Assertion

Definition of Assertion

When someone makes a statement investing his strong belief in it, as if it is true though it may not be, he is making an assertion. Assertion is a stylistic approach or technique involving a strong declaration, a forceful or confident and positive statement regarding a belief or an fact. Often, it is without a proof or any support. Its purpose is to express ideas or feelings directly, for instance, “I have put my every effort to complete this task today.”

Types of Assertion

Assertion has four types, including:

Basic Assertion

It is a simple and straightforward statement for expressing feelings, opinions and beliefs such as,

  • “I wish I could have expressed this idea earlier because now someone else has taken the credit.”
  • “Excuse me, first I want to finish my work then shall go with you.”

Emphatic Assertion

It conveys sympathy to someone, and usually has two parts; first encompasses the recognition of the feelings or situations of the other person, and the second follows a statement that shows support for other person’s rights such as,

  • “I understand you are busy, and me too, but it is difficult for me to finish this project on my own. So, I want you to help me completing this project.”
  • “I know this is making you angry and frustrated because you could not get response yet. But, I can help you by giving you an estimate of how long it might take.”

Escalating Assertion

It occurs when someone is not able to give response to basic assertions of a person and therefore that person becomes firm about him or her such as,

  • “If you do not finish this work on 6:00 tonight, I would better take the services of another worker.”
  • “I really want to finish this point before you start yours.”

Language Assertion

It involves “I” language and is useful for expressing negative feelings. Nevertheless, it constructively lays emphasis on a person’s feelings of anger such as,

  • “When you speak harshly, I cannot work with you because I feel annoyed. Therefore, I want you to speak gently and then assign me task.”
  • “When I cannot take proper sleep, it affects my nerves and I feel irritation. Therefore, I daily like to go to bed earlier.”

Assertion Examples from Literature

Example 1

From George Orwell’s Animal Farm:

In, Animal Farm, pigs make use of assertion as a tool for making propaganda in the entire novel in order to weaken the position of other animals from having contradiction with their rules and leadership. In the chapter seven, Squealer informs other animals that they need not to sing original anthem of the Old Major, Beasts of England — a song they used to inspire the revolution in the chapter one. Squealer asserts, saying,

“It’s no longer needed, comrade…In Beasts of England we expressed our longing for a better society in days to come. However, that society has now been established. Clearly this song has no longer any purpose.”

Look at his language where he gives them information that is obvious, which they have realized already, and no one can make arguments against it. Thus, no one argued against his assertion.

Example 2

From Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice:

Elizabeth conceals her surprise at the news of Darcy’s plan to marry Elizabeth. When Lady Catherine presents objection to this marriage, as Bennets have low connections and their marriage would ruin Darcy’s position before his friends and society, Elizabeth attempts to defend her family background by asserting,

“I am a gentleman’s daughter.”

In fact, she sets herself free from exasperating control of snobs like Miss Bingley, Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine and declares that

“I am . . . resolved.” Then further says with assertion, “to act in that manner, which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”

Example 3

From Anton Chekov’s Cherry Orchard:

In a scene, Trofimov and Lopakhin exchange barbed words and Lopakhin calls him “eternal student.” When Lopakhin asks Trofimov’s views about him, Trofimov replies that he consider Lopakhin as “a soon-to-be- millionaire” and “a beast of prey.” Then, Gayev points towards the conversation about pride, the two men had earlier. Trofimov asserts with reasoning about folly of their pride, as man is a “pretty poor physiological specimen,”, they are in misery and “the only thing to do is work.” Although, he was pessimistic about the current situation of humans, however, he starts feeling optimistic now for their future. He expresses this idea with assertion and rebukes Russian intellectuals, as they do not even know the meaning of work.

Example 4

From William Shakespeare’s Othello:

DESDEMONA: I never did
Offend you in my life, never loved Cassio
But with such general warranty of heaven
As I might love. I never gave him token.

In these lines, Desdemona makes dying assertion that she is innocent, denying Othello’s accusations. However, blinded by emotion, furious Othello is resolved to kill her.

Function of Assertion

Its function is to let readers feel that they should not disagree or dispute what they read or hear; rather accept the idea or notion as an indisputable fact. It has proved to be one of the best approaches for writers to express their personal feelings, beliefs and ideas in a direct way. By using this technique, the writers can defend others’ feelings and rights if violated. This rhetorical style also tells self-affirmation and rational thinking of personal respect or worth. It is very common in various fields of life, like literature, politics, advertisements, and legal affairs etc.

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