Classification and Division / Adversarial

Ericsson, “The Ways We Lie”

Structural Notes

Introduction / Context

1. The first six paragraphs establish the occasion for this essay.

2. Within the first six paragraphs, Ericsson grounds the exercise in her personal life and introduces a kind of calling: the need for this classification and division.

3. She establishes her tone, which is almost sheepish: a self-conscious grappling with her own culpability in this kind of ubiquitous duplicity.

Category #1 – Category #10

1. In 2-4 paragraphs, she provides general descriptions and specific examples of each type of lie.

2. For each, she manages to include fascinating and engaging details: the story of Lilith, the Clarence Thomas trial, anecdotes about her kids, and so on.

3. In each, she manipulates syntax and diction to produce an air of authority—not a scholarly tone, but the voice of a woman who has carefully reasoned these categories out.


1. The final three paragraphs provide a reflective commentary on the preceding categorical exploration.

2. Ericsson uses more quotations to ground us in the necessity and applicability of her essay.

3. The final paragraph ties itself back to the opening, providing a necessary framework for the focused but circuitous compartmentalizing that precedes it.


1. One rhetorical strategy here is use of the epigraphs before every section but the introduction. Epigraphs provide a critical component to an essay like this. They add a dimension to the classifications, and they connect the examples with a larger world (of literature, life, etc).

Rhetorical Analysis: Part 1


o What is the subject of this essay?

o What is the immediate occasion, as described in the text?

o What is the more general occasion?

o Who is the audience here?

o Identify direct addresses or inclusive language.

o What are a few of Ericsson’s purposes?

o Is this an argument of fact, value, policy, or some combination of the three?

o To what extent do you see her articulate an explicit thesis?

o Describe the speaker of this piece.

Ericsson, “The Ways We Lie”

Rhetorical Analysis: Part 2


o How many engaging details does Ericsson pack into the first paragraph? What are they?

o Analyze the movement from the first sentence of paragraph 1(about the bank lie) into the first sentence of paragraph 3.

o How does Ericsson avoid making the “callback” in paragraph 4 — the return to her initial series of examples — sound repetitious?

o What is the nature of the rhetorical questions in paragraphs 5 and 6?

o I.e., how does the rest of the essay seem to answer these questions?

o To what extent is the use of Webster’s definition an effective appeal to ethos?

The White Lie

o Explain the epigraph’s meaning.

o Analyze the irony in the statement.

o What is the dimension added by the epigraph?

o How does the example in paragraph 2 demonstrate the idea of “not…so cut-and-dried”?


o What is the allusion in the epigraph?

o What dimension does it add to this categorical exploration?

o Do we all wear facades, or is this a hasty generalization?

o What is the dichotomy set up here between Ericsson — in her pajamas — and the “former friend” of paragraph 2?

o What is the emerging argument about lying—the argument of value—that is sounded again with the “destructive” complaint in paragraph 2?

o Hint: It starts with paragraph 5 in the introduction.

o Hint: It is implied in the “unable to move on to a new life” in paragraph 2 of The White Lie.

o Explain the stylistic strength of the last sentence of paragraph 2.

Ignoring the Plain Facts

o What does Ericsson intend this epigraph to add to the subsequent discussion?

o What is the appeal to pathos in paragraph 1?

o Where does Ericsson allude back to the definitions from Webster’s? To what effect?

o What other kind of “ignoring the facts” (other than the deliberate deception exemplified by the church) is Ericsson suggesting?


o What is the technical term for the logical fallacy stated in the epigraph?

o [Define ad hominem.] How is this an example of an ad hominem?

o What dimension does it add to Ericsson’s explanation?

o There are three subtypes of deflection. What is the first?

o What does the Clarence Thomas example illustrate?

o What is the “fighting technique” described in paragraph 3?

o What does Ericsson imply about “disputes between men and women” here?


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