How Adichie engages her audience

Choice of words

In her commencement address at Wellesley College, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie uses mostly positive adjectives and adverbs, in line with the celebratory occasion: “wonderful introduction” (ll. 4-5), “ridiculously lucky” (l. 10), “beautiful acres” (l. 12), “proud alumnae” (l. 15), etc. This choice of words is appropriate because the speech is meant to inspire the newly graduates to embark on their professional life.

Nevertheless, there are also a few phrases that have a more negative meaning: “loud, unpleasant man” (ll. 30-31), “gender injustice” (ll. 56-57), “dark days” (l. 64), “victimhood” (l. 72), etc. Such words are mostly related to discrimination against women and gender inequality and are meant to show the speaker’s disapproval of this situation, leading the audience to agree with this view.

Adichie predominantly uses first- and second-person pronouns in the speech. The first-person is used extensively, because the speaker uses various personal stories to present her arguments: “I knew from this personal experience, from the class privilege I had of growing up in an educated family…” (ll. 81-83). The second-person address has the purpose of engaging the audience, making them feel important and involved with the topics of the speech: “Don’t let it blind you too often. Sometimes...

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