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By the end "The Declaration", how has the tone shifted and what rhetorical devices does...

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twlightlover2010 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted March 31, 2009 at 12:26 AM via web

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By the end "The Declaration", how has the tone shifted and what rhetorical devices does Jefferson use?

This refers to the Declaration of Independence. I'm reading it for a school assignment and most of it I can't understand.

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sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 31, 2009 at 1:28 AM (Answer #1)

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The Declaration maintains a confident and declarative tone throughout.  Jefferson uses active verbs, such as "we hold" and "prudence will dictate" to reaffirm this commanding tone.  However, he does shift from a conciliatory - or peacemaking - tone in the first two paragraphs to a much more aggressive and critical tone as he goes through the many crimes King George has committed against the colonies. 

In this aggressive area of the document, Jefferson uses parallelism and repetition to drive home his message.  Parallelism is the repetition of a grammatical structure.  Look at this passage:

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

Notice that each paragraph begins with the pronoun "He" and then the present perfect verb tense - "has refused"/"has called", etc..  The rest of the sentence explains the verb - gives a direct object for the verb by saying what the king has done.  For the reader, having the repetition of this from helps to reinforce the crimes, like a drum beat reinforces the rhythm of a song.

Another device used by Jefferson is his appeal to the emotion of his audience.  This document was as much about unifying the people of the colonies as it was about announcing independence to King George.  To get the people fired up, Jefferson used specific words that have emotional connections.  He uses "forbidden" and "refused" as opposed to less extreme words (such as "limited") because of their effect.    He also uses words like "tyrant" to describe the king because it paints an emotional picture.  He uses the terms "brethern" and "common" to talk about the British citizens because it reminds his readers that they are all equal - and equality is what is being lacked right now.

The site below has an excellent analysis of the rhetoric used by Jefferson  -  hope that helps!

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