What are some rhetorical devices used in the Gettysburg Address?

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cneukam1379 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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Abraham Lincoln is a master at using rhetorical devices in short speeches.  In particular, his use of anaphora is notable in the Gettysburg Address.  For instance, in the final paragraph, in order to stress the point that it is the soldiers who fought at Gettysburg who will save this country and not the people standing there on that day, he repeats “we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground.”  The repetition, combined with the dashes to indicate dramatic pauses, creates that effect.  Lincoln also uses anaphora later in the speech to emphasize what the listener, if he cannot fight, can actually do:

that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The repetition at the end of the speech drives home his purpose of convincing the listener that there is still much work to be done by the people who can make this nation a great one.  In this last line, he also uses epistrophe, “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” to emphasize what makes this nation, the people who will fight to keep it one nation. 

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