Rhetorical Essay

The ability of writers to articulate themselves using rhetorical language that appeals to the reader is one of the distinguishing features that separates literature from many other works. Zadie Smith, for example, uses the feature in her novel White Smith, which focuses on the lives of wartime friends and their families. Archie and Clara’s daughter Irie, despite her intelligence, lacks self-confidence, is a key character in the novel who is used by the author to express this literary device. The author portrays Irie as a grown-up who grows up in a challenging environment and who is forced to battle internal and external fears from the Western culture with the use of stylistic comparison, paradox and imagery being apparent.

The central literary device that is apparent in the passage is the use of simile, which enables the reader to get involved in Irie’s psychological challenges and understand the theme in descriptive terms. The use of simile as a feature of rhetorical language makes use of signals such as like and as that make comparison in an expressive manner. There are many instances where the author considers this feature including when she first mentions the struggles the grown-up girl was undergoing at the park. For example, Smith writes that She got a twinge–as happens with a sensitive tooth, or in a “phantom tooth,” when the nerve is exposed” (Smith 378). Its use is meant to denote the fact that the pain she was experiencing could only be compared to that of a sensitive tooth. In another case, the author states, “She felt an ache (like a severe malocclusion, the pressure of one tooth upon another) when she passed the park where they had cycled as children” (Smith 378). Simile, in this case, is intended to attract the reader to focus on the fact that Irie was unhappy that she could not change the fact that she was undergoing psychological trauma from her failed relationship with Millat. The use of the stylistic choice is appropriate because it fits in the greater context of affection and love because one understands the reason Irie is disenfranchised.

Furthermore, the passage enables the reader to single out the use of paradox as a way of stressing the theme. A major subject that the author describes in the book is immigration, which appears to be the defining feature for most of the subjects in the book. Irie is similarly portrayed as a person who had been traveling for a while in her life, and she had gotten accustomed to it. The author states that “Irie stepped out into streets she’d known her whole life, along a route she’d walked a million times over” (Smith 378). The use of paradox becomes apparent because of the stylistic choice of an overstatement. It is paradoxical that Irie could have walked one million times because it is unrealistic given the context. The device fits the passage because it serves as a signal to the reader that the character had already become accustomed to the Western lifestyle that was becoming a central part of her life.

The last feature in the passage as a stylistic device is the use of symbolism, which is preferred as a tool for representing Irie’s lifestyle in a way that engages the reader’s conscience. It is a stylistic device involving the representation of things as symbols and the symbolic meaning of a character. The author considers this rhetorical choice when she narrates that Irie was aware of her past considering she was a victim of it. For example, the author narrates “If someone asked her just then what memory was, what the purest definition of memory was, she would say this: the street you were on when you first jumped into a pile of dead leaves. She was walking it right now” (Smith 378). The importance of this device is that it enables the reader comprehends that Irie was not a grown-up who could describe her adventures because she could vividly recall all the challenges she had experienced. The fact that she was not much aware previously is signaled by the symbol of “jumping into a pile of dead leaves.” It is prospective that when one jumps into a pile of dead leaves, they will be consumed in them, which perfectly describes what Irie went through before she learned to live in the Western culture.

In summary, the use of simile, exaggeration, and symbolism are the primary ways Smith expresses rhetorical choice through the figurative language describing Irie’s life upheavals. The simile enables the reader to relate through comparison, the overstatement serving as an emphasis tool, while the symbolism is used to draw the reader’s attention. The author is successful in using all the three devices in relating the reader to the challenges that Irie was facing growing up in an environment that promoted the contemporary standards of Western beauty.


Smith, Zadie. White Teeth. United Kingdom: Hamish Hamilton, 2000. Print.

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