William Lloyd Garrison

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What literary/rhetorical devices are there in "To the Public" by William Lloyd Garrison?

Garrison's rhetorical devices are ethos and pathos, which are appeals to the reader's emotions, and imagery, analogy, and repetition, which are appeals to the reader's senses. Ethos is appealing to character or credibility. Garrison brings credibility and positive associations to his desire to free the slaves by aligning these desires with the cherished principles of the nation's founding. For example, he alludes to the Revolutionary War, a time remembered by whites in the U.S. as one of heroic glory in which Americans sacrificed to win freedom. He writes that he will: Garrison also uses pathos—emotional appeal—to stir his readers' emotions. He first reaches viewers'

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Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, and rhetorical devices are those that help to persuade an audience to adopt a certain point of view or to act in a certain way. Literary devices go beyond the literal and factual to add color and weight to a piece of writing.

Garrison's passionate desire is to persuade people to support the immediate abolition of slavery.

Garrison leans on the rhetorical devices of ethos and pathos to stir his readers to his cause, and on the literary devices of imagery, analogy, and repetition to support his arguments in a way that appeals to the emotions of his audience.

Ethos is appealing to character or credibility. Garrison brings credibility and positive associations to his desire to free the slaves by aligning these desires with the cherished principles of the nation's founding. For example, he alludes to the Revolutionary War, a time remembered by whites in the U.S. as one of heroic glory in which Americans sacrificed to win freedom. He writes that he will:

lift up the standard of emancipation in the eyes of the nation, within sight of Bunker Hill and in the birth place of liberty.

Freedom for slaves is thus explicitly linked to the white American's cherished freedom from England. Garrison will drive the point further home by alluding to the Declaration of Independence and calling for blacks to be included in its fold.

Pathos is emotional appeal. Garrison reaches his audience's emotions, first, through imagery, which is description using the five senses of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. For example, he defends the urgency—what he calls the "severity" of his language—by supplying the following imagistic analogies to other urgent situations:

Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hand of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen

We can picture innocent, perhaps defenseless, people (women and babies) in situations of dire threat of harm and realize that moderation is not the best approach to saving them. These images make it seem reasonable to apply an analogous urgency to the abolition of slavery.

Similarly, Garrison's use of repeated words sounds like a drumbeat, and this raises our emotions. Repetition evokes a sense of urgency in the reader's mind, as when Garrison repeats "let" and "tremble" in the following:

Let southern oppressors tremble—let their secret abettors tremble—let their northern apologists tremble—let all the enemies of the persecuted blacks tremble.

The imagery of trembling—a motion in response to fear of God—impresses the mind with the dangers inherent in not working to free the slaves.

Finally, the poem at the end crystallizes and condenses Garrison's ideas, adding to the fervency of the piece.

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Garrison uses numerous devices throughout the text in order to convey his abolitionist message. To avoid merely repeating the analysis of the other educator, I will discuss how he uses additional rhetorical strategies.

Garrison uses metaphor to illustrate the emotional aspect of his argument. This not only underscores Garrison’s passion for his cause but also provides some linguistic beauty and variety. One example of this occurs when Garrison suggests abolition is now a national goal that he hopes will “float” and be impervious to the “missiles of a desperate foe.” Garrison does not necessarily mean literal missiles in this statement. Instead, one might argue that he means no one can discredit the idea that enslavement violates the values of American exceptionalism and liberty for all.

Another strategy Garrison uses is allusion. This is defined as a reference to something famous that his audience will recognize for a particular effect. One example of this is when Garrison references Bunker Hill, the site of a famous Revolutionary War battle. In this instance, he does so in order to bolster his claim that abolition aligns with the founding goals of the nation.

Finally, Garrison also uses asyndeton and rhetorical questioning at least once each. Asyndeton is defined as a list of successive phrases that are not separated by a conjunction or any other grammatically correct separation. This is often used to show the persistence and unending quality of the author’s message. Rhetorical questions, on the other hand, function as reminders to the audience that they know what the answer should be and, therefore, they should agree with the speaker’s conclusion.

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Here are some literary devices from To The Public:

1) Parallelism- this is similarity of grammatical structure in clause or phrase. Parallelism maintains the balance of structure and contributes a certain rhythm or smooth flow to a sentence.

I found contempt more bitter, opposition more active, detraction more relentless, prejudice more stubborn, and apathy more frozen...

Now, I have just given you an example of isocolon above. Isocolon is an example of parallelism; not only are the elements similar in grammatical structure, they are also similar in length (whether in number of words or syllables). More parallelism below:

I seize this opportunity to make a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my country, and of my brethren the poor slaves, for having uttered a sentiment so full of timidity, injustice and absurdity.

2) Anaphora- this is the repetition of beginning words in successive clauses. This literary tool helps to establish a rhythm that can be intoxicating or emotional. This is an appeal to pathos (emotion).

Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen...

I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—AND I WILL BE HEARD.

3) Parenthesis- this is an insertion of a verbal unit which interrupts the normal flow of a sentence. It is used by public speakers for the purposes of illumination, whether in reference to their personal character, opinions, or positions on political issues. Here's an example from the speech:

On this question my influence, —humble as it is, —is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years—not perniciously, but beneficially—not as a curse, but as a blessing...

Hope this helps!

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