120 Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

When examining a non-fiction piece of content, be it literature, advertising, media promotions, or some other element of the written word, the term rhetorical analysis essay may be used.

This essay format examines the creator’s intentions and techniques to persuade the audience of a particular course of action or a specific train of thought. The rhetorical analysis essay also looks at how this message is delivered from the standpoint of style and tone, as well as other elements, including statistics, facts, anecdotes, and figures.

In its simplest definition, a rhetorical analysis essay is an article that has been written to examine the effectiveness of a content creator’s techniques and whether those techniques reach the intended goal.

Beyond the strict formatting and stylistic writing elements mandatory for this type of essay writing, students may find themselves challenged to create a topic that is interesting and relevant to analyze.

However, this list of 120 rhetorical analysis essay topics along with a guide on the critical elements of writing a rhetorical analysis essay will ensure that every student assigned this task can complete it successfully.

A Guide to Writing an Effective Essay on Rhetoric

One definition of rhetoric refers to the art or system of writing and speaking that seeks to persuade or convince an audience using effective, productive techniques.

A rhetorical analysis essay examines Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos, to determine which was used most effectively.


Ethos examines an author’s character and credibility. In a rhetorical analysis essay, the writer must assess whether or not the author has established trustworthiness through personal appearance and lifestyle choices, as well as educational background and career accomplishments.


This element of rhetoric is also known as logic. It examines how effectively someone’s argument makes sense to an audience. This includes statistics, facts, figures, and other information meant to support a central thesis.


This element of rhetoric involves an author’s use of emotionally-charged language to sway the audience. This includes the use of anecdotes, analogies, humor, and other details that tug at the audience’s emotions as opposed to their logic or reasoning skills.

One or all of these elements may be used in a rhetorical analysis essay, but the writer needs to determine which was used most effectively.

How to Write a Rhetorical Essay?

When it comes to writing a rhetorical analysis essay, students will want to ensure that they cover the five aspects of a rhetorical situation:

1. Purpose

The writer of any rhetorical analysis essay must determine the purpose of their message and whether or not it has been accomplished through their use of ethos, logos, and pathos in the target audience’s best interest.

2. Audience

The writer of a rhetorical analysis essay must also assess their audience and what that audience may understand or expect based on prior socialization and knowledge of the topic.

3. Genre

The writer of a rhetorical analysis essay must also determine what genre they are writing in, be it argumentative or expository. This dictates the type of information they will need to include in their essay and which elements of rhetoric they may focus on most effectively.

4. Stance

The writer of a rhetorical analysis essay must establish credibility and trustworthiness. This is done by establishing one’s ethos and refuting opposing arguments to show that their argument is the most logical and well-reasoned.

5. Method

What are the means of persuasion used in the essay? The writer must establish credibility by using logical arguments and evidence to support their claims and separate themselves from the opposition through refutation and deflection.

Outlining a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Rather than try to write a rhetorical analysis essay from scratch, it’s best to create an outline of the main points that will need to be covered in the essay to ensure that the writing stays on track. Outlines should include:

  • Introduction – Designed to hook the reader by providing context and background information for the topic. This should also include a strong thesis that will be supported throughout the rest of the essay.
  • Body – Includes three to five paragraphs that support that thesis with logical arguments and empirical evidence.
  • Conclusion – A brief paragraph summarizes the main idea and relates it to the introduction for a nice clean finish. It should end with a powerful or thought-provoking statement of the overall impact of the non-fictional content being examined.

120 Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics

With the fundamentals of a rhetorical analysis essay above and the many rhetorical analysis essay topics below, students should be well equipped to write a stellar rhetorical analysis essay.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics About English & Literature

