For his latest album, Henley effectively uses a rhetorical-narrative device to draw attention to the issue of global warming. The song, "Praying for Rain," employs irony to question our lack of action in responding to the signals of a warming planet. Check out the song here:
Ironic narratives feature main characters overcome by and unable to affect their situations. In "Praying for Rain," the irony becomes apparent when the first-person narrator, a farmer besieged by drought, says, "We hardly had a winter, had about a week of spring. Crops are burned up in the fields. There's a blanket of dust on everything. The weatherman is saying that there ain't no change in sight. Lord, I've never been a praying man, but I'm saying one tonight." Laying out the drought conditions paints the picture of an overwhelming situation for the farmer. He's never seen anything like it--a common reaction to the extreme weather events generated by global warming; and we know he feels powerless because of his admission that the predicament appears endless. Together, these narrative elements suggest we're listening to an irony, a suspicion confirmed when the man who's never prayed is driven to prayer--ironic indeed.
Action, not prayer, however, is the objective of Henley's irony. The farmer might turn to prayer, but that doesn't end the ironic narrative. In desperate circumstances, all he has is prayer, and the desperation only grows as he repeats that prayer over and over again without receiving any response. That's what we're left with: a powerless man and an unheard echo that remain completely at the mercy of their circumstances. In this way, Henley uses the ironic narrative theme of powerlessness as a call for action. The repeated chorus holds us in the frustration of failing to take action, calling into question all those times when people have actually tried to pray drought away.
We can't choose not to act while action is still possible and then expect that we'll be able to act in desperate circumstances, and Henley has given us the right rhetorical device to hit that realization home.