Rhetorical Analysis of Man’s Search for Meaning

During the time around World War II, psychoanalysis had set its reputation in the field of psychology. Nevertheless, new theories of interpreting psychological factors arose and got new attention from the public – logotherapy was one of them. In Man’s Search for Meaning, the author explicated on his experience in concentration camp and the lessons derived from his sufferings. These things obtained him new insights about logotherapy as he explored deeper into the psychology of human beings.

Of course, the first part of this book took a long account telling the experience, but what’s more important is the three phases of the prisoners inside the concentration camp. “When one examines the vast amount of material which has been amassed as the result of many prisoners’ observations and experiences, three phases of the inmate’s mental reactions to camp life become apparent.” (P22) As Frankl observed the prisoners’ behaviors, he generalized them into three discontinuous segments, and took separated paragraphs to illustrate several examples of these phases. Moreover, the story was not written in chronological order, but rather in the form of different episodes that included different characters’ interactions. The full book itself is in first person, but besides the introspection Frankl took about his own experience in the concentration camp, it also encompassed other people’s thoughts about their own life’s meanings, as Frankl concluded from his observations: “It can be readily understood that such a state of strain, coupled with the constant necessity of concentrating on the task of staying alive, forced the prisoner’s inner life down to a primitive level.” (P40) Obviously, the author took his voice to convey the meanings that various factors implemented inside the camp might contribute to the mental disorder of the prisoners. By contrast, therefore, the author, having blocked the negative impacts of these factors, has gained the credibility of explaining what he envisioned about logotherapy.

The second part, being more naturally theoretical, describes his own psychological theory. In this part, Frankl explored on the way his school of psychology came into maturation, including his experiences of being a psychotherapist and his patients’ diagnosis. As he proposed several basic components involved in logotherapy, he also postulated this theory as similar but different from psychoanalysis: “Logotherapy, in comparison with psychoanalysis, is a method less retrospective and less introspective. Logotherapy focuses rather on the future, that is to say, on the meanings to be fulfilled by the patient in his future.” (P104) Through this explanation, Frankl successfully arrived at a new concept for the society to be learned, that is, looking forward to the dreams people have, and the motivation they inherently possess instead of neurosis. Compared to Freud’s relatively emphatic tone in The Interpretation of Dreams, Frankl tries to be communicative with the readers to introduce this seemingly sophisticated topic, thus making them readily capable of understanding his psychological theory’s concepts.

The postscript plunges into the optimism beyond tragic situations. As he mentioned, people suffers in different degrees, they have distinct views about their lives: some people are capable of coping with stressors while others are not. This distinction had given the readers a warning sign about their own attitudes toward living. Traumatic events and daily hassles all implement on the psychological well-being of men, so “the human capacity to turn creatively turn life’s negative aspects into something positive or constructive” (P139) is rather a fundamental part of Frankl’s ideal about tragic optimism. It is easy to observe this pattern during our learning of ideals of human emotion, stress, and health. Therefore, if the previous two parts are said to be describing his own psychological theory, the postscript answers the readers’ confusion of the theory’s application through connecting concepts of logotherapy to the general knowledge in the field of psychology.

Life has a meaning. Throughout this book, this central theme almost surrounds the entire text to testify different people’s fates inside the concentration camp, as they have diverged degree of hopefulness. Frankl often quoted Nietzsche’s maxim, “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.” (P5) This sentence emphasizes his belief that men possess the ability to choose what is meaningful in his life. There are also a lot of arguments inside the first part. For instance, love gives life meaning. As the Frankl thought about his wife in the concentration camp, he could be relieved from the hardships he experienced: He did not know about his wife’s status, but was rather empowered by taking the emotional burden he had for thinking of her. In author’s view, religion also gives life meaning, as individuals are aware of the assignments the divinity gives for them a reason to survive. What’s surprising to the readers, still, is Frankl’s idea that suffering gives life meaning. He was not frustrated with the will to meaning though he was in bad conditions. He suffered for his loss to honor something he once owned.

The intended audience, ostensibly, is those who have experienced intense stresses in any way. Just like what the author mentioned about his life in concentration camp and other patients’ accounts, they could, in some way, be connected to the powerful message of this book about dealing with those stressors. It also has certain identification with people who have other sufferings, such as oppression or persecution, though not physically implemented, could also hurt their feelings. They might find some ways to cope with the stresses through the exploration of this book. Nevertheless, even people with relatively easy lives could find ways to connect to this book. They surely have gained adequate success, and possibly possess need for achievement. However, Frankl still prompted them to find deeper levels of their lives’ meanings. We adolescents, who are susceptible to identity and role confusion, can also be enlightened by this book’s reflection on purposes of people’s life circumstances and choices.


