What is the rhetoric employed in Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address"?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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This extremely short speech but very powerful speech does use a number of rhetorical devices. A dominant one is repetition. Anaphora is the repetition of beginning clauses of a sequence of clauses or sentences:

  • We are met -- We have come
  • we cannot dedicate -- we cannot consecrate
  • that we here -- that this nation,

Another much used one is personification whereby abstract concepts (e.g., nation) are given human characteristics: "this nation might live" "The world will little note."

A third that is has overall employment is high poetic diction (as opposed to everyday conversational diction). In addition, archaic language is used for the opening words: "Four score and seven years ago" (though counting by scores of years was less unfamiliar in Lincoln's time than in ours).

A significant metaphor appears in the mid-section of the speech in which Lincoln compares men who fought and do fight to priests, then compares their shed blood to Christ's consecrating blood in a Biblical allusion.

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