Persuasion In Rhetoric: Analysis Of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

Persuasion can be defined as an action or process of pleading or convincing someone to do or believe in something. Persuasion is largely common in human communication. It starts at birth and stays lifetime. Humans as naturally social animals need to work in groups whether of family or friends. Humans differ from each other in thought, values and ideas. Persuasion is crucial in every language including English. It is also of a great interest academically. Rhetoric is known as the art of persuasion, which was energetically pursued, taught and practiced in Ancient Greece and then in Ancient Rome. Aristotle defined rhetoric as the “ability to discover the available means of persuasion”. Rhetoric hence became a subject of academic at the time of evolvement of Ancient Greece from an oral to a literate culture. Aristotle’s The Art of Rhetoric recognizes three types of persuasion: logos (reasoned proof), pathos (emotional appeal), ethos (appeal to the good reputation of the speaker). Logos mostly depends on the use of inductive or deductive reasoning inductive reasoning deals with cases of facts whereas deductive takes on a more general view and then applies it to a specific case. Ethos is the social appeal which is based on character, trustworthiness and dependability of the author. Pathos is a rather emotional approach which appeals to the readers or the audience’s values and sensitivity. Classical rhetoric is composed of persuasion and argument.

A rhetorical device is basically a way of speaking that is used to convince or persuade an audience to view the subject of the speech from the orator’s point of view. The key to make a speech sound effective however, is to use it properly so that the speech has both logical and emotional appeal. Many public speakers use various rhetorical devices in their speech to cajole the audience. It is thus seen as important. Without the use of appropriate devices and styles, the speech can sound bland and discourage the audience from showing interest in the talk. One such influencer and also the 16th president of the United States used rhetoric styles and strategies in his famous speech “The Gettysburg Address”. Lincoln opens his speech with archaic language as seen in the phrase “four score and seven” he uses a language older than it is used in daily life which is a rhetorical marker. Classical rhetoric is recognized by three main sources namely ethos, logos and pathos. Lincoln appeals to shared values and equality as he refers to the Declaration of Independence. From the beginning Lincoln held to the motion of honesty which signals the use of ethos (identity and character of the speaker) Lincoln reminds people of now the United States was formed, in this way he points out that he is well aware of the history of his nation.

As the president it was his duty to encourage his fellow Americans to not give up and stay strong, his speech is filled with inspirational phrases and reasons on to why they should not stop fighting. Lincoln shoes a great deal of courage and faith throughout his speech. Logos is the logic or reasoning used in a speech or an article. He displayed reasons on why to keep fighting referring to the civil war. He claimed that the first reason to not give up was because him and his fellow Americans could test whether their nation can last long. Followed by the second reason which Lincoln presented which was to fight for the martyrs who had devoted their lived to a great task. The Gettysburg Address was perfectly organized. Furthermore, the speech took on an emotional view, pathos. Lincoln addresses pathos at the beginning of the speech where he mentions the greatness and courage of the forefathers which evoked the patriotism and dignity of the American citizens.

He also gave great importance to the sacrifice of the brave soldiers which turned sadness and grief of people to motivation which prompted people to keep on fighting. By addressing an emotional appeal such as death, bravery and struggle Lincoln successfully kindled emotion in his audience. Apart from the three primary strategies, Lincoln also makes use of repetition. In numerous parts of the speech, he carefully constructs successions of phrases which follow the same structure and which build toward a unified effect. The speaker constantly uses contrasts which is also known as antithesis. They are used to attract audiences and stay pay attention. Lincoln uses antithesis to contrast between life and death. The speech is rather short; however, it does make use of imagery and metaphor which can be seen when Lincoln associates the country with a child. Lincoln is seen making use of the personal pronoun “we” eleven times to connect with the audience.

To sum up, powerful and impactful speeches always makes use of ethos, logos and pathos which are the most important elements that makes a speech inspiring and interesting to listen to. The Gettysburg Address is no doubt one of the greatest speeches and an excellent example of a speech which incorporates the primary styles of classical rhetoric followed by other common devices.


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