Guide to Literary Terms

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Find examples of the following literary terms in J.F.K's Inaugural Speech: (A) 1 reversal (B) 1 simile (C) 1 climactic parallelism (D) 2 metaphors

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John F. Kennedy delivered some of the most memorable speeches in American history, and this one was no exception. He employs some effective literary techniques to develop a passionate call to action in creating a world of freedom for all people. Here are some examples of those techniques.

The following quote uses chiasmus, or a reversal of order:

Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

In the first part of this phrase, John F. Kennedy uses the country first, telling his audience not to ask what America can do for each of them. Using almost exactly the same words, he reverses the order, placing the individual "you" first: Ask what you (individually) can do for America. This strategy is also seen in the following line:

Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.

Again, almost exactly the same words are used, but Kennedy reverses the order of "negotiate" and "fear" to show a contrast.

As for similes, I would argue that his...

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