Did President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address contain parallelism?

Expert Answers
droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Parallelism is an umbrella term for various rhetorical devices often employed by orators to make their words easier to process and more memorable. Reread my previous sentence: it does not contain parallelism. To introduce parallelism, I might have said " . . . to make their words easier to process and to remember." Parallelism involves the repetition of grammatical structures in multiple clauses of a sentence to create a sense of internal cohesion. Examples of parallelism found in Lincoln's Gettysburg address also include:

Epistrophe: repeating the same word at the end of multiple phrases, as in "of the people, by the people, for the people . . . "

Anaphora: repeating a set of words at the beginning of multiple successive phrases, as in "we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow . . . "

Antithesis: a balanced sentence or statement wherein the second part serves almost to contradict the thrust of the first half, thus emphasizing it, as in "the world will little note what we say here . . . but it can never forget what they did here." This sentence also includes epistrophe

Climax: an arrangement of a number of statements of similar structure, in order of increasing importance, as in "that from the honoured dead . . . that we here highly resolve . . . that this nation under God . . . and that government of the people . . . "

ckalbrecht eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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