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“Joy” by Smith Zadie and “Peculiar Benefits” by G. Roxane: Rhetorical Analysis


For a better understanding of any information, one should describe or analyze and compare. Thus, two essays were selected for the current analysis, which would be analyzed and compared in the context of its genre, choice of authors, and conventions. The rhetorical situation would be determined by the desire of the authors to convey their reasoned point of view. The rhetorical circumstance is the writer’s interaction with a particular collection of variables at the time of writing (Buck 24). The objective, the audience, the viewpoint, the genre, and even the media are examples of these characteristics. Each of these factors may and will certainly alter from one writing work to the next.

As a result, the writer must begin by contemplating how the exact scenario may define the aspects and identify the aim or viewpoint on the matter. If the writer wants their work to be successful, they will base their selection on these factors. A genre refers to an artistic, musical, or literary creation distinguished by a distinct style, shape, or content (Buck 124). The genres of the selected works are narrative essays of Joy by Smith Zadie and Peculiar Benefits by Gay Roxane. These genres seem to “speak to each other”; namely, they echo the theme of the peculiarities of human life. Therefore, the goal is to analyze the genres of works, compare them and describe their literary features and genre specifics.


The genres of the selected works are narrative essays, although one can also describe them as informative and persuasive ones. Though there are plenty of excellent articles available, still, in my opinion, Peculiar Benefits by Roxane Gay and extracts from Joy by Zadie Smith are two of the most unusual and eye-opening examples of unspoken difficulties in America. Throughout each piece, both authors share commonalities and contrasts. Comparing and contrasting how the authors employ their writing style to achieve their goals in the subjects they discuss offers us a better understanding of similarities and differences.

Usually, a genre is composed of four elementary parts, including setting, plot, story, and character, making them flexible. It is formulated by the presence of a broad topic, which was analyzed from the writer’s point of view and by the new information and its argumentation. Genre conventions of the genre include setting, theme, descriptive language, characterization, and point of view. Thus, in Peculiar Benefits, Haiti as the place and childhood as time were the settings where some authors’ views were formulated (Gay 17). The clues for the conventions might be noticed, for instance, in Joy in such phrases as “if you asked me…” or “and though it is true…” and “was it joy? Probably not” (Smith 5). These phrases are signs of a narrative and informative essay, as they show the author’s meditation, way of thought, and communication with the audience.

In some ways, the genres of both pieces are comparable. Both make use of personal narratives. Roxane Gay uses an anecdote in Peculiar Benefits, writing on her experience in Haiti. “I remember my first visit, and how at every junction, men and women, glistening with sweat, would surround our car, their slim arms spread out, hoping for a few gourdes or American dollars,” she writes (Gay 22). I saw the enormous slums, shanties housing entire families, rubbish piled in the streets, and then the beautiful beach. It wasn’t until many, many years later that I understood my education on luxury began long before I could appreciate it in any meaningful sense” (Gay 22). By the end of the anecdote, she has made an excellent transition to discussing how she discovered her privilege as a black woman in America.

Though these pieces share many similarities, they differ in some ways. Gay’s articles discuss privilege, while Smith discusses how the system is failing, how unfair it is, and required change. Gay attempts to explain to her readers in Peculiar Benefits that having certain privileges does not imply you don’t struggle with other things. In addition to learning about the privileges, you do have (Gay 22). She enlarged the brains of individuals who were unable to see their privilege. Her target audience includes everyone who believes that privilege is not required or that it doesn’t exist in the world, as well as those who are unable to check their privilege (Gay 24). Gay wanted everyone to know that they had an advantage somehow and that even if they don’t believe they have privilege, they should seek it within themselves.

Talking about the rhetorical situation, in the work of Roxane Gay, the exigence consists of the necessity to convey to people the values of their life. The author claims that if one cannot realize one’s privileges, then one needs to think about it a lot (Gay 22). The next element of the rhetorical situation is the audience, which plays a vital role in a narrative. In work, Roxane Gay addresses those who read or listen to a piece, thus, to an immediate audience. In the context of constraints, the author uses the knowledge that every reader probably has, namely, the individual’s life situation. For example, such possibilities or living conditions of the reader, as not every person has.

In the rhetorical situation of Joy, the author’s motivation is to convey to the reader the difference between joy and pleasure. Thus, the author believes joy differs from pleasure since joy contains the fear of ending these emotions (Smith 7). Speaking about the audience, in this case, it seems that the author was addressing both the immediate and the mediated ones. It is explained by the possibility of the author’s ideas being transmitted to direct readers and all people. In the context of the constraints, Zadie Smith used both the knowledge and beliefs of the audience. Thus, the writer turned to people’s knowledge about their feelings, namely, joy and pleasure, and used personal examples from life, for example, the action of drugs or love (Smith 4). In other words, the writer tried to depict to the audience that there will be no negative consequences after the end of the pleasure.

One may notice the connection between the exigence chosen by the authors and the essay’s genres. As already identified, the genres of works are narrative essays with elements of informative content. If one considers the chosen motivation (as part of the exigence), one may see that it has informative features. Namely, to apprise the reader about the difference between joy and pleasure, as well as the necessity to reassess your privileges. In the work of Zadie Smith, the settings were situations of the author’s feelings of joy: a situation in a nightclub or an example of love (Smith 4). All of these factors indicate the interconnection of the exigence of the works and their genres.

