The Art of Public Speaking HTML version
INFLUENCING BY EXPOSITION
Speak not at all, in any wise, till you have somewhat to speak; care not for the reward of your speaking, but
simply and with undivided mind for the truth of your speaking.
--THOMAS CARLYLE, Essay on Biography.
A complete discussion of the rhetorical structure of public speeches requires a fuller treatise than can be
undertaken in a work of this nature, yet in this chapter, and in the succeeding ones on "Description,"
"Narration," "Argument," and "Pleading," the underlying principles are given and explained as fully as need
be for a working knowledge, and adequate book references are given for those who would perfect themselves
in rhetorical art.
The Nature of Exposition
In the word "expose"--to lay bare, to uncover, to show the true inwardness of--we see the foundation-idea of
"Exposition." It is the clear and precise setting forth of what the subject really is--it is explanation.
Exposition does not draw a picture, for that would be description. To tell in exact terms what the automobile
is, to name its characteristic parts and explain their workings, would be exposition; so would an explanation of
the nature of "fear." But to create a mental image of a particular automobile, with its glistening body, graceful
lines, and great speed, would be description; and so would a picturing of fear acting on the emotions of a child
at night. Exposition and description often intermingle and overlap, but fundamentally they are distinct. Their
differences will be touched upon again in the chapter on "Description."
Exposition furthermore does not include an account of how events happened--that is narration. When Peary
lectured on his polar discoveries he explained the instruments used for determining latitude and
longitude--that was exposition. In picturing his equipment he used description. In telling of his adventures day
by day he employed narration. In supporting some of his contentions he used argument. Yet he mingled all
these forms throughout the lecture.
Neither does exposition deal with reasons and inferences--that is the field of argument. A series of connected
statements intended to convince a prospective buyer that one automobile is better than another, or proofs that
the appeal to fear is a wrong method of discipline, would not be exposition. The plain facts as set forth in
expository speaking or writing are nearly always the basis of argument, yet the processes are not one. True,
the statement of a single significant fact without the addition of one other word may be convincing, but a
moment's thought will show that the inference, which completes a chain of reasoning, is made in the mind of
the hearer and presupposes other facts held in consideration.
In like manner, it is obvious that the field of persuasion is not open to exposition, for exposition is entirely an
intellectual process, with no emotional element.
The Importance of Exposition
The importance of exposition in public speech is precisely the importance of setting forth a matter so plainly
that it cannot be misunderstood.
"To master the process of exposition is to become a clear thinker. 'I know, when you do not ask me,'
replied a gentleman upon being requested to define a highly complex idea. Now some large concepts defy
explicit definition; but no mind should take refuge behind such exceptions, for where definition fails, other