Did President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address contain parallelism?

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ckalbrecht's profile pic

ckalbrecht | College Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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The concept of parallelism means that a work is written using balanced and equal construction which aids in the understanding of the overall message. Yes, Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" contains many examples of parallelism. Lincoln possessed great skill in crafting his words to create emphasis of the key points presented within this short but dynamic speech. Some powerful examples of parallelism include the following:

  • a new nation, that nation, any nation
  • that nation, that war, that field, that nation
  • we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow
  • shall not have died in vain, shall have a new birth, shall not parish from the earth
  • of the people, by the people, for the people

Lincoln used a technique more recently described as the "power of three" within this piece. In the article "How to Use the Rule of Three in Your Speeches", Andrew Dlugan emphasis the power of using this technique to help "express concepts more completely, emphasize your points, and increase the memorability or your message."

History has shown that the "Gettysburg Address" is truly a memorable speech. The parallel structure within it creates a balanced and unified theme which aids in our understanding of his remarkable message.

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beateach | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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Yes, there are examples of parallelism in Abraham Lincoln’s, “Gettysburg Address” which emphasize and accentuate the main ideas in his short but memorable speech. These words and phrases add balance to the writing.

Examples of parallelism include:

  1. a new nation, that nation, any nation

  2. conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition, so conceived and so dedicated

  3. we are engaged, we are met

  4. that nation, that war, that field, that nation

  5. we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow

  6. who struggled here, who fought here

  7. what we say here, what they did here

  8. to be dedicated here, to be here dedicated

  9. shall not have died in vain, shall have a new birth, shall not perish from the earth

  10. of the people, by the people, for the people

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