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Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Abraham Lincoln’s “Second Inaugural Address” and Emily Dickinson’s “Success is Counted Sweet,” are two inspirational pieces of art that fall under two different types of discourses. The “Second Inaugural Address,” is a great example and definition of what Rhetoric is. It encompasses all four resources of languages- argument, appeal, arrangement, and artistic devices. “Success is Counted Sweet,” doesn’t cover the four resources of language that apply to rhetoric; therefore, it is categorized as a poem.

According to the chapter, “rhetoric addresses unresolved issues that do not dictate a particular outcome and in the process it engages our value commitments.” (15). We see how Lincoln’s inaugural speech tries to engage in the values of the people as he brings up the main issue that has effected the country, the Civil War. During the time of Lincoln’s “Second Inaugural Address,” he was facing a divided nation in the midst of a civil war. Lincoln built an argument within his speech with a goal set in mind: To establish a common ground or compromise between the North and the South.

Lincoln only hopes to change the outcome of the nation by stating, “with high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.” This shows that the unresolved issue has no dictated outcome, but he can only hope for a better future for the nation.

A great rhetoric calls people to action and Abraham Lincoln does so by stating, “ let us strive on to finish the work we are in… to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Through this statement, Lincoln also creates a patriotic appeal to the nation as well as a sense of loyalty to the country as a whole. Lincoln creates an emotional appeal of unity and forgiveness by speaking about “peace”, “binding up the nations wounds,” and to “care” for the nation in which the Americans live in.

Abraham Lincoln’s artistic devices also make his inaugural address a perfect example of a rhetorical discourse. He uses diction by reinforcing the commonality of the divided people, the North and the South. He states how both, the North and South, “read the same Bible and pray to the same God,” and neither the North nor South expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it attained. Lincoln also maintains an optimistic tone throughout the speech and invokes unity with his parallel structured sentences. Emily Dickinson’s “Success is Counted Sweetest,” doesn’t cover all four resources of language. It is a poem that does not call for action but does create an emotional appeal for the people. Throughout her poem, she created an emotional appeal for success and its value and the desire and want for success. We see how she creates such emotion when she states, “The distant strains of triumph break, agonizing and clear.” What Dickinson means by this is that gaining success can be the most beautiful accomplishment but at the same time, agonizing to reach. This creates an emotional appeal for those who are living through the Civil War, making the people have a desire for peace, but they have to go through bloodshed in the process of gaining success.

Emily Dickinson carries out artistic devices throughout her poem, which also creates an emotional appeal for the audience. She uses metaphors to describe success by stating, “Success is counted sweetest.” Dickinson also uses her poem to recreate what was occurring at the time of the war. She speaks of the “purple Host” which is the representation of the Army and “capturing the flag,” which is the flag of victory during the war. She also appeals to the senses by stating, “as he, defeated, dying…. distant strains of triumph…agonizing and clear.” This paints an image of those in the war struggling for success. Dickinson also uses allusion by making this poem an indirect reference to “V-Day”.

Although these pieces were written around the same time, we see how one calls for the action from the nation, meanwhile the other piece just creates an emotional appeal about the Civil War. Lincoln’s attitude showed he believed in justice and had a balanced view upon the nation as a whole and wanted to make a change. He seeks compromise through his inauguration address through an argument, creating emotional appeal, by arranging the speech accordingly, and using artistic devices to make it inspiring.

Emily Dickinson focuses on sending the people a message through emotional appeal. She reaches our emotions reminding us how we don’t appreciate success. She also gives us the feeling that only by failing or lacking success we will learn how important it is for the people to achieve success. Although Lincoln’s “Second Inaugural Address,” and Emily Dickinson’s “Success is counted Sweet,” are not in the same category, they are both moving and emotional pieces. They are two different works or art that will forever remind us how much of an impact the Civil War was to the United States of America.


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