Analysis Of Lincoln’s Use Of Rhetorical Strategies In The Gettysburg Address

The Battle of Gettysburg, which lasted from July 1 through July 3, 1863 was considered the most important phase of the American Civil War. This battle was Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North. It was the deadliest battle in the Civil War, with more than 50,000 soldiers dying over three days. Abraham Lincoln delivered a powerful and inspiring speech on November 19, 1863 dedicating Gettysburg’s battlefield cemetery, Pennsylvania. Lincoln’s speech was only three minutes long, a remarkable feat in an age when leaders often gave lengthy speeches. It is commonly known as The Gettysburg Address. Lincoln paid tribute during the speech to Union soldiers that gave their lives. Although Lincoln didn’t know it would become so well-known, the speech is still remembered and loved today. Lincoln uses rhetorical strategies including repetition, allusions and antithesis to remind listeners what the soldier’s sacrifice is for: equality, freedom, national unity.

Lincoln’s address begins by making an allusion at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The phrase “Fourty-seven years ago …”” was used to refer to the year of 1776 (Lincoln). Lincoln used this strategy to highlight the importance of equality and freedom in his topic. He also recalled the founding of America. His first sentence is concluded with an explicit allusion at the Declaration of Independence. (Lincoln). Again, this allusion appealed back to the common value equality, freedom, unity. Lincoln used many similar words for his short speech. Because he was emphasizing his points, Lincoln used repetitive phrases. He repeats the word “dedicate,” several times at the beginning his speech in order to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for the country. Lincoln believed Americans should devote themselves to building their country and adhering strictly to the founding principles. Lincoln was able connect the lives of those who give their last devotion to the country with the lives of those who dedicate themselves to its preservation. Lincoln’s address stressed the importance of equality and freedom through repetition and allusion. Lincoln continues his speech by using the rhetorical techniques of repetition, antithesis, and repetition to demonstrate his respect for fallen soldiers. Lincoln repeatedly repeats the words “our”, “we” throughout his speech (Lincoln). These words were important during the Civil War. The nation was fractured and it was necessary to repeat them several times. Lincoln preferred to address his message with the pronoun we’ rather than ‘I’. Because collective work is crucial for the development of the nation, this pronoun was essential to use. It’s not just the job of the president. Lincoln made it clear that repetition was crucial to his purpose. He stressed that all people share the pain of loss as well as the work ahead. Lincoln used the antithesis to contrast ideas. Lincoln uses the use antithesis to effectively contrast one idea with another. It is engaging and compelling to communicate an idea with its opposite. This helps clarify the purpose by honoring the fallen soldiers, while still adhering to America’s founding principles. Lincoln’s speech was made more hopeful by the antithesis. Even though many were killed in battle, the antithesis allowed Lincoln to convey a hopeful and inspirational tone. The sacrifice of others is what makes it possible for the nation to rebirth. It inspires those who survived the war to work for the cause of those who gave their lives. Lincoln created unity and purpose by using repetitions and antithesis.

Lincoln began his speech by referring to the Declaration of Independence. He then closes his speech by referring to the Constitution. “We the People”, the Constitution’s three first words (Madison), are the Constitution’s first three lines. They state that the Constitution’s power comes from the people. Lincoln ends the powerful triple with the words “of, by, and for the people”, which is a reference to the vital document.

As he tried to connect the broken country, he linked two of America’s most important founding documents. Lincoln began his speech by referring the Declaration of Independence’s principles of human equality. He then connected these principles to the desire to preserve the Union founded in 1776 and its ideal of self government. Lincoln used references to the nation’s founding documents to create a strong sense of unity in his speech to communicate the purpose of Civil War.

Lincoln used allusions. He also repeated the phrase antithesis. This was to remind the audience how soldiers have given their lives in order to achieve equality, freedom, and the pursuit of national unity. The Gettysburg Address is arguably America’s most well-known speech. It took the suffering of others and made meaning from it. Lincoln spoke less than 300 lines and paid tribute to the Union dead. He also tried to build the America that America’s founders envisioned. He reminded American citizens what they were fighting against. Lincoln spoke out stating that the Civil War would determine whether or not the North wins. The victory of the Northerners preserved the United States as a single nation and ended slavery, which had previously divided the country. Lincoln’s speech was persuasive because it changed Civil War’s purpose and nature. His speech, which he dedicated the nation to freedom, equality, and unity, is still worth considering today. Many Americans still remember the Gettysburg Address as a significant impact on society.



Makhi is a 34 yo educational blogger who is passionate about writing and exploring new content ideas. She has a degree in English from the University of Utah and is currently working as a teacher in a public school in Utah. Makhi has been published in numerous online journals and has been featured on national television networks.