Rhetoric in Movies
Rhetoric and movies have coexisted within each other ever since the first showing of a moving picture on the big screen. Movies, particularly Saving Private Ryan, could not have delivered a single message to its audience without the use of rhetoric. Saving Private Ryan is a classic movie to watch whether a person lived through the nineteen nineties or not. As being a nameless time-honored work, Saving Private Ryan influences and challenges many people’s outlook on life. To be able to do so, Saving Private Ryan uses persuasive rhetoric.
In particular, George Marshall, a character in the movie, targets the moral and the ethical side of humans and wants support in disregarding logic and doing what is morally right. With this intention, Marshall effectively delivers Saving Private Ryan’s rhetoric through the heavy reliance on ethos and pathos. For the purpose of context, Saving Private Ryan takes place in Normandy nineteen forty-four. Moreover, it is the brink of world war two. In the opening scene, the allies have just stormed the shores of Normandy, more popularly known as D-day.
There the story is seen through the eyes of Captain Miller and his second Ranger Battalion. The scene changes as the battle of Normandy is over and all of a sudden, ends up in a communication room. In the scene, United States Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall, learns about the deaths of three brothers all on the same day. Marshall quickly finds out that there is another brother, Private Ryan, who is still alive. Under those circumstances, Marshall must make a call on whether or not to save Private Ryan, hence the title of the movie.
To get back to the point, Marshall assigns Captain Miller and an eight man squad to rescue Private Ryan and send him back home safely to his grieving mother. Undoubtedly, the importance lies in the moment when Marshall must choose on a course of action. To aid his decision, Marshall delivers a speech that strongly influences his staff to pursue after Private Ryan. His speech has strong ethos, the ethical argument, because he references a letter from Abraham Lincoln concerning a similar predicament.
Lincoln stated, “I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. ” In other words, Lincoln was expressing his regrets on the situation, and by personally sending this letter, he wished to consolidate the grieving mother. Back then, Lincoln was not able do anything for the mother but Marshall, at that moment, has an opportunity to bring back the very last of her sons.
Marshall utilizes this opportunity to develop an ethical argument that debates between reuniting the mother with her son or doing nothing because war inevitably had loses. By going after Private Ryan, Marshall establishes ethos because he demonstrates good will and good moral character. He further strengthens his argument by bringing in a precedent of Abraham Lincoln. Because Abraham Lincoln was a very influential figure in history, Marshall, also, by referencing Lincoln, institutes credibility and further enforces ethos in his speech. At the end of his speech, Marshall says, “The boy’s alive.
We are going to send somebody to find him. And we are going to get him the hell out of there. ” This statement develops Marshall’s authority and gives more power to his character. Automatically, Marshall’s community standards are raised when he shows such high concern for the well-being of the soldier and his mother. In addition to ethos, Marshall’s speech uses pathos, the emotional argument, to stir up emotions. When Marshall references Lincoln, he quotes, “I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine that would attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.
” Marshall, through Lincoln’s letter, targets the emotions of love, fear, and sadness that the mother will experience if he does not take any action. He is able to employ those powerful emotions into the bold act of sending eight soldiers to rescue one. By stating “the grief of a loss so overwhelming”, Marshall is also able to gather sympathy that immediately empowers his persuasion. Because of his decision to rescue Private Ryan, Marshall not only is he able to emotionally conflict his audience, but also is able to develop an interesting storyline for the movie.
To put it briefly, George Marshall is able to persuade his subordinates to disregard any logic behind his decision. He uses ethos to gain his moral appeals, the upholding of community standards, and credibility, the use of good moral. Alternatively, he uses pathos to invoke emotions that, in return, make his persuasion easier. As a whole, Marshall makes a very effective persuasion. This as a result, makes Saving Private Ryan an effective rhetoric for rejecting logic and pursuing the moral and ethical.