Naylor 460)

Naylor writes about her own personal experience and is obviously biased. This, while powerful, can also be seen as a limited view of the subject. Her audience only understands thorough her eyes and her experiences.

Naylor is trying to educate her audience by sharing a personal experience. I think she wants her audience to sit back and think about the words they use and how others may use them and how this can affect others. Naylor wants her audience to understand how she was affected not only by a young boy but also by how she didn’t really think about the word ‘nigger’ until the moment it was used to hurt her. She is striving to make her audience think about the words they use and hear and how the context these words are immersed in can change the meaning of them.

Who composes the target audiences?

To be a part of Naylor’s target audience one must have obviously had experience with language and how people use it. She is targeting those who have heard and/or used the word “nigger” before.

Naylor wants her audience to take on her experience and be empathetic towards her. She doesn’t do this in a seemingly pathetic way, as she seeks no pity. She outlines her experience and wants her audience to understand her view and how this view came to be.

What roles or personas does the rhetor assume?

Naylor assumes the role of an educator in her writing. She assumes a persona of a young girl experiencing a new way of understanding a word. Naylor wants her audience to understand how important the context in which a word is used is so she writes about her personal experience, of which she is the sole authority.

What it the rhetor’s tone?

Naylor assumes a matter of fact tone in her writing. She does not demand or point her finger at any one group. She simply relays her experience in such a way that
you can’t help but think about what it must have been like for her as a young girl experiencing a new meaning of a word in such a way.

She does not take on a superior or subordinate tone; rather it is like...

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