Throughout history, many speeches have been studied and scrutinized for their rhetorical effectiveness. The way this is done by examining how clearly the message was received by the decoder and the overall emotional response. The concept that essentially gages this is audience. Audience can be defined as all who receive the rhetor’s message, whether it be those who are present (immediate audience) those who hear it later (mediated audience). Essentially these two distinctions of when the speeches are being absorbed are important to the interpretation of the speech: an immediate audience may agree with the rhetorician because at that time they had the same viewpoints as the rhetorician, while the mediated does not, and vice-versa. Additionally, audience is a key element when constructing a speech because it allows the message to be constructed with their “needs, expectations, and interests” in mind. Keeping this in mind, you can take other elements of rhetoric and pair them with the character description of the audience to be more effective rhetorically. For instance, if you are a conservative politician speaking to a group of liberals, scholars would note that for the speech to be very effective, the politician must craft a speech that appeals to their interests and values while also influencing them to vote for him during the election. Finally, it’s key to note “whether the audience has familiarity of the issue/topic that they are hearing about.” If you come from a different background or have experiences that the majority cannot relate to, the rhetorician must take that into account when constructing their speech for the audience. They must explain the experience by applying pathos and ethos in a way that, despite the issue not being applicable to everyone, there can still be a shared sentiment of understanding amongst all parties.
In Maria Stewart’s speech audience plays a key role in allowing us to understand her choice in lexicon, rhetorical devices, and the tone she sets when crafting her speech. She takes the horrible experiences that she has as a slave to construct a personal account (ethos) that is pertinent to her people and establish reliability. Additionally, through certain rhetorical devices such as erotema and anaphora she direct encourages the mistreated audience to push back against what is being done to them while also shifting to the “guilty” audience and having them directly confront the effects of their actions: lack of progression in the colored community, lack of education, and lack of freedoms for women. Therefore, this paper argues that Maria Stewart addresses her audience on issues of race and gender through rhetorical emotional appeals and experience. To provide some context as to whom Maria Stewart is crafting her speech for, it’s imperative to note the background.
The speech was written during the civil war era and addresses issues of race and gender. Maria Stewart being both a woman and person of color, she was essentially a double minority with limited rights and privileges. She has been revered by scholars for being “the first African American woman to deliver a speech in front of a promiscuous audience.” During this time, women were not allowed to speak up in front of a crowd, much less one that comprised of men and women. She first read allowed her speech in front of the “African-American Female Intellegence Society” in front of many women of a similar background. The second time she read it allowed it was in front of a mixed audience, both men and women were present as well as people from mixed races. The interesting formatting of Maria’s speech comprises of her directly addressing the audience that comes from her background and has the same problems to revolt, while indirectly speaking to the society that is responsible for their oppression. For example, in the 11th paragraph she explains that from her bitter experience, servants and drudges are subjected to a lifestyle that results in the dumbness of the brain and the weakening of the soul.
By doing so she can directly speak to something that has been occurring over an extensive period and use it to explicitly inform the audience of the negative effects surrounding gender and racial inequality. Additionally, she is constructing her arguments surrounding her own credibility (ethos) as someone who has experiences the tolls that come with being in this societal position, she is able to create an account that is applicable to others, but also can be comprehended by others. Secondly, will crafting most her speech to cater to her people, she also employs her meticulous illustrations and intimate accounts to speak to the society that oppresses her and others by holding them accountable to their actions. In paragraph 4 she makes a very calculated decision in speaking to how she has asked other women if they would provide an equal opportunity for her and the others, noting that they would like to help but cannot because of societal constraints. In this example, we see Maria making the comparison that both are women and face similar challenges, but due to their difference in race they are still not treated at the same level of discrimination.
Finally, through her use of specific rhetoric tools to appeal to both audiences. The first being erotema (rhetorical question) in the first line of the speech “Why sit ye here and die?” This is imperative to note because it sets the tone of the speech, she is essentially using this rhetorical device to prod the audience that has her background into taking action, something she later does at the end of her speech when she asks “have you made a powerful effect?” bringing everything full circle. Finally, with her use of anaphora (repetition of a phrase) in paragraph 11 “Look at our…”she is having the complicit audience examine how their actions also are full circle because the system of oppression is generational it ranges from the young to the old.