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Rhetorical Analysis: Outliers: The Story of Success.
The book, “Outliers: The Story of Success,” by Malcom Gladwell discusses the journey of success by exploring the world of outliers, that is, those who fall outside the normal expectations of the society. In the book, Gladwell seeks to find out what makes high-achievers different. He answers that we pay too much attention what successful people are and little attention to where they come from. Gladwell writes, “It’s not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t.” (Gladwell, 19). The audience of the rhetoric analysis are those who need to understand the book better. The purpose of the rhetorical analysis is to use chapter one and two to show how Gladwell convinces the reader to look at where the outlier comes from. Gladwell effectively uses the ethos, logos and pathos to convince the reader on why outliers are successful.
Gladwell uses ethos to persuade the reader about the need to look at where those who are successful come from. Ethos is the appeal to the credibility to establish trust in the reader or the audience (Varpio 207). For instance, in chapter one, “The Mathew Effect”, Gladwell opens the chapter with a quote from the Book of Mathew 25: 29 in the Bible, which states, “For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even which he hath.” (15). The quote means that God will add to what a person has, but to the person that does not have anything, even what he or she has will be taken away. The scripture is the teaching of Jesus Christ about the Parable of Talents in which a man travelling into a far country gives his servants his goods. He gave five talents to one servant, two talents to another servant and one talent to the third servant. The servants who received five and two talents respectfully traded with them and made an equal number of talents to the original number. The servant with five talents added five talents and the servant with two talents added two talents. However, the servant with one talent did not make any profit because he hid the talent in the ground. The owner of the talent became angry and took away the one talent that the servant possessed. Jesus concludes that everyone that shall be given shall have abundance, but he who has not, even the little that he has will be taken away. Gladwell uses the verse from the Book of Mathew to establish the credibility of his message that we should look at where those who are successful came from. The scripture means that the outliers did not hide their talent, but used it effectively.
Gladwell also uses ethos when he presents the player roster of the 2007 Medicine Hat Tigers. The date of births of players in the roster is strange, although not at first glance. Majority of the players were born in the months of January, February and March. Gladwell also gives a table for scorers and noticed that the top scorers were born in the months of January, February and March. Gladwell make the conclusion that those born in January, February and March have physical development advantage over others at the time of enrolment into the hockey team (23). These players, therefore, are not top scorers because they had a physical development advantage at the time of enrolment. Gladwell effectively uses ethos to convince the reader about not looking what successful people are, but looking at where they came from. The roster of 2007 Medicine Hat Tigers gives a perfect example for analysis.
Gladwell uses logos, which is the appeal to logic or reason, to persuade the reader about looking at where the outliers come from. In chapter one, the Mathew 25: 29 appeals to reason by the relationship between the master and the servants. One that has many talents, more will be added, and one that does not have, even whatever he or she has will be taken away. The Parable of Talents challenges people to use whatever they have for their well-being. For instance, if a person has a talent in hockey, he should work on developing the talent for growth. However, failure to work on the talent through training will lead to the loss of the talent. Gladwell uses logic to argue that the people do not rise from nothing. He writes, “The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact, they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot” (). The statement appeals to reason because Gladwell makes a connection between success and opportunity. The outliers got the opportunity that other people could not get.
In chapter two, “The 10,000-hour rule” Gladwell presents a logical story of Bill Joy, a tech nerd, who had not shown interest in programing at an early age despite being the best student at his high school. Joy got the opportunity to study Computer Science at the end of his freshman year when he stumbled upon University of Michigan’s Computer Center. Joy then became interested in programming and went ahead to study major in software programming. He became a genius and made significant contributions to the field of software programming. Gladwell writes, “so stunned his examiners [that] one of them later compared the experience to ‘Jesus confounding his elders’” (36). Joy’s journey to becoming an outlier appeals to reason. He came across the Computer Center at the University of Michigan, and developed interest for software programming. Joy had an opportunity which other people did not get because of the environment. The appeal to reason helps in convincing the reader to look at where outliers come from, and not at who they are.
Gladwell uses pathos, which is the appeal to emotions, to convince the reader about looking at where outliers come from. The Mathew Effect in chapter one also appeals to emotions. The statement, “For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”, invokes sad emotions within those who do not have something. Those who do not have feel that the master was unfair by taking away the one talent from on of the servants who hid it under the ground. Those who advocate for economic equality feel that the master could have taken the talents from the three servants and distribute them equally, or he could have rewarded the servants equally. The use of pathos helps in preparing the ground for convincing people to at where the outliers came from. The Parable of the Talents implies that the servant who got the biggest reward of ruling over a territory had done something worthwhile that warranted the reward. For outliers, they got an opportunity to do something worthwhile and extraordinary. Therefore, looking at where the outliers came from helps in understanding their success, rather than looking at who they are at the moment.
In chapter two, “The 10,000-Hour Rule,” Gladwell appeals to emotions of the audience by referring to events in Bill Joy’s life that were emotional. For instance, he writes, “During the oral exams for his PhD, he made up a particularly complicated algorithm on the fly that, as one of his many admires has written, “so stunned his examiners [that] one of them later compared the experience to ‘Jesus confounding his elders’” (36). The statement invokes feelings of surprising, leaving the reader in awe. The appeal to emotions helps in persuading the reader about the need to look at where the outliers came from. For Bill Joy, he went through rigorous education and buried himself deeper into the world of computer software.
Gladwell effective uses ethos, logos and pathos to convince the reader about looking at where the outliers come from. Looking at where the outliers come from helps in making connections to the achievements. In most of the cases, the outliers got an opportunity which other people could not get, thus making the difference. Gladwell persuades the reader by establishing credibility of information presented, which is the use of ethos. He also persuades by use of reason and logic. Nonetheless, Gladwell uses pathos to appeal to the reader’s emotions, which is essential in persuasion.
Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success. London: Penguin Books, 2008. Print.
Varpio, Lara. “Using Rhetorical Appeals to Credibility, Logic, and Emotions to Increase Your Persuasiveness.” Perspectives on Medical Education, vol. 7, no. 3, June 2018, pp. 207–210. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s40037-018-0420-2.