Burke’s phrase mainly gives the idea of identity as a simple persuasive way by putting the character in the very same shoes as the person the persuasion is directed. This, as he states, entails the use of speech, tone, gestures, order, attitude, idea, and image to identify with the person being persuaded (Burke, 1950). Scriptwriters, film directors, and novelists employ the use of Burke’s idea of identity in their persuasion aims as exemplified in the movie the Shawshank Redemption.
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The Shawshank Redemption exemplifies excellently the use of identity as a persuasive tool with the parole of Elis Boyd Redding (Red). Red identifies with the crime and brings about regret in the way he handles the last chance he has with the parole board. He has created an identity with the audience throughout the movie by treating other inmates with respect and gaining respect from other inmates and non-inmates.
Red has the task of persuading the parole board to accept his application for parole. He does this marvelously through assumption of an identity that the parole board identifies with a repented criminal. He uses a regretful tone as he gives the delivery “I look back on the way I was then, a young, stupid kid who committed a crime.” This tone shows conciliation with his past that leaves the parole board stunned. It is the assumption of the identity that works best as Burkes idea of tone and a means of persuasion is in a best way shown.
Red persuades the parole board using a resigned attitude of not being in a position to undo the mistakes of his youth. This identifies well with the parole board as the crime was committed in is youth and that he has accepted his mistakes and is changed for the better when he talks of not being able to talk to the “stupid kid who committed the crime.” This exemplifies use of attitude in identity to persuade as Burke gives in his definition of identity as a form of persuasion.
In his parole speech, Red identifies with the parole board using rhetoric and logical reasoning to persuade the parole board to grant him parole (Brock & Green, 2005). Red logically reasons that he cannot be able to talk to the kid who committed the crime since the kid is long gone. He reasons that what remains is “this old man”. He accepts that he is got to “live with”, which identifies him to the torment he has gone through for many years in prison that persuades the board to offer him parole.
Red also identifies with the audience persuasively through his attitude and mannerisms. He treats his fellow inmates with respect and was ethical, hence, gains respect from everyone. Through his identity of image, he projects an ethical old man frustrated with being denied parole for many years and the pessimism is not lost on the video audience and the parole board (Brock & Green, 2005). He identifies with the board on pessimism due to the many times his parole has been rejected that persuades them to accept his parole and save him years of anguish.
On identity in idea, Red exemplifies a classic identity of an old man who has come to terms with his past and repentant of the sins of his youth (Larson, 2012). He regrets of his committing the crime and laments of inability to take it back identifying well with a person who needs parole. His use of gestures gives the board a conviction to the change and transformation from a crime lover to an ethical old man, changed by the system and harmless to the world (Larson, 2012).
Identity, therefore, through use of speech, tone, gestures, order, attitude, idea, and image act as a simple persuasive technique as shown by Red in the Shawshank Redemption.
Brock, T., & Green, M. (2005). Persuasion: Psychological insights and perspectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing.
Burke, K. (1950). A Rhetoric of Motive. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Larson, C. (2012). Persuasion: Reception and Responsibility: Reception and Responsibility. New York: Cengage Learning.