Epiplexis


Epiplexis (e-pi-plex’-is): Asking questions in order to chide, to express grief, or to inveigh. A kind of rhetorical question [–the speaker does not expect an answer].


Who do you think you are? What do you think you’re doing? What gives you the right? How many times do I have to tell you? Don’t you get it? What’s the matter with you? What’s wrong with you? What breed of pig are you?

This is how my days began. Even though it wasn’t expected, I answered every question to the best of my ability: Q: Who do you think you are? A: A firebrand. Q: What do you think you’re doing? A: Eating my breakfast. Q: what gives you the right? A: The Constitution of the United States of America. Q: How many times do I have to tell you? A: As many as you like. Q: Don’t you get it? A: No. Q: What’s the matter with you? A: I lost my sheep and I don’t know where to find them. Q: What’s wrong with you? A: That’s the same as the previous question. I lost my sheep. Q: What breed of pig are you? A: I’m not a pig, but I’ll play along. Hampshire.

When my father ran away from home the daily interrogation did not cease. If anything, it intensified. Now, my mother would ask for advice: “What do you think we could do to find and kill your father? Should we shoot him, stab him, or drown him? Do you think they would catch me if I killed him? How much does a decent handgun cost? How much is airfare to Costa Rico? Do you think I would get alimony if I divorced him? Should I find a rich boyfriend?

I didn’t answer any of the dad-related questions. I didn’t want to be tagged as a co-conspirator. If Mom was going to do what she was going to do, she had to do it herself. I was a little worried about my younger brother Barney though. He had started drinking heavily when he was 12. His favorite drink was scotch and Coke. He always had one or two with breakfast when we were in middle school. One time he urinated in his locker. I asked him once why he drank so much and he told me it made the funny feeling in his brain go away. He had been run over by a motorcycle when he was 11, and suffered a pretty bad head injury. He got a huge insurance settlement and is set for life financially. It’s a shame that he drags one foot and has to drink to kill the pain in his head. He would make a perfect patsy for Mom’s murder plot. He already had a handgun, so he was halfway there!

I had decided to join the Army for three years to get away from it all. I wanted to be a truck driver, but they put me in the infantry. My job was to kill—with a bayonet, a rifle, or a hand grenade. I thought about the irony of leaving home to get away from all the talk of killing, only to end up in the Army where my job is killing. But in the Army, killing’s legal and you can get a medal! I couldn’t wait! Then I found out that enemy soldiers shoot back. I guess murder victims shoot back too, but far less than enemy soldiers. Oh well, I guessed I would give it a try.

So, I just heard my father was found in a ditch with a bullet in his head. Barney and Mom had both been arrested on suspicion of murdering Dad. Barney blamed it in Mom—how she kept asking him questions, got him all confused, put the gun in his hand and drove him to the motel where Dad was staying. After Barney shot him they dragged him to the car and threw him in the trunk, then, they drove to the outskirts of town and dumped him in a ditch. The up side of the whole thing was I got one month’s leave from the Army to “settle my affairs” on the home front. It was great having the whole house to myself. I wore a bathrobe all the time and even had a scotch and coke.


Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (rhetoric.byu.edu). Bracketed text added by Gorgias.

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