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An Analysis of “Shooting Dad”

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An analytical approach is very important as it enhances one’s understanding of an essay. Notably, different approaches, rhetorical modes, and styles are used to present aspects of information that is deemed vital by the author so that the intended information is passed to the audience. Therefore, the purpose of this analysis is to evaluate whether the selected essay makes effective use of the major rhetorical mode it employs, which is mainly cause/effect.

Comprehensive evaluation of the essay

When examined carefully, the essay under analysis makes use of both narration in general and the cause/effect rhetorical model in presenting the author’s view about shooting video games. Although the narration model is a holistic approach that the author used to tell the story, she employed more specific cause/effect rhetorical models to make her points succinct. For example, the author used a cause/effect rhetorical model to recount the event that took place in Montana. She said that
During breakfast, my father heard a noise and jumped out of his chair. Grabbing a BB gun, he rushed out the front door. Standing in the yard, he started shooting at crows. My mother sprinted after him screaming, “Pat, you ought to check, but I don’t think they do that up here! (Vowell 153)

Perhaps, this was the scenario that the author used for creating the title of the documentary. The presentation shows a cause/effect occurrence in the house where the author was having her breakfast with the rest of the family. It is the noise that made the father jumped out of the room. Sensing danger, he carried his gun out and proceeded to shoot indiscriminately at crows. However, the author does not clarify why the crows were making noise. Moreover, the father’s action triggered the mother to follow him while screaming, perhaps, fearing that the man could mistakenly shoot unintended objects in their compound.

Another episode that depicted a similar rhetoric model was when she said that
It has been my experience that in order to impress potential suitors, skip the teen Debussy anecdotes and stick with the always attention-getting line “My dad makes guns.” Though it won’t cause the guy to like me any better, it will make him handle the inevitable breakup with diplomacy—just in case I happen to have any loaded family heirlooms lying around the house (Vowell 154).
In the passage provided above, the author was aware of the fact that in order to attract attention of potential suitors, she had to cause them to do so. Therefore, by referring to her father as a gun maker, she thought that potential suitors would handle her with extra caution, because mishandling the girl might have dire consequences. Possibly, this was a way of “intimidating men” for her benefit.

The author also used the cause/effect rhetorical model to justify that when they were left alone, it had an effect on them. Thus, they were able to hold the gun at will, which could not be the scenario when their dad was present at home. This is true when the author said: “So when Dad led us out to the backyard when we were six and, to Amy’s delight, put the gun in her hand, she says she felt it meant that Daddy trusted us and that he thought of us as “big girls.” (Vowell 154)

The author progressively used the cause/effect rhetorical model to emphasize that nothing happens without a cause. Thus, whatever happens, there must have been some significant gradual changes in a person or in the way events occur. This is shown when Vowell said: “We’re older now, my dad and I. The older I get, the more I’m interested in becoming a better daughter.” (Vowell 155) In this context, the author meant that advancement in age causes one to behave in a particular manner; thus, it has an effect on the way they relate with others. This is important because it shows that a cause and effect are complementary and will always trigger new ways of doing things or new beliefs.

Furthermore, the author effectively employed the cause/effect rhetorical model to show that a careful handling of some items could make them safer than in case they are carelessly used. She said: “Dad plunges his homemade bullets into the barrel, points it at an embankment just to be safe, and lights the fuse. When the fuse is lit, it resembles a cartoon” (Vowell 156). In this statement, the author attributed the safety of the fuse to the position where it was placed. She went further to indicate that lighting the fuse changed its effect, thus it looked like a cartoon.

In a different episode, the author used the cause/effect rhetorical model to point out a transition from one scene to another. She argued,
I haven’t changed my mind about guns. I can get behind the cannon because it is a completely ceremonial object. It’s unwieldy and impractical, just like everything else I care about. Try to rob a convenience store with this 110-pound Saturday night special, you’d still be dragging it in the door Sunday afternoon (Vowell 157).

Indeed, the change in perception was similar to a transition from a past viewpoint that was rigid to a more rational and flexible belief. This was possible whether it was viewed as ceremonial or non-ceremonial. Similarly, it is a change in mind that is treated as a cause and a new perception now becomes the effect. This means that the author was objective in the use of this rhetorical model to articulate her viewpoints about the life she enjoyed with the other members of her family through systematic changes.
The most critical part of the author’s argument and use of cause/effect was when she said the following:
I will have my father’s body burned into ashes. I will pack these ashes into paper bags. I will go to the mountains with my mother, my sister, and the cannon. I will plunge his remains into the barrel and point it into a hill so that he doesn’t take anyone with him. I will light the fuse. But I will not cover my ears. Because when I blow what used to be my dad into the earth, I want it to hurt (Vowell 158).

Essentially, the author used a number of cause/effect rhetoric models in various aspects such as what the death of her father would result in. For instance, she would burn and keep the ashes. This implied that she treasured her father and did not imagine that the death would make them part ways. The ash was to be used at a later date, meaning that she knew that it would cause a particular effect on people. She said that blowing the ash would hurt, and it was that impact that the author wanted to create.


As demonstrated in this comprehensive analysis, the author used various cause/effect rhetorical models in her story to show that nothing happens without a cause. Moreover, it is the cause that triggers a consequence or an effect, which may be predetermined or unprecedented. Thus, the essay proved a succinct and effective use of cause/effect as the major rhetorical model it employed.

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