The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln

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The Gettysburg Address Rhetorical Analysis Activity

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Excerpt From This Document

This activity gives students an opportunity to practice examining and analyzing rhetorical appeals. Effective appeals address all aspects of the rhetorical situation in any text or speech: the speaker, the audience, and the message. With this rhetorical situation in mind, Aristotle sought a means to most effectively convey ideas. He identified three general persuasive strategies, known as appeals, that address the three elements of the rhetorical situation: ethos, the appeal to the speaker’s authority; pathos, the appeal to the audience’s emotions; and logos, the appeal to the message’s logic. In completing this activity, students will be able to examine and analyze Aristotle’s three rhetorical appeals in order to evaluate works of rhetoric and the techniques they employ.

In July of 1863, the armies of the Union and Confederacy clashed in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in what would become the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War. On November 19th, Abraham Lincoln rose before an audience at Gettysburg to consecrate a new military cemetery and honor the dead. In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln discusses the progress and meaning of the war, praises the powerful acts of the fallen soldiers, and calls upon the audience to continue the work for which the soldiers died: to restore the Union. In what is now considered one of the most eloquent speeches in American history, Lincoln employs appeals to ethos, logos, and, especially, pathos to powerfully convey his message.

Skills: analysis, close reading, drawing inferences from a text, examining the impact of diction on audience

Learning Objectives:

In completing this activity, students will

  • examine appeals in a text;
  • classify appeals in a text as ethos, pathos, or logos;
  • distinguish the methods that make the appeal effective;
  • evaluate how the appeal contributes to the overall message.

About this Document

Our eNotes Classroom Activities give students opportunities to practice developing a variety of skills. Whether analyzing literary devices or interpreting connotative language, students will work directly with the text. The main components of our classroom activities include the following:

  • A handout defining the literary elements under discussion, complete with examples
  • A step-by-step guide to activity procedure
  • An answer key or selected examples for reference, depending on the activity

In completing these classroom activities, students will be able to classify and analyze different literary elements, thereby developing close-reading skills and drawing deeper inferences from the text.