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Rhetorical Devices in To a Steam Roller

Rhetorical Devices Examples in To a Steam Roller :

To a Steam Roller

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"is vain, if it exists...."   (To a Steam Roller)

These final lines arrive as if in response to an unspoken statement by the steamroller, likely a broad generalization about butterflies. First, Moore’s speaker counters with doubts that the steamroller would even encounter a butterfly (“I can hardly conceive/of one’s attending upon you”). Second, the steamroller uses the theory of “the congruence of the complement”—the notion that all similar things are identical—rather than experience to understand butterflies, so Moore’s speaker knows that any attempts to help the steamroller reframe its views on butterflies would be in vain. Finally, the speaker includes a deflating phrase: “if it exists.” This suggests that “it”—the congruence in which the steamroller believes—does not exist. Again, the speaker uses complicated syntax and jargon to mock the steamroller with its own academic discourse. The sentence is a final blow at the steamroller’s generalizing principle.

"' ..."   (To a Steam Roller)

The quotation marks around these lines suggest that the speaker is incorporating an external source in order to make her point. This quotation comes from an article written by Lawrence Gilman about the music of Leo Ornstein. This is not an allusion to a famous piece of criticism, but rather an obscure academic text used to bolster her point. This form of citation and obscurity adds to the academic tone of these lines. Ironically, the speaker uses the very means by which the steamroller communicates ideas in order to disprove its theoretical position.

"you..."   (To a Steam Roller)

These first lines set the poem up as a conversation between two people: the speaker and the “steamroller.” Moore’s poem is the response to an unstated question or claim that the steamroller has just made about its theoretical approach to the world. Notice that by setting up the poem in this way, the speaker is able to advance an argument without stating the other side and win the argument because the steamroller is not given the space to respond.

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