Rhetorical devices

The essay “No Death Penalty, No Easter Bunny” by Colin Cohen is mainly built on irony and sarcasm, but there are also a few other rhetorical devices worth paying attention to and which we outline ne…

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Allusions

As opposed to direct references when the writer explicitly mentions literature, events, or a person, an allusion is an indirect reference to people, situations, or literature. Allusions are typically used for the purpose of providing a context, creating imagery, and to support the writer’s arguments.

An example of allusion from the essay is “After all, Christ received the death penalty” (p. 69, l. 27), which is an indirect reference to Jesus Christs being sentenced to death by crucifixion. The allusion is meant to support the writer’s argument that the death penalty is in line with Christian values.

Another allusion is “provide a water basin for contestants to wash their hands af…

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Direct references

Cohen uses numerous direct references to Biblical texts and events. Firstly, he makes references to Christianity and Easter traditions, as the source of capital punishment: “…the death penalty lies at the foundation of the Christian religion; and without such a policy, we would not only be without Christianity, but we would also be without Easter Bunnies.” (p. 68, ll. 6-8). The writer’s purpose is to use religion to create ethos (authority, credibility) and promote capital punishment.

Cohen gives specific examples of how the death penalty was an instrument of punishment for God according to the Old Testament: “We really didn't need the death penalty, as God took care of it Himself, such …

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Analogy

An analogy is a type of comparison in which the writer uses one event to describe another, to create imagery and associations for the readers.

On two occasions, Cohen makes analogies between Nazism and the use of death penalty: “But as the Nazis so eloquently affirmed, it is far better to punish ninety-nine innocent people than to let one guilty one go free.” (p. 70, ll. 11 -12); “We could revive Zyklon B – …

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Antithesis and paradox

Antithesis means creating opposition between ideas, people, and things. The general purpose of antithesis is to keep the reader focused and to promote one of the two elements that are in contrast. A paradox is a claim that contradicts itself.

When Cohen mentions that “the death penalty is humane” (p. 70, l. 28), he creates a paradox and an antithesis, as killing someone can hardly ever be considered humane. The…

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Irony, sarcasm, and satire

Irony means the writer is describing something which typically conveys the opposite meaning of what is being said. Sarcasm is similar to irony, but its main purpose is to hurt or mock someone else. 

For example, Colin Cohen frequently uses sarcasm when he talks about those who are against the death penalty: “…mistakenly interpreted by well-intentioned sillies, wholly ignorant of where good intentions necessarily lead.” (p. 68, ll. 4-5); “While federal law and many state laws allow for the murder of villains, bleeding-heart judges and juries only apply it in…

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Enumeration, repetition, and tricolon

Repetition typically makes ideas more memorable and gives structure to the text. Similarly, tricolon (mentioning things in threes) further helps to make Cohen’s points stick with the readership.

In this essay, Cohen combines repetition with tricolon. He repeats the same word(s) at the beginning of each element of the tricolon. Here is one example: “Just think of all the glorious wars and crusades fought in the name of Christ, all the heretics b…

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