  1. Shakespeare’s use imagery to support theme and mood in “Othello”
  2. The impact of the narrator’s tone on meaning and tone in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
  3. The use of foreshadowing in “Frankenstein”
  4. How Shakespeare uses the dramatic structure to influence the meaning and tone of Romeo and Juliet
  5. How Edgar Allan Poe builds suspense in The Tell-Tale Heart
  6. The use of irony in The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald
  7. Analyzing the mood created through imagery used in Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare
  8. The effect of symbolism in “Catcher in the Rye”
  9. How J. D. Salinger uses language to influence meaning and tone in The Catcher in the Rye
  10. Analyzing how William Blake creates a mood through imagery in Auguries of Innocence
  11. Menippean satire used in Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
  12. The use of symbolism in “The Picture of Dorian Gray”
  13. Disillusionment and cynicism encountered through dialogue and setting in The Great Gatsby
  14. Irony used to reveal theme and tone in Animal Farm by George Orwell
  15. How Louisa May Alcott establishes a mood and tone with descriptive language in “Little Women”
  16. Analyzing symbolism throughout Hamlet by Shakespeare
  17. The effect of setting on tone and mood in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  18. Language used to create a tone of alienation in 1984 by George Orwell
  19. Foreshadowing in Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  20. Symbolism throughout The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  21. The effects of genetic modification on individuality in Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  22. A comparison of individualism vs. collectivism in novels “Fahrenheit 451” and The Giver by Lois Lowry
  23. Genetic engineering’s impact on identity in Gattaca by Andrew Niccol
  24. Impact of the dramatic structure on tone and mood in The Crucible, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  25. How Stephen Crane uses symbolism to develop theme and tone in his short story “The Open Boat”
  26. The symbolism used to create atmosphere in “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
  27. The symbolism used to enhance tone and mood in Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  28. How Dr. Seuss uses word choice, imagery, and rhyme to create a tone of whimsy in Green Eggs and Ham
  29. Analyzing the use of hyperbole throughout Animal Farm by George Orwell
  30. A comparison of the tone and mood created in “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and “1984” by George Orwell
  31. Use of symbolism to enhance theme in Nightfall by Isaac Asimov

Rhetorical Essay Topics About Famous Speeches

  1. Rhetorical analysis of “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!”
  2. The impact of King’s rhetorical strategies on the Civil Rights Movement
  3. Rhetorical Analysis on Ronald Reagan Speech on Challenger Disaster
  4. How does Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s rhetoric build tension to create an aura of despair for African Americans in his “I Have a Dream” speech?
  5. Analyzing the impact of Winston Churchill’s rhetoric on England during World War II
  6. Rhetorical Analysis of Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!” Speech
  7. How effective was Lincoln’s use of logos, ethos, and pathos in his Second Inaugural Address?
  8. The influence of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Solitude of Self” speech on the women’s rights movement
  9. The effectiveness of John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in creating a new generation of American citizens
  10. How effective was Malcolm X’s “Message to the Grass Roots” speech in gaining black nationalistic pride?
  11. How does JFK contribute to the Cold War rhetorical strategies used in his Address at American University?
  12. Analysis on George W. Bush’s address to Congress after September 11, 2001
  13. George H. W. Bush’s speech on the Gulf War being a New World Order
  14. Analyzing Barack Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention Speech
  15. Analyzing Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address as President of the United States
  16. How does Barack Obama differ from Donald Trump in his use of rhetorical strategies?
  17. What makes the most effective presidential inaugural address, and why do you believe so?
  18. The use of inflection throughout Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech
  19. Structure and content of the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln
  20. The effect of Taft’s “A Time for Action” speech on his campaign
  21. How effective was Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” speech in ending World War I?
  22. Presidential rhetoric used to push America into WWI, WWII, and Vietnam
  23. Using a rhetorical analysis of a presidential speech to analyze the effectiveness of a president’s administration
  24. Presidential rhetoric used to justify U.S. involvement in WWII
  25. How effective was FDR’s use of pathos and ethos in his “Day of Infamy” speech?
  26. Rhetorical analysis of President Reagan’s “Star Wars” speech and its effect on the Cold War
  27. The effect of FDR’s “Four Freedoms” speech and whether it achieved its goal
  28. Analyzing the effectiveness of President Nixon’s Vietnamization program

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics About T.V. & Film

  1. How effective is the symbolism used in Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan?”
  2. A rhetorical analysis of Andrew Niccol’s “Lord of War” film
  3. Rhetorical Analysis of Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove”
  4. The effectiveness of Spielberg’s incorporation of the Holocaust into his films through a rhetorical analysis
  5. Rhetorical analysis on the symbolism in Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
  6. The symbolism used to create atmosphere in the opening scene of Ridley Scott’s “Alien”
  7. Rhetorical Analysis of the symbolism in Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar”
  8. The effect on the Cold War brought about by Hans Zimmer’s score for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar
  9. What is Spielberg trying to communicate about American values through his use of symbolism in E.T.?
  10. A rhetorical analysis of the effectiveness of “The Hunger Games” film series in communicating its message to society
  11. Rhetorical Analysis on Spielberg’s use of symbolism in “War Horse”
  12. How does Pixar’s movie Up contribute to the discussion over euthanasia?
  13. Rhetorical analysis on how Shrek communicates modern values through its story and symbolism
  14. Using a rhetorical analysis to determine whether or not the symbolism in “300” is empowering for women
  15. How does Tarantino’s use of violence contribute to his films’ success?
  16. The effect of negative imagery as used by Tyler Perry within the opening scene of “For Colored Girls.”
  17. The impact on society from Quentin Tarantino’s use of violence within his films
  18. The effect on society from the impact Quentin Tarantino’s use of violence has had on Hollywood.
  19. Analysis of how effective it is for Tyler Perry to include dialogue and monologue within his films
  20. How does the opening scene of “12 Years a Slave” contribute to the discussion about race relations in America?
  21. A rhetorical analysis of Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue in “Pulp Fiction”
  22. The effect that the symbolism in David Fincher’s “Fight Club” film has on society
  23. How does art house director Terrence Malick communicate the effects of war through a rhetorical analysis of his film, The Thin Red Line?
  24. Rhetorical Analysis on Terrence Malick’s use of symbolism in “The Thin Red Line”
  25. Rhetorical analysis of Quentin Tarantino’s view on violence as communicated through his films
  26. Analyzing the impact that the film, American Sniper, had on society regarding the War on Terror
  27. Analyzing how effective David Fincher is at directing horror films through a rhetorical analysis of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
  28. A rhetorical analysis of Tarantino’s dialogue in Django Unchained and its effect on race relations in America
  29. The effectiveness of David Fincher’s use of violence as a plot device in “Gone Girl”

