Expository: Sweet, Sour & Resentful

18 Use of Evidence and the Rhetorical Situation: Sweet, Sour, and Resentful

A rhetorical situation is a situation that requires some form of communication. The situation can be as ordinary as texting friend to say that you need a ride, or as complicated as a team of astronomers explaining how they identified a new star and calculated its distance from earth.

Use of Evidence and the Rhetorical Situation

Although a text to a friend and a scholarly article about discovering a new star may seem very different from each other, they share these three elements:

  1. a purpose (why it’s written)
  2. an audience (to whom it’s written)
  3. context (the time it was written, the location where it was published, and other circumstances related to the writing)

Your Rhetorical Situations

Because you are part of a community of college writers, your words are also shaped by rhetorical situations.  Just like the professionals, you choose your words based on the purpose of your communication, your audience, and other circumstances  For example, you might use ”r u late?” or “idk” in a text to a friend, but you’d use complete words and sentences in an email to a professor.

Firoozeh Dumas’ Rhetorical Situation

In her essay “Sweet, Sour, and Resentful,” Firoozeh Dumas had to consider her rhetorical situation as she wrote about how her mother cooked for and fed crowds of Iranian immigrants.  She had to ask herself these questions:

  1. What is the purpose of my article?
  2. Who will read it?
  3. Where and when will the  article be published? What else might affect the way I present my ideas?

Answering these questions forced her to make several decisions as a writer and these decisions affected her final essay.

Let’s analyze the essay in terms of the rhetorical situation: Purpose, audience, and context.


Dumas’ essay doesn’t include research, statistics, or other types of evidence that you might use in a research paper. It doesn’t propose a solution to a problem or argue that something is right or wrong. The title, however, does make a claim about Dumas’ mother and uses Dumas’ observations about her mother as evidence.

  • What does Dumas claim about her mother and her mother’s attitude toward cooking?
  • Find 1-2 sentences from the essay that helped you answer this question.


To determine audience, you have to look at the place where Dumas’ essay was first published and try to figure out the audience for that website or publication.  “Sweet Salty, and Resentful” was first published in Gourmet Magazine in July 2009. Gourmet published its last issue later that year, in December.  But you can see the kinds of articles it published here:  Gourmet Archives.  (An archive is a collection of writing.)

List the titles of 3 other articles from the Gourmet archive here:




Skim the three articles you listed above.  What are the articles about?  News? Sports? Science? Culture? Politics? Entertainment? Food?  If the answer is food, please be specific.




Who might be interested in these articles?




Based on your answers, who might be the audience for Gourmet Magazine?  This audience would also be Dumas’ audience.


The context is the set of circumstances surrounding a piece of writing.  In “Sweet, Sour, and Resentful,”  Dumas provides a lot of clues that will help you understand the context of her essay.  The more you understand the context, the more you will understand her essay and appreciate the kindness that her family provided to other families.

Understanding context will require research.  Please Google the following terms that are in the paragraphs 1-4 of Dumas’ essay and write down a brief explanation of you what you learn:

  1. Newport Beach
  2. Abadan
  3. National Iranian Oil Company
  4. Iranian Revolution


What important facts did you learn from your Google searches?  Why do you think Dumas’ family moved from Abadan to Newport Beach?

Does this new information change your opinion of Dumas or of her mother?

Why do you think Dumas included in her essay the specific names listed in 1-4 above?  Do these names help her achieve the purpose that you identified?

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