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Brittany Maynard’s Testimony through Lenses of Aristotelian Rhetorical Theory

Introduction

The topic of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) has recently gained increased attention from the US public. One of the famous events that significantly determined such a surge in interest was Brittany Maynard’s death of dignity. Before receiving aid in dying in Oregon, Brittany videotaped the legislative testimony that was later played in California State Capitol, where the PAS legalization bill was introduced. Apart from being a crucial factor that determined the bill’s approval, the influence of Ms. Maynard’s speech spread beyond parliament walls and raised the voices of other terminally ill patients. Therefore, this essay seeks to analyze which aspects of Brittany Maynard’s testimony determined the successful communication of her ideas to the audience. In order to achieve that purpose, the study adopts Aristotle’s rhetorical theory.

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Theory review

Aristotle argues that any successful public speech should comprise of three vital components, namely logic (logos), emotion (pathos), and ethics/credibility (ethos). Logos is the rational proofs and arguments that the speaker makes, pathos is sentiments that the orator can evoke in the audience, and ethos is the trustworthiness of a person in the eyes of his listeners (West and Turner, 2021). Moreover, the philosopher maintains that a person should first understand to whom he is going to speak. Knowing the audience can help to choose the best arguments to address people’s worries and demands. Finally, Aristotle introduces rhetoric canons that provide further guidance on public speaking. They include invention, arrangement, style, delivery, and memory. Although the philosopher provided rather practical steps for delivering a good speech, they can also be used as instruments for analysis of the latter.

Study background

On January 1, 2014, Brittany Maynard was diagnosed with brain cancer. Despite efforts that were made to cure it, the disease progressed to the fatal point. Doctors predicted that Brittany just had six more months to live. Ms. Maynard decided to choose assisted dying to protect her dignity; however, it was illegal in California. Thus, she had to move to Oregon. In her legal testimony, Brittany sought to persuade parliament to legalize PAS in her home state. She started her speech with a personal story sharing her feelings about her condition. Then Brittany described how painful it was to leave her community and friends and argued that she was deprived of the right to choose where and how to die. Next, she explained the reasons for selecting PAS and what advantages it has compared to alternatives. At the end of the speech, Brittany provided more personal thoughts about her death and claimed to be happy to receive much support concerning her decision. Finally, she reinstated the thesis that she was deprived of the right to choose how and where to die, hoping that the situation would change in the future.

Speech analysis

The analysis of Brittany’s testimony through the lenses of the Aristotelian framework reveals that Ms. Maynard adopted all of the rhetoric rules that the philosopher suggested. By sharing her personal tragedy and feelings openly, Brittany gains credibility (ethos) from the audience to speak about PAS. Moreover, she constantly used emotional (pathos) words in her speech. For instance, she said, “I am heartbroken that I had to leave behind my home, my community, and my friends…” Additionally, she applied logical arguments that supported her decision and devalued alternative options. The balance that she tried to find between logos and pathos arguments shows that she knew her audience and understood how to persuade it better. Moreover, her thoughts are well-organized, delivered frankly with appropriate and memorable phrases chosen to describe her feelings.

Conclusion

The current analysis applied Aristotle’s rhetoric theory to uncover factors behind Brittany Maynard’s influential speech in support of PAS. It was found that she effectively used logos, ethos, and pathos as methods of rhetorical proof. Moreover, her speech was logically organized, consisted of strong and memorable words, and was delivered with sorrow and determination that only strengthened her message. Additionally, it was concluded that Ms. Maynard knew the audience that she addressed and could structure her speech best to persuade it.

Reference

West, R. and Turner, L. (2021). Introducing communication theory: analysis and application (7th ed.). McGraw Hill.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, August 3). Brittany Maynard’s Testimony through Lenses of Aristotelian Rhetorical Theory. https://studycorgi.com/brittany-maynards-testimony-through-lenses-of-aristotelian-rhetorical-theory/

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"Brittany Maynard’s Testimony through Lenses of Aristotelian Rhetorical Theory." StudyCorgi, 3 Aug. 2022, studycorgi.com/brittany-maynards-testimony-through-lenses-of-aristotelian-rhetorical-theory/.

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StudyCorgi. "Brittany Maynard’s Testimony through Lenses of Aristotelian Rhetorical Theory." August 3, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/brittany-maynards-testimony-through-lenses-of-aristotelian-rhetorical-theory/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Brittany Maynard’s Testimony through Lenses of Aristotelian Rhetorical Theory." August 3, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/brittany-maynards-testimony-through-lenses-of-aristotelian-rhetorical-theory/.

References

StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Brittany Maynard’s Testimony through Lenses of Aristotelian Rhetorical Theory'. 3 August.

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