Rhetorical Analysis “The American Forests”

Known today as the “Father of the National Parks” John Muir’s purpose in writing this article is to convince those “sleepy with wealth” and those “sleepy with poverty” of the value of the American forests. Muir strategically uses God to appeal to the readers of the time. Muir believes the forests must have been a delight to God, for “they were the best he ever planted” (145).  Muir constantly brings up the burning of the forests. In Luke 12 Jesus says, “I’ve come to bring fire on earth.” I think Muir is referencing that and hopes his message to conserve and reconstruct the forests spreads like fire. At the end of his article Muir describes how God has cared for the trees, “saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand leveling tempests and floods” (157) and now it is up to those who live on the land to not be fools and take care of the forests. Muir mainly appeals to logos throughout his article. Muir appeals to logos when discussing the seventy million acres the government still owns. He discusses how fruitless the destruction of these forests would be, because the forests the government owns is largely on mountain slopes. Muir argues the lands are too rock and high for agriculture, that the trees are currently the mountains most valuable crop. Another appeal to logos is Muir’s comparison of the United States, one of the world’s most advanced civilized nations to every other country that “has been compelled to care for its forests” (147). Muir urges that we must do the same if we don’t want to become as barren as countries such as Spain and Palestine. Throughout those paragraphs Muir references laws that the countries have passed to protect the land as well as organizations they have formed. Muir is presenting facts and referencing studies even though he doesn’t name the studies, this makes him seem a little unreliable but I don’t think the reader is focusing on that because they are logical arguments. Overall, I think Muir is effective at convincing his audience of the need to stop the destruction of the forests.

Muir, John. The Atlantic Monthly. 70/178 Ch./Art: “The American Forests” p. 145-157. pub. Atlantic Monthly August 1897



2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by al002 on November 3, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I think it is funny of how Muir describes the forests as the best God has ever planted when he does not have anything to compare it to except the arid climates of Spain. I think this is significant to consider in a patriotic way that God favors American forests over others, as you mentioned that Muir uses God to appeal to his audience.

  2. Posted by kwalley on November 3, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Though Muir is fairly successful in relating the value of the American forests to his audience, some of the evidence he uses does not function as adequate support for his argument. His consistent appeal to logos is a much stronger base for his argument than the ecclesiastical references he makes. Though one may argue which device is more effective based solely on Muir’s audience there is little doubt that a solid, well-supported argument is more powerful than an ecclesiastically based one. I find that Muir’s decision to use both an appeal to logos and an appeal to the audience’s faith diminishes the validity of his argument.

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