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A Descriptive Analysis of Nigger: The Meaning of a Word by Gloria Naylor

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A Descriptive Analysis of Nigger: The Meaning of a Word by Gloria Naylor

What is the rhetor’s purpose?

In the essay “Nigger: the meaning of a word” Gloria Naylor discusses the essence of a word and how it can mean different things to different people in a myriad of situations. Depending on race, gender, societal status and age Naylor outlines how a word like ‘nigger’ can have different meanings within one’s own environment. Naylor discusses how a word can go from having a positive to a negative connotation merely due to how it is spoken and by whom. Naylor shares a personal experience with her audience as she describes the first time she really “heard” the word ‘nigger’. A young white boy in her third grade class spit it in her
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What it the rhetor’s tone?

Naylor assumes a matter of fact tone in her writing. She does not demand or point her finger at any one group. She simply relays her experience in such a way that you can’t help but think about what it must have been like for her as a young girl experiencing a new meaning of a word in such a way.

She does not take on a superior or subordinate tone; rather it is like she’s having a conversation with her audience as a peer. I find this very powerful because she achieves what she wants to in a subtle way. Naylor doesn’t lecture or blame she simply shares her experience.

How is the discourse structured?

The introduction is a frame for the rest of the writing to fill. Naylor discusses how language is the subject of her piece, and although the written word is what has kept her going throughout her life she still feels that the written word is inferior to the spoken. Her arguments in the introduction are clear and easily understood. She is portraying what how powerful she feels the spoken word to be. Naylor states, “Dialogue achieves its power in the dynamics of a fleeting moment of sight, sound, smell and touch.” (460) This helps the audience understand the power of a spoken word. Naylor takes the position that words either written or spoken don’t take on meaning until a consensus assigns one. Naylor states, “Words themselves are innocuous;
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