Rhetorical Analysis “The Great Influenza” By John M. Barry

Rhetorical Analysis Essay: 2008 AP
Question 2 John M. Barry argues that scientists need to embrace uncertainty within the passage; he asserts that they need the courage and will to overcome the intimidating uncertainty of exploring new fields. With an honest and clear tone Barry highlights the divide between certainty and uncertainty in the passage, discussing the importance of “pioneers”, individuals who are willing to adventure into the unexplored to further their researches.
Courage and wit are indeed two crucial factors for the biologists, chemists, and engineers of today to further develop science; it is important to “probe” the unknown in order to search for answers, and it is important to embrace failure instead of fearing it, for mistakes and faults help in perfecting research techniques. In The Great Influenza, Barry employs extended metaphor, repetition, and juxtaposition to deliver his message on the need for scientists to explore the unknown.

Extended metaphor is used to highlight the intimidation brought from exploring undiscovered aspects of science, furthering her argument that researchers require courage. Barry claims that “real scientists” are “on the frontier” and must therefore “deal with the unknown” and develop “tools and techniques needed to clear the wilderness”.
He describes the harshness and fear-inspiring nature of conducting foreign and novel experiments by comparing it to a “frontier”, describing it as the “unknown” and the “wilderness”—“frontier” connotes a barren landscape, insinuating the vast and unexplored characteristic of performing ambitious researches, and “unknown” and “wilderness” imply fear and intimidation, deterring scientists away from furthering their hypothesis. In doing this Barry emphasizes that courage is a crucial requirement for scientists to have in developing science.
Furthermore, Barry mentions “shovel”, “pick”, and “dynamite” as examples of “tools one needs”. All of the utilities are used for grating and arduous purposes, which furthers the idea that scientists “must create . . . everything”; scientists must work diligently and face the challenges they are given with perseverance; to execute successful experiments one must preserver in the face of failure by utilizing whatever means of tools that is available, and by connecting this to the “wilderness” and “frontier” at the beginning, Barry suggests that scientists might be afraid of this ailure and onerous work. The extended metaphor portrayed the larger idea that scientists must be courageous in dealing with unexplored areas and topics.
Repetition was used to enforce the precarious nature of exploring new areas, insinuating that doing so required a strong mentality by researchers. Barry contends that even a “single laboratory finding” can destroy a seemingly monumental belief, saying that it “can also take one off a cliff”, while arguing that it is also beneficial in that it “can take them through the looking glass into a world that seems entirely different . . crystal to precipitate an order”. In repeating “single” and describing many effects that can arise from it, Barry reasons that even a small, isolated finding can destroy a monumental belief that had been upheld for a long time, and that scientists must readily acknowledge this. He also repeats the notion of fragility in using “sharp edge”, “glass”, and “crystal”, implying that new experiments are delicately balanced; he contends that such a brittle nature by intimidate scientists.
Barry introduces obstacles that must be overcome by scientists not only through a smart mind, but also through a daring heart. By juxtaposing the two mentalities of following a pre-established road and pioneering a new one, Barry argues that scientists need to have an adventurous and brave spirit to truly expand the horizons of current models and research techniques. He contrasts “Certainty” and “Uncertainty”, describing the former as “strength” and “something upon which to lean”, while distinguishing the latter as “weakness” and “mak[ing] one tentative if not fearful”.
From the very onset Barry describes two very different paths that scientists are faced with in facing “certainty” and “uncertainty”. These two significant but strikingly different ideas are posed as the difference between comfort and fear, and Barry argues that scientists need to push themselves into stepping into “uncertainty” and facing the possibility of disproving their own hypothesis, or the possibility of using the wrong equipment, or even the possibility of making a crucial mistake in order to further develop not only science but also their own research techniques.
Barry conveys his argument that scientists must overcome the obstacle of “uncertainty” and must be willing to embrace the fear that entails it through juxtaposing the two ideas of “uncertainty” and “certainty”. Through using extended metaphor and repetition to highlight the stark and intimidating conditions of conducting innovative experiments, and juxtaposition to emphasize how the difficult obstacles to overcome, Barry reasons that scientists not only need intellectual curiosity and bright wit, but also a courageous and adventurous spirit.
Today education is emphasizing on spoon-feeding children; it teaches children what to think, not how to think; standardized exams pressure students into abiding by “proven” methods, and creativity and critical thinking are left in the back seat. Barry’s dissertation on the necessary qualities of a scientist indirectly but gratingly points out this flaw within the system, admonishing us that at this rate there will be a lack of “investigators” or “pioneers” in the future.

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