Rhetorical Question: Figure which asks a question, not for the purpose of further discussion, but to assert or deny an answer implicitly; a question whose answer is obvious or implied.


Can anyone look at the record of this Administration and say, "Well done"?

Can anyone compare the state of our economy when the Carter Administration took office with where we are today and say, "Keep up the good work"?

Can anyone look at our reduced standing in the world today and say, "Let's have four more years of this"?

-- Ronald Reagan, 1980 Republican National  Convention Acceptance Address

Note: Reagan was a particularly effective user of  "stacked" rhetorical questions.

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"It really is time to ask ourselves, 'How can we allow the rich and powerful, not only to rip off people as consumers, but to continue to rip them off as taxpayers?'"

-- Ralph Nader, 2000 NAACP Convention Address

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"Was not Abraham, our father, justified by works when he had offered Isaac, his son, upon the altar?"

-- James 2:20-21 (KJV)

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"But no one seems to mention morality as playing a part in the subject of sex. Is all of Judeo-Christian tradition wrong? Are we to believe that something so sacred can be looked upon as a purely physical thing with no potential for emotional and psychological harm? And isn't it the parents' right to give counsel and advice to keep their children from making mistakes that may affect their entire lives?"

-- Ronald Reagan, Remarks to the National Association of Evangelicals, 1983

Note: A "stacking" technique in which multiple rhetorical questions are asked in succession to intensify the point -- that sex and morality need not or cannot be mutually exclusive.

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"Some have asked, 'How could you have the United States Senate vote on Judge Thomas' nomination and leave Senators in the dark about Professor [Anita] Hill's charges?' And to this I answer, 'How can you expect us to have forced Professor Hill against her will into the blinding light which you see here today."

-- Joseph R. Biden

Note: Here is a case of dueling rhetorical questions. The first rhetorical question whose answer is implicit is responded to by a second rhetorical question whose answer is equally implicit.

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"Do you want to see the flower of the manhood of this country which has brought everlasting glory to our nation neglected in the hour of its greatest need and afraid to face temptation?"

-- John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

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"Sir, at long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

-- Joseph Welch, The Army-McCarthy Hearings

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Rhetorical Figures in Sound

Online Speech Bank

Copyright 2001-Present. 
American Rhetoric.
Created by Michael E. Eidenmuller.
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