“Gettysburg Address” Analysis





“Gettysburg Address” Analysis

Lincoln anchors his arguments by referencing facts and beliefs that evoke emotions and are shared by the audience. In his first line Lincoln knew that there declaration of independence and the bible had the most enduring influences on the citizens of the United States (Leff and Goodwin 61). “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition.” It follows that he strives to use inclusive language. He uses evocative scriptural terms like ‘Fourscore and seven years’ a term that is derived from psalms 90:10. A score means twenty years. It was a profound way of saying 87 years ago. Similarly, he employs an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence ‘that all men are created equal’.

Lincoln employs contrast and triad rhetorical devices. He utilizes the triad to emphasis the high benchmark set by the founding fathers that mere actions cannot do them justice (Leff and Goodwin 63). “…we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground.” [6]   Repetition in the phrases also helps to reiterate the above point. Lincoln also uses triad and repetition to enhance rhythm and memorability as in “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” [10] Lincoln utilizes contrast in “. . . gave their lives that that nation might live. . .” [4] and “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” [8].

Lincoln’s diction was strategic reiterating the important words in the speech. The speech had 10 accounts of we to emphasis inspire inclusiveness, here 8 times to highlight the centrality of Gettysburg as the turning point of the war, dedicate 6 times to illustrate the essence of the individuals harnessing of their might to achieve their objectives and nation 5 times to elevate the essence of the war to a high purpose.

The speech is more effective when read out aloud. The repetition pervading the speech helps to give it rhyme. The three part speech outline takes the audience in a journey through time keeping them engaged. The call to action to finish the work of the founders “be dedicated here to the unfinished work” [8], challenges the audience to take up the mantle. Without the rhetorical inform the speech is simplified to a story meant to pass information as seen in the paraphrased version. It does not inspire, challenge or engage the audience when read both silently or audibly.


Works Cited

Leff, Michael, and Jean Goodwin. “Dialogic figures and dialectical argument in Lincoln’s rhetoric.” Rhetoric and Public Affairs (2000): 59-69. Print.



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