Author Ideologies: A Rhetorical Analysis on Nature

You may click on the visualization to view the smaller text.

Throughout our previous analyses, we have looked at our data as a whole. We analyzed who the authors were, where these Sunday-school books were published, and the relationship that we found between authors and their corresponding publishers. But what are these individual texts about? Is there a general ideology between the authors across all the texts? In response to our curiosities, we chose to analyze the words that appeared most frequently in our text.

One of the most frequently used words that we found was “nature”. Nature was used across our entire corpus approximately 654 times. This sparked our interest. Next, we went through each of the individual lines of text to seek out each sentence that contained the word “nature” in it. After doing so, we picked out four words to each side of the word “nature” in every sentence. From there, we re-analyzed the data to seek out any ideologies from the authors. 

In the raw visualization pictured above, we presented all the words most written surrounding “nature”. The larger words in the visualization are the most used words. The smaller words are the lesser used words. These words consist most frequently in descending order of appearance as: good, human, His, He, him, her, our, and ill. We speculate that because these Sunday-school texts are all moralistically driven, they contain moral absolutes such as good versus evil and ill.

After viewing the graph, we went back to our data set to view what was written in the texts to gain a better understanding of the author’s ideologies. When reading through each of the texts again, we found that whenever “good” “evil” and “ill” were used,  they were hyphenated before the word nature itself. For example, in the text they would appear as “good-natured”, “ill-natured” and “evil-natured”. They were most often used as descriptions to a child’s behavior. Following the description of a child’s behavior, would be their consequence. If  a child was “good-natured” they tended to lead a life that worked to resemble Christ. This was not to say however, the child wouldn’t experience trials or hardships (e.g. mortality). If a child was “ill-natured” or “evil-natured”, they were reminded that they would reap what they sow.

You may click on the graph to better view the data points and the x-axis and y-axis.

The authors in our data collection of Sunday-school literature demonstrated a clear focus on the children they were attempting to persuade. In writing to the children, the authors spoke in forms of absolutes when regarding a child’s general behavior and disposition. A child’s behavior was either regarded as entirely ill-natured, evil-natured, or good-natured. A point of biblical text that this reminded us of, was 1 Corinthians 13:1-7. We are reminded by Paul, the author of 1 Corinthians, that if we speak with human eloquence yet lack love, we are nothing. If we speak God’s Word with convincing power but we do not love, we are nothing. Paul reminds us that no matter what we say, do, or believe, we are empty without love.

The result that came to a surprise to us, was the lack of frequency that the word God appeared in the analysis. The word “God” was so infrequent compared to the other words found that the immediate line graph, depicted above, did not include “God” in it’s word frequency analysis.

This is not to say that because the word “God” did not appear in close relation to the word nature, that the authors implied that nature was without God. That would be a logical fallacy. However, we are curious as to why the word “God” was not as present in our visualization. Due to our own speculations, we assume that it was due to these Sunday-school texts being largely centered around a child’s experiences rather than the theological beauty of God.

We speculate  that the authors of our general corpus were trying to teach children how effective their behavior is. The authors may have wanted the children to know that if they act or speak without love, then their “nature” would be evil or ill. We that the authors wanted their readers to know that God’s love was what should be driving each of their thoughts, actions, and words.