Monday, October 10, 2011

The Function of Imagery in Rhetoric

Burke while analzying Adolf Hitler's Mien Kampf much attention to the images Hitler uses to form his arguments. Burke writes that Hitler "uses ideas as imagery" (200). This imagery seems to work for Hitler's rhetoric or in other words have a function in it. The words here seem to not only signify a meaning, but also a feeling. Hitler's use of images can be seen through out the essay such as 'Battle' (191), 'medicine' (191), 'Mecca' (192), 'Babylon' (200). The images that these words represent show that Hitler is clearly using them as a rhetorical device to united people against the "Jew". He carefully chooses the words to evoke emotional response. "Battle" possibly the fear of war, "Medicine" the ability of Hitler's plan to save Germany. We have heard about this type of rhetoric in class before. Aristotle wrote about the overuse of pathos in rhetoric and basically called it irresponsible. Hiter definately seems to validate Aristotle on this point.

We also see Hitler using sexual imagery to describe the state of Germany. He calls Germany a 'de-horned siegfried', the people 'feminine' and for a leader who is a "dominating male" whom the people desire. Another function of imagery becomes apparent here, by using these words closely associated with psychoanalytical theory, Hitler is almost able to verify the things that he is saying. It's like since he is able to fit his ideas (regardless of lack of rationality) into the terminology of an established theory, it gives his ideas some credibility. Words are shown here to be able to associate different ideas besides just naming or labeling the idea. I hope that makes sense.

Imagery in Hitler's Rhetoric also allows his "'elucidations' [to] rely upon the lurid alone" (196). The images in Hitler's rhetoric distract the reader from what he is actually saying. This allows his argument to seem very strong without having much logic to it at all.

So imagery shows us that words can evoke feelings, associate abstract ideas thus validating ideas, and that images can distract a reader from overall messages

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