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics About Advertising & Marketing

  1. How does the symbolism in Apple’s 1984 commercial influence its effectiveness?
  2. A rhetorical analysis of Chrysler’s Super Bowl ad, “Halftime in America”
  3. The symbolism used to communicate ideas about marriage in Nike’s 2013 commercial, “The Next Wave”
  4. The effect that the symbolisms used in Nike’s “Unlimited” commercial have on society
  5. How does Honda use rhetoric to influence the American public through its Fitnation campaign?
  6. Analyzing Adidas’ World Cup 2014 ad and how it works to sell Germany as a nation of winners.
  7. Using a rhetorical analysis to determine what effect the symbolism used in Nike’s “I am Tiger Woods” commercial has on society
  8. A rhetorical analysis of how the strategy used by Beats by Dre in their #HearWhatYouWant campaign works to influence the public
  9. A rhetorical analysis of the effectiveness for McDonald’s in its “I’m Lovin’ it” campaign
  10. Analyzing how Skittles uses symbolism in its commercial entitled, “#TasteTheRainbow.”
  11. A rhetorical analysis of Burger King’s use of a social media hashtag, #EatLikeAndy to market its product.
  12. The effectiveness of the symbolism used in Adidas’ “All In For #BETRUE” campaign
  13. Analyzing how effective Burger King’s use of social media was in their “Whopper Sacrifice” campaign
  14. The effect that the use of Sean Bean as a spokesperson has on Samsung’s product, Galaxy Note 3.
  15. How effective is Red Bull at using symbolism to market its product?

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Topics About Arts & Entertainment

  1. Analysis of how effective Iggy Pop is as a frontman in the music video “The Passenger”
  2. Rhetorical analysis on what makes Nirvana’s performance in “Smells Like Teen Spirit” so significant and influential
  3. A rhetorical analysis of Jay-Z’s use of symbolism, imagery, and irony to communicate ideas in his music video for “Big Pimpin”
  4. An analysis of how effective Tupac’s use of symbolism and rhetoric was in “Brenda’s Got a Baby” to communicate what life was like for African American women.
  5. Analyzing the effectiveness of Kendrick Lamar’s use of language and metaphor in his song, “Swimming Pools (Drank)”
  6. Rhetorical analysis on the symbolism and irony present in Jay-Z’s music video “99 Problems”
  7. The use of irony found in Beyonce’s song, “Partition”
  8. Analyzing how effective U2 was at using lyrics to communicate ideas about politics and justice.
  9. How does director David Lynch communicate violence and evil through a rhetorical analysis of his film, Blue Velvet?
  10. The effectiveness of Tupac’s use of irony and symbolism in his song, “Changes”
  11. A rhetorical analysis on how effective Antonio Canova was at communicating ideas about the past through a statue commissioned by Napoleon.
  12. How does Van Gogh’s Starry Night communicate ideas about the interaction between light, darkness, and the world as a whole?
  13. A rhetorical analysis of how effective Prometheus Rising is at communicating its point through symbolism and irony.
  14. How effective is The Beatles’ song “Eleanor Rigby” at using symbolism to make its point about life and loneliness?
  15. An analysis of Iron Maiden’s music video for “Number of the Beast” and how it works to communicate its point through symbolism and imagery.
  16. A rhetorical analysis on the effectiveness of using sexuality as a plot device in “Pretty Woman.”
  17. A rhetorical analysis on the use of irony and humor that is found in Miley Cyrus’ song, “We Can’t Stop.”

Rhetorical essays can effectively teach students how to analyze, understand and separate rhetorical elements of writing, speaking, and presenting the material. Be sure to combine these essay topics with the writing guide above to ensure that you get the grade you need on your rhetorical essay to pass your course and earn a degree.

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