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Michelle Ortiz Response to “The Rhetorical Situation” by Lloyd Bitzer

Posted by Michelle Ortiz on

In “The Rhetorical Situation” by Lloyd F. Bitzer, he discusses what a rhetorical situation is and the elements of a rhetorical situation. He states that a rhetorical situation “comes into existence for the sake of something beyond itself; it functions ultimately to produce action or change in the world; it performs some task”(Bitzer 3-4). This shows how a rhetorical situation is a situation that can changed depending on the audience’s response to the situation. Bitzer mentions the three key elements of a rhetorical situation which are exigence, audience, and constraints. Bitzer states that “exigence is an imperfection marked by urgency; it is a defect, an obstacle, something waiting to be done, a thing which is other than it should be”(Bitzer 6). Exigence is only rhetorical “if it is capable of positive modification” (Bitzer 7). Bitzer states that the audience is very important because when influenced they are the ones that motivate the change produced by the rhetorical situation. Additionally, a rhetorical situation always includes constraints which is “made up of persons, events, objects, and relations which are parts of the situation because they have the power to constrain decision and action needed to modify the exigence” (Bitzer 8). These constraints may include the audience’s beliefs and traditions.

One idea that really interested me was when Bitzer stated “In our real world, however, rhetorical exigences abound; the world really invites change – change conceived and effected by human agents who quite properly address mediating audience” (Bitzer 13). This is an idea that I completely agree with because indeed, the world does invite and motivate change. Our real world is not perfect at all and there is always positive change or modification that must be done. This is why our audience is very important in a rhetorical situation. Often, one person cannot cause a big change on their own which is where an audience that can make a change or motivate change is very important. Situations that include a specific issue such as police brutality, motivate a specific audience to make a positive modification to abolish or minimize this problem. Overall, this statement in “The Rhetorical Situation” really caught my eye because of the fact that it makes me realize how important positive modification is and how the world is not perfect at all and always needs some sort of change.

When Bitzer claimed “Each reader probably can recall a specific time and place when there was an opportunity to speak on some urgent matter, and after the opportunity was gone he created a private thought the speech he should have uttered earlier in the situation” (Bitzer 2), I related to this a lot. This usually happens to me when the teacher creates a discussion about a specific issue occurring in today’s society. I always share how I feel about the issue however, when the discussion is over I always find myself having more opinions, more facts; overall, having more to say about the specific issue. I always regret not mentioning something during the discussion and I am sure I am not the only one.

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