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Rhetorical Analysis of Gossip: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

In this paper I will be rhetorically analyzing a scene in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Within my rhetorical paper I will be depicting ethos, pathos, and logos and the effects which all three have on the audience members watching the scene as well as between the characters living out their lives through the scene. By using these three ways of analysis, I will be keying in on forms of gossip and how they affect the two groups mentioned. Lastly I will use gender as a lens when playing into the forms of gossip and their many affects. To understand the scene depicted in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, I will begin by introducing the Ya-Ya sisterhood. Since childhood, these four women (Viviane Joan 'Vivi' Abbott Walker, 'Teensy' Melissa Whitman, Necie Rose Kelleher, and Caro Eliza Bennett) have stuck together through all the evils and good times which their lives have brought them. Because of their strong friendship and love, they know things about each other that no one else would, and in this case that include Siddalee Walker, Viviane’s daughter, as well. The movie scene begins at a theatre in which Siddalee Walker is being interviewed by a TIME magazine writer on her upcoming play called “Dark Waters”. “Dark Waters” is a play Siddalee has written which portrays the story of growing up with her mother: Viviane Walker. While describing her childhood to the reporter, she mentioned details about her mom such as “she wanted a life bigger than a cotton farmer’s wife with four kids” and “… she knew how to handle a switch… or a belt”. Though Siddalee was simply explaining her life in a non-harmful, truthful way, the TIME magazine writer manipulated her words by explaining her family as having a “mother of a tap dancing child, abuser of a mother, and a distantly and emotionally absent father.” When reading these words the next morning, Vivi is filled with anger, swearing to never speak to her daughter again. As for Siddalee, she was filled with horror knowing that the words written on the magazine’s pages were over dramatized and, though partially true, did not come out in a way which represented her true feelings at all. With the foundation of lies and betrayal of the scene set, they both send each other burnt pictures


Rhetorical Analysis of Gossip: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood of each other, torn theatre show tickets, and even a dateless and placeless invitation for Siddalee’s upcoming wedding. With this terrorizing going on between the two, the Ya-Ya sisterhood (childhood best friends of Vivi) decide to step in and shine a light on the truth of not only the recent event with TIME magazine, but as well with the events that led Vivi to be the mother and the wife she was during Siddalee’s childhood, and well as the one she is now “many, many moons later”. The Ya-Ya sisterhood decide to pay a visit to Siddalee’s house, and take her out to dinner. Little did Siddalee know, though, that their invitation to dinner was rather a kidnapping moment in which they would drug her beverage and take her with them to Louisiana. When Siddalee awoke the next morning from her heavy slumber, she was enraged knowing they had kidnapped her for the sole purpose of making things better between her mother and her. Here, though, Siddalee will learn about her mother’s life growing up, explaining the motive behind her ways of being the woman Siddalee remembers in her memories. The scene ends with Siddalee taking a look into the past, and remembering a happy moment between her and her mother, showing the audience that though negativity may fill the air at the moment, there is still good in the past which shows true love. In this paper, I will be analyzing the effects in which ethos, pathos, and logos have on the audience, purpose and angle of vision when looking back at the scene. Beginning with the audience and their perspective of the movie, it is clear that from the beginning of the scene Siddalee’s point is to grasp the audience’s attention by relating with her description of her mother and the way she was detailing her past. By her tone of voice and then dark lighting of the room within the scene, it allows the audience to really become one with her and relate to her, almost even feeling as if they were her. With this, we can also predict that the movie is meant for an older audience, one that can reflect on their childhood or past with their family and one that could possibly even compare to the life Siddalee is trying to portray. This connection creates a strong essence of ethos between Siddalee and the audience watching the scene. Being able to trust what Siddalee is saying about her childhood and the words she uses to describe her mother, the audience knows that she


Rhetorical Analysis of Gossip: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is being honest and is passionate about her past. We are also aware of Siddalee’s truths by the many flashbacks that are present throughout the movie. That is why when Vivi is faced with reading the cruel dramatized lies written by the TIME magazine writer the next morning, the audience can become just as offended as Vivi was, and just as shocked and partially humiliated as Siddalee was. What makes the audience feel so in touch with the characters is the way this part of the scene is shown: as Siddalee is being interviewed by the TIME magazine writer, and she is speaking about her past, the scene is also showing her mom reading the article the next day: almost as if the words coming out of Siddalee’s mouth were the words her mother was reading at the time. Based off of the flashbacks which occur in the scene, showing the exact events which Siddalee is speaking about, we can feel a strong sense of ethos, as we have proof of the reasoning behind the chaos and thoughts, as well as an explanation behind them. This is also a great part of the scene where pathos is extremely prevalent not only for the audience members watching, but as well for both mother and daughter. When looking at the audience’s view of the scene, pathos consists of shock and laughter, as both characters voice their despair with humor. Though everyone is feeling many different types of emotions and has good reasoning behind why, I believe the audience can stand behind Siddalee more than they can with Vivi. This is mostly because we as the audience were able to see the interview and know that really happen, whereas Vivi has no clue of the truths behind the interview or the TIME magazine article on Sidalee’s “Dark Waters.” As Vivi dramatically and loudly cries and sobs over the article, making a scene out of what was just written, you notice a very well played out gender role. Vivi is showing what it is to be portrayed as a woman: weak, crying, and overly dramatic. As she does this, though, this gender role is strengthened by her husband, “Shep”, as he stands behind her with not one sign of emotion on her face, as if use to her overreaction, and showing that sense of masculinity, just as his gender role “should” be. Now that the beginning of the scene has played out, the audience is now attached to the Siddalee and Vivi in a very personal way through the sense of ethos and pathos. As the scene continues, the Ya-Yas are officially


Rhetorical Analysis of Gossip: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood welcomed to the screen. By their extreme sense of comfort and authority based off of the drama which is playing out in front of them, the audience is again happy to see these friends, once again filling that sense of ethos, letting the audience know that it is okay to trust this group of old ladies as well as trust the plans which they have set up for Siddalee and Vivi. When finding the logos used within the movie, many stories of times past are used with flashbacks and memories. By using these, the audience as well as characters learning new stories of the past, can come to a moment of realization as they discover a new twist and motive behind the plot of the movie, and behind Vivi’s true emotional past and present. As seen in this rhetorical essay, the characters in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood show a love, trust, and bonding that allows not only gives the characters a sense of ethos, pathos, and logos within the movie, but as well as stronger feel of ethos, pathos, and logos to the audience becoming attached to the storyline. By using these three rhetorical styles, the audience was able to connect with Siddalee and her memories, as well as relate to the humor and admire the dedication put in by the Ya-Ya sisters to want to rescue Vivi and Siddalee’s relationship. These are the hooks which give the reader the urge to continue watching the movie and seeing what happens next in the story’s plot.


Project 2