Talking about the similarities/differences of the selected artifacts, one can highlight several aspects. Firstly, the works are similar primarily in their genre (narrative essay) and the authors’ motivation (exigence). Namely, to convey a particular point of view to the reader, using the knowledge and beliefs of the audience and argumentation. In addition, the similarity is observed in the target audience of the works, namely the immediate audience. However, one may notice that the difference lies mainly in the theme of the works; in the essay of Roxane Gay, the social theme (unequal privileges and opportunities) was touched upon (Gay 22). In contrast, the author of Joy considered the topic of personal emotions and feelings. One might say that Zadie Smith involved a narrower and more personal topic.

Further, one may notice some clues about the similarities between exigency and the artifacts’ genres. Firstly, they lie in the very essence of exigence; as already indicated, the motivation was necessary to inform the reader. Such exigence demonstrates the signs of a narrative and informative genre, which are conventions of a genre. As a result, the essence of the exigence and the informative task of the genre are interconnected (Smith, 5). Moreover, the authors used some techniques inherent in the artifacts to keep the reader interested. For instance, the “hook” introduces the reader to the essential part of the work initially and then distracts from the topic to leave the reader engaged.

Teresa Thonney’s “Teaching the Convention of Academic Discourse” is vital to evaluate various writing forms. She discusses several instructional scholarly papers and suggests six moves adopted by every academic writing (Thonney 347). She mentions the Academic Writers State the Value of Their Work and Announce the Papers plan in one of her bullet points. This describes how writers “refer to what has been published about a problem to indicate that subject matters; another reason is to demonstrate that their study addresses a part of the issue that is still unresolved” (Thonney 347). Both Roxane Gay’s Peculiar Benefits and Smith’s passages from “Joy” raise an issue to be addressed. Both authors emphasize the relevance of the issues they are attempting to address by using personal narratives. Smith addresses his audience, and Gay uses the analysis to persuade her audience, and they both use that convention to demonstrate the seriousness of the subject they are addressing.

The moves I have catalogues differ greatly from the one I have made as a writer as the adopted moves have significantly emphasized on the relevance of the issues using personal narratives. In addition, the moves made as a writer largely focus on persuading my audience rather than the seriousness of the subject as I have catalogued. The key moves that I have made as a writer entail the voice of authority and announcing a plan for the work. To a greater extend, the rhetorical analysis of these narratives has granted me with newer ways of how to write. For instance, the narratives have equipped me with skills of rereading a discourse presented with and examining a paper once more before beginning the writing process. In addition, my understanding on how to fix grammatical errors has been heavily boosted as I can easily identify such errors and fix them appropriately.

In both genre articles on Peculiar Benefits and Joy, the authors have adopted the following moves: “Writers state the value of their work and announce the plan for their papers and writers adopt a voice of authority” (Thonney 347). This is evidenced by the fact that the authors have raised various issues that need to be addressed, emphasizing the relevance of the issues using personal narratives. For example, Roxane presents new perspectives on people’s various privileges and how to use those privileges for practical reasons (Gay 27). Throughout the essay, Gay describes how privileges are severely skewed in our culture by recounting her childhood experience and defining “privilege”(Gay 22). She explains how people should choose to have the attribute of recognizing and appreciating their privileges as well as the privileges of others rather than merely denying or being defensive about their privileges.

In the final section of the essay, she encourages her readers to recognize and embrace their privileges and use them to benefit the oppressed class. On the other hand, Zadie Smith used both the knowledge and beliefs of the audience (Smith, 5). Thus, the writer turned to people’s knowledge about their feelings, namely, joy and pleasure, and used personal examples from life, for example, the action of drugs or love.


In conclusion, the analysis of the two selected works aided in a more profound understanding of genre and rhetorical situation. Thus, it was possible to find out the inherent elements of the narrative and informative genres. In addition, I managed to study how to find and highlight these elements in work. Further, there was an understanding of the points of the rhetorical situation, such as exigence, constraint, and audience. One may propose that the authors used the narrative genre, as it was most appropriate for their chosen topic. Considering that the topics involve reflection and analysis, the narrative and informative genre features seem most suitable.

Works Cited

Buck, David. The rhetorical situation: Essentials for ENGL-121. Howard Press Books, 2020. Web.

Gay, Roxane. Bad Feminist. Hachette UK, 2014.

Smith, Zadie. Joy. The New York Review Press, 2013. Web.

Thonney, Teresa. Teaching the conventions of academic discourse. Teaching English in the Two Year College. Harvard University Press, 2011. Web.

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StudyKraken. (2022, October 29). “Joy” by Smith Zadie and “Peculiar Benefits” by G. Roxane: Rhetorical Analysis.

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"“Joy” by Smith Zadie and “Peculiar Benefits” by G. Roxane: Rhetorical Analysis." StudyKraken, 29 Oct. 2022,

1. StudyKraken. "“Joy” by Smith Zadie and “Peculiar Benefits” by G. Roxane: Rhetorical Analysis." October 29, 2022.


StudyKraken. "“Joy” by Smith Zadie and “Peculiar Benefits” by G. Roxane: Rhetorical Analysis." October 29, 2022.


StudyKraken. 2022. "“Joy” by Smith Zadie and “Peculiar Benefits” by G. Roxane: Rhetorical Analysis." October 29, 2022.


StudyKraken. (2022) '“Joy” by Smith Zadie and “Peculiar Benefits” by G. Roxane: Rhetorical Analysis'. 29 October.

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