October 29, 2012
Synechdoche, New York
The essential rhetorical understanding about synechdoche I got from Killingsworth's Appeal Through Tropes is that the main function of synecdoche in all cases is to simplify and focus the attention. It is a device of emphasis. This definition harkens back to one of our prior theorists: Kenneth Burke, who called the rhetorical use of examples "representative anecdotes." While representative anecdotes aren't always synechdoches, synechdoches are always representative anecdotes. This is particularly effective at aiding your argument. One good example I could think of is the dispersement of knowledge. A well-known synechdoche for that is Plato's cave allegory. It's essentially this idea that humans (their mind in particular) live in caves and that one day someone leaves the cave, discovers the world out there, and comes back to let everyone know. This is how knowledge is spread and how it should be spread. It's not literal, because we generally don't live in caves, but it's a representative anecdote that gets the point across.