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Arias Rivera 1

Frida Arias Rivera

Dr. Tarnoff

ENGL 1A

8 October 2018

Rhetorical Analysis Introduction

Three days after Charlie witnessed his mother’s boyfriend nearly killing his mother,

causing him to shoot his mother’s boyfriend and arrested, Bryan Stevenson met with Charlie in

jail. However, at this meeting “[Charlie] never smiled or responded; he just continued looking at

the spot on the wall, his face frozen in sadness” (Stevenson 123). Charlie is silent when being

offered help for everything he has been through; why does he stay silent and why does Stevenson

focus on this so much? This story shows the reader the trauma that the fourteen-year-old had

been through due to the flaws in a system that was supposed to protect him. There is a symbolic

reason as to why Stevenson includes three pages of Clarie being silent. Many people remain

silent on the flaws of the prison system–people do not speak up about the injustices that occur in

the justice system. Many times, its difficult for the people affected to speak up themselves. This

story is one of the many reasons as to why Stevenson is writing this books and it is so effective

because of the rhetoric that is used. Throughout the book, Stevenson applies to pathos to connect

to the reader. He does this through storytelling and imagery. He applies to pathos by telling

stories and connecting those stories to statistics.

Stevenson focuses on being the change and calling out the cycle of injustice among the

justice system, especially people who are wrongly convicted of crimes. He motivates the reader

to take action on those injustices. Stevenson uses the appeal to pathos to connect to the reader's

emotions by sharing the stories of the clients and families he has chosen to help and support. The
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story that impacted me the most in this reading was Charlie's story on pages 117-120. Stevenson

shares the night leading up to Charlie's arrest. Though it was only one night of Charlie's life, so

much detail about the type of person Charlie is that as a reader, I was able to sympathize heavily

with Charlie. Those three pages said so much about the kind of life Charlie live that as a reader, I

was hurt and angry when I got to the part where Charlie breaks down due to the experiences he’s

had in his three days in jail. This story made me truly feel for Charlie and made me realize the

severity of the problem that Stevenson presents. The reading is more empathetic and

understanding of Charlie because we see a different side of him which cause frustration when

reading about how the judge who convicted him sees him.

The story of Charlie is just one of many that examples of how Stevenson uses

comparisons to get his point across. Chapter 8, All of God’s Children, consists of three different

cases in which children were tried as adults. Stevenson focusses on the common theme among

these children was that their upbringing because it affects their later actions and played a part as

to why they were in the situations they were in. Stevenson presents the background of the

children before sharing the crime they committed. Unlike the judges, Stevenson considers their

past before talking about the crime. It is important the Stevenson focuses on their background so

much because it makes the reader feel for the children. It also goes back to the beginning of the

book where Stevenson claims that a person is not the worst thing they have ever done. These

stories emphasize Stevenson's point. It creates empathy for the criminal and makes you think

about them in a different way which it what Stevenson is trying to do. It is effective or whatever.

Bryans personal experiences also help show the seriousness of the problems and the

amount of dedication it takes to fix the problem. In Stevenson's first visit to someone on death

row the person at the front desk comments, “you're not local” (8). I feel that Stevenson mentions
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this to show his progression from never being to death row to have to witness the death of one of

his clients. In almost every chapter, he is visiting someone on death row or describing death row.

He never stops fighting for injustice. He even experiences injustice when he is trying to enter the

prison from a racist guard. On page 194 the struggles which further motivate the reader to do

something about the injustices. This brings up a new concern, the guards themselves. While

guards behavior and monitorization not the focus of the book, it is a problem mention that

frustrates the reader and a new problem for the reader to explore. Stevenson’s experience brings

awareness to the bigger problem-the people and how they are being treated, especially those who

are wrongly convicted do not deserve this treatment.

Throughout the book, Stevenson presents different court cases that are related to the case

that he is working on. He primarily refers to these court cases to predict the outcome of the case

he is working on and to show how the law has developed over time. The facts of each case show

the audience the time Stevenson has invested in his cases and how he works for the best outcome

for his clients. He works on improving from past injustices to help his cases. Stevenson also

brutally presents incarceration statistics throughout the book to deepen the readers understanding

of the injustices that happen daily. To show how the prejudice within the justice system,

Stevenson shares that “65 percent of all homicide victims [in Alabama] were black, [but] nearly

80 percent of people on death row were there for crimes against victims who were white” (142).

In other words, crimes against a white person are taken more seriously and usually treated

harsher if the person committing the crime is black. The racial bias in the courts causes the

reader to think about the actual progression we have made since the segregation era and how this

plays a role in our daily lives. Stevenson does not ease into this statistic, presents it for what it is
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which creates realness in the statistic. For me, this made the situation more real and kept

reminding me that this is not just a story written to prove a point- they are real events.

Byran Stevenson claims that “this book is about getting closer to mass incarceration and

extreme punishment in America” and how “easily we condemn people” and the history behind

what was done. There is a greater meaning than simply educating the audience- it educating the

audience on things are see and bad to talk about and makes the reader question and reflect your

own beliefs and morals. The sense of humanity one sees to anyone really, from a racist to a

vulnerable inmate.