Frankl, V. (1992) Man’s Search for Meaning (Fourth Edition.). Boston, MA: Beacon Press

Analysis of the Catcher in the Rye

One of the most well-known novels all over the world is called The Catcher in the Rye, which is written by Jerome David Salinger, a famous American author. There is no doubt that this book is extremely attractive because of its distinguishing plot. The story just happened in a high school student named Holden Caulfield. Although the duration of Holden’s experience is only about three days, David Salinger makes a lot of efforts and they make the story seem not so boring. He uses many rhetorical skills to explore the heart inside a teenager. Since the thoughts and experiences of the protagonist, Holden, identify with nearly all the teenagers at that time, this book became very famous among the readers especially young children and teens.

The main plot of the novel is always surrounds Holden. The reason why the plot is majorly about Holden because the author uses first person to tell the story. This method is very appropriate for us to know the feelings of Holden. Furthermore, every things are narrated by him, and these things are truly happened to himself. “I” is one of the words that usually appears in this novel, it will spontaneously brings some amiable sensation, and it is convenient for the author to express Holden’s emotion. It also reduces the distance between the readers and the protagonist and makes the plot more constructive. However, there are also some disadvantages of using the first person. Because of the limits of narrative, these things can only told by “me” that happened to “myself”. If something just happened to others and it is not be experienced by “me”, it may be harder for readers to understand other characters’ feelings about something. In my point of view, readers are more willing to read the innovative first person paragraphs. Hence, there are still more benefits than disadvantages.

Inside the story, there are also many symbols in not only the backgrounds or settings but also in some specific objects. For example, Pencey symbolizes the mainstream culture in the United States. In 1950s, American is in peaceful situation after so many dangers, and many modern productions make people just look like robots, their life is simple but not so colorful. Pencey is also that kind of production. It makes all the students like the same people. However, Holden is the example who is not satisfy with it. (page 4&5, chapter 1) At the beginning of this book, almost everyone in the school is watching the football game with a team called Saxon Hall. But Holden just stands on the top of Thomsen Hill and watches the crowd yelling or cheering. His attitude shows that he is not care about the mainstream culture, and this is one of the reasons why he will be kicked out of the school. On the contrary, New York is the symbol of subcultures. Inside this big city, many new cultures appear in each corners.

Many people might feel very embarrassed because of their individual appearances so does Holden. (page 11, chapter 2) Because of Holden’s half gray hair, he is a bit hesitated because gray hair means oldness. As an teenager, Holden has already know some adults’ principles and he even has some bad habits which are usually adults’, but he is also a bit childish. This maybe also why Holden feels very different from others.

Sally, one of the supporting characters, also is very important in the development of the plot. (page 138, chapter 17) From “She looked terrific.” to “I swear to god I’m crazy, I admit it.” It just seems that they fell in love with each other because Holden uses positive words to describe her. But after Holden offer to take Sally to be hermit. She can’t well understand what Holden means. They quarrel with each other. (page 149, chapter 17) In the end of this chapter, Holden uses some negative words to mock Sally. After all, Holden’s world is full of Sally, but this conflict makes him depressed. In my opinion, maybe their mind is not synchronized enough, and it is hard for them to communicate with each other. However, this thing really changed Holden a lot, and it tells him not to concern about this thing again, it’s no use.

And, as I can know from the book is that Holden is a very dissolute boy. In his own world, the most important thing is not studying. He just hope for the freedom. Though he often say some words that are not appropriate for us to say, this is his personality, this is him. Maybe some guys in the society are not be accepted by us because of their random behaviors, but we couldn’t condemn them. On the contrary, we have duty to protect them, and we need to lead them to a correct way. Also, from the story, Holden is not unconcerned about everyone. He has a little sister Phoebe. From the novel, almost every chapter has a very clear word “Phoebe”. Maybe the birth of this girl brings him many surprises and he treasures the noble possession—the vigorous life. He has the consciousness to take good care of his little sister, and he tries his best to make her happy. (page 220, chapter 25) From “Dear Phoebe” to”Love, Holden” this is a letter written from Holden to Phoebe. Although this letter is very short, only about fifty words, but it is filled with love and nostalgia. The content of this letter is that Holden wants to say goodbye to Phoebe and initiate his journey to the west. “I will give you your Christmas dough back. I didn’t spend much.” From the sentence, Holden offers some gifts to Phoebe and the diction is very friendly. I think it is fortunate of Phoebe that she has a very kind brother who always care about herself. And wherever Holden is, he always brings a lot of warmth to Phoebe. This novel also perfectly explain the emotion between the older brother and the younger sister.

According to the analysis and report I made, the paragraphs are mainly about the background of the author, the structure, the symbols, some details and some of my feelings about the book. During the course of reading, I can not only catch more literary terms but also know about the plot, and a very special teenager who is in old time. In conclusion, though there may be some inappropriate words such as “damn” or “hell”, after I finish reading, I feel that I become a bit more mature than before. And I believe it will encourage me in the rest of my life.