Gettysburg Address Lesson Plan
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Analyzing Pathos as a Rhetorical Device:
This lesson focuses on how Lincoln uses pathos to achieve specific purposes in the Gettysburg Address. Students will identify and analyze examples of pathos in the text and determine why they are effective in communicating Lincoln’s point of view regarding the ongoing Civil War. By examining Lincoln’s use of pathos as a rhetorical device, students will be better able to describe major themes in his speech.
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to
- explain the historical context of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address;
- determine Lincoln’s point of view regarding the Civil War and identify the intent of his speech;
- define and explain pathos as a rhetorical device;
- identify and analyze examples of pathos in the text and explain why they are effective in conveying Lincoln’s message;
- identify and describe major themes in the speech.
Skills: close reading, interpreting connotative language, supporting assertions with textual evidence, drawing themes from a text
Common Core Standards: RI.11-12.1, RI.11-12.2, RI.11-12.4, RI.11-12.5, RI.11-12.6, SL.11-12.1
By the summer of 1863, the American Civil War had raged for two years as President Lincoln’s armies battled those of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. In late June of that year, Lee led 75,000 Confederate soldiers into Pennsylvania with the intention of establishing a foothold in the North after recently defeating Union forces at Chancellorsville, Virginia. The result was the deadly and decisive three-day battle at Gettysburg (July 1–3) between Lee’s army and 82,000 Union troops led by General George G. Meade. Lee was forced to retreat, and after the battle, the landscape around Gettysburg was covered with the bodies of fallen soldiers. Union casualties totaled 23,049, and Lee had lost more than a third of his army with 28,063 casualties. More than 10,000 were killed or mortally wounded, with the dead buried quickly in shallow graves to prevent an outbreak of disease.
Four months after the battle, the remains of Union soldiers were reburied in a new cemetery at Gettysburg, the Soldiers National Cemetery, now known as Gettysburg National Cemetery. The dedication of the cemetery took place on November 19, 1863, with Edward Everett, a noted politician and orator from Massachusetts, as the featured speaker. President Lincoln was invited to deliver “a few appropriate remarks.” Everett spoke for two hours; Lincoln spoke for two minutes, and his Gettysburg Address of 272 words is arguably the most celebrated speech in American history.
In addressing the audience at Gettysburg, Lincoln recalls the founding of the United States, “a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” and honors the “brave men, living and dead, who struggled here” to preserve it. With reverence for those who died so that the “nation might live,” Lincoln calls for devotion to the cause for which they died: “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” During his brief address, Lincoln predicts that “[t]he world will little note, nor long remember what we say here,” but in regard to his own speech, history has proved him wrong. Lincoln’s deep conviction that the Union must be saved and his masterful rhetoric in expressing it have made the Gettysburg Address a cherished and enduring work in the canon of American historical documents.
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