Bitzer Emilie Brouse

A rhetorical analysis of Robert Kennedy's Speech announcing the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr-

The context of the speech announcing the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., given by Robert Kennedy in 1968, is one of powerful rhetoric. The theory of the Rhetorical Situation (coined by Lloyd Bitzer) is absolutely applicable to this piece regarding a historical occurence in U.S. history.

The three basic components of the rhetorical situation, according to Bitzer, are- the exigence, the audience and the constraints. These components are examined through careful analysis of the piece in question.

Exigence, as defined in this class, is the purpose for communication- a circumstance or condition that invites a response. I believe the exigence for this speech given by Mr. Kennedy was not only to announce his death, but to express the cause that King died for- his dedication to love and justice. Another point of exigence expressed in this piece was a deep desire to unify the American people- to understand one another, to eliminate hate, anger and division and promote compassion and justice for all, regardless of race.

The audience to which Kennedy's speech was given, in my eyes, was all of the United States of America as a whole. It was not only the immediate audience- the crowd to which Mr. Kennedy's words were directed- that was the intended recipient of the message, but all of our country, perhaps all the world. I believe Mr. Kennedy's intention with this speech was to reach and unify all types of people.

The term "constraints", according to Ritzer, in regard to the rhetorical situation can be defined as: those things which hold the power to constrain decision and action, and limit the way in which the discourse is communicated. They are things that have the power to “constrain decision and action needed to modify the purpose". I believe the constraints in this particular rhetorical situation were the audience members themselves- the beliefs, attitudes, traditions and motives held by each viewer had a great power and influence over the way in which Mr. Kennedy's message was recieved.

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