Given what you know about the historical context of the Gettysburg Address, define the "unfinished work" left for the living to complete. Pretend you are explaining it to a foreign friend who has never studied American history.
The "unfinished work" that the dead at Gettysburg had "thus far so nobly advanced" was described less than a sentence later as "the great task remaining before us." In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln framed the Civil War as a conflict over what we might today call the "workability" of a republic, a government "of the people, by the people, for the people." The Civil War, he said, was a "test" of whether such a government could survive, and the soldiers at Gettysburg had died, in part, to prove that it could. But the speech was given in the midst of the war, just months after the Battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863. While two major Union victories had been won in that year, at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, there was still much bloody work to be done, and the contest was far from decided. Lincoln, by referencing "unfinished work," sought to underline this point. He was both attempting to provide a higher meaning to the conflict and to warn that it was far from over.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial