This rhetorical analysis essay focuses on analyzing a recent New York Times publication by Neil MacFARQUHAR, which appears in the issue of the New York Times of February 18th of this year. The publication is colorfully named “Where the Booze Can Kill, and Putin Is Deemed a ‘Good Czar’” (MacFARQUHAR, 2017). The publication appears to be aimed at throwing light on the life of people in a distant city Irkutsk, where at least 66 people have recently died due to consumption of alcohol containing liquid, which is traditionally taken for the substitute of alcohol drinks in the region. The drinks which these people had consumed apparently contained methanol instead of ethanol. Methanol is fatal for the central nervous system but somewhat cheaper; this is why somebody used it as a substitute of ethanol to bring down the cost price. However, the author, pretending to make attempts towards drawing a lively picture of the region’s everyday life, attempts to use various and numerous rhetorical devices to emotionally influence the reader and bring the reader to a conclusion, that the entire unfortunate situation in which the depressed region is currently found, is due to the sanctions. People are simply beyond the threshold of survival and even local intellectuals will oftentimes consume drinks similar to the hawthorn bath oil, to the consequences of consuming which the article is dedicated. This paper will illustrate this point by pointing at the most colorful examples of using rhetorical devices for this purpose. The author applies such devices as direct speech, epithets, metaphors, colloquialisms and some others to justify his position and emotionally impress the reader.

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The author begins to shock the reader with the very heading. It is a normal practice, however, for journalists to make attempts of attracting the attention of their readers by means of the headings of their publications. This one runs: “Where the Booze Can Kill, and Putin Is Deemed a ‘Good Czar’”. A pathetic heading, which emphasizes and brings into the focus quite normal things. It is obvious, that there are many places on earth, where people die because of drinking too much or due to drinking what should not be drunk. However, the author makes a point emphasizing the uniqueness of the region by referring to this quite occasional circumstance. And then he goes on by applying such rhetorical devices as colloquialisms (Booze) and metaphors (Tsar). It is obvious, that a serious NYT journalist, who aims to describe the situation in the region, is not necessarily expected to use colloquialisms. “Drink” or “Alcohol” would fulfill the service of simply describing the situation. Yet, quite evidently, the author is after something more than just independent description of the situation. He goes on with a metaphor, which, for a western reader, is associated with the wildness of Russian being – A Tsar, he cites a local citizen calling President Putin, and brings this quote into the title of the publication.
In general, the author of the article oftentimes uses quotations to justify his points. He oftentimes takes them out of the context or cites people, who due to their level of education or emotional state, may not necessarily be seen as experts in the field of political situation, international relations or health care. The author readily cites a cleaning lady, an elderly woman, mother of a recently dead man, who drank much and, eventually, drank poisoned alcohol: ““Everybody drank it because it was the cheapest,” wailed Zoya Mukhamadeyeva, 59, Mr. Mukhamadeyev’s mother, tearfully kissing childhood photographs of her only son” (MacFARQUHAR, 2017). This short passage, of which the publication has many, uses quite strong language, nearly unacceptable for the New York Times publications, and refers to an uneducated, emotionally stressed woman, as a source of statistical information regarding the percentage of people who drank the same substitute her son did.

Another device, which the author heavily exploits, is epithets. Instead of stating the facts in an indifferent manner, this journalist adds epithets almost to every second noun: “IRKUTSK, Russia — The overworked cleaning woman realized that her grown son was not just sleeping off his habitual hangover in the Siberian city of Irkutsk when she discovered — to her horror — that he had quietly gone blind.” (MacFARQUHAR, 2017). The woman is “overworked”, the son is “grown” his drinking session is referred to as hangover and a “habitual” one to that. Lastly, the man is not even allowed to simply turn blind, he necessarily has to “quietly go blind”. All this is done in order to bring the reader to the main conclusion of the article, which, however, is not located at the end not to be seen as a forced conclusion: “Since oil prices plunged in 2014 and the West imposed economic sanctions over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Russia has been mired in a grinding recession that has lowered living standards throughout the country. For many people, this has meant exhausting savings, cutting back on expensive items like meat and fish, growing their own vegetables and — tragically, in the case of Irkutsk — buying cheap vodka substitutes.”

In general, the text is quite readable, and the use of rhetorical devices by the author only adds liveliness, allows the text flow smoothly, however, considering the uninformedness of western readers regarding the situation in the region in focus of the publication, the author seemingly attempts to force significant impression upon the readers of his piece, to bring them to unnecessary and irrational conclusions. In general, the author seems to be quite successful at achieving his rhetorical goal.

  • MacFARQUHAR, NEIL. “Where the Booze Can Kill, and Putin Is Deemed a ‘Good Czar’”. New York Times, FEB. 18, 2017. Available online at