In “The Rhetorical Situation,” Lloyd F. Bitzer illustrates the depth of a rhetorical situation and its relation to rhetorical discourse. A rhetorical situation can be defined as an event that causes an author to respond and seek change. There are three main components of a rhetorical situation. The first is exigence. According to Bitzer, “Any 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). In simpler terms, exigence is the issue the author is addressing and it must have the ability to develop positive change. The second is the author’s audience. The audience consists only of people who are capable of making change and of people who are influenced by discourse. The final component is the constraints. The constraints of a rhetorical situation can be categorized into two groups: those that are originated or managed by the rhetor and their method, and those that are operative. They consist of people, events, objects, and relations; all with the power to restrict any decision or action needed to make change. The sources of these constraints include beliefs, attitudes, documents, facts, images, interests, motives, and “the like” (Bitzer 8).
I was most intrigued by the notion of the first general characteristic of a rhetorical situation. On page 9, Bitzer states “Rhetorical discourse is called into existence by the situation; the situation which the rhetor perceives amounts to an invitation to create and present discourse.” Through this, he conveys the idea that change cannot come about unless there is an issue present. I found this interesting because not only does this concept apply to rhetorical situations, but to everyday life as well. If change is necessary, then, at its root is an urgent issue. Whether it be in situations as mere as a broken watch or as pressing as a school shooting, it is necessary for change to come through the words of a “rhetor.” This change can impact the lives of, not only the victims, but of the witnesses as well.