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Thomas Paine and Patrick Henry Essay

In Patrick Henry’s speech, he has resolved that “Virginia be immediately put in a posture of defense.” He uses strong opposition and delivers this speech in support of his resolution. In this speech he uses powerful rhetoric devices to make the speech effective and memorable. While Thomas Paine, was an opponent of slavery and organized religion, he was an outspoken supporter of American and French Revolutions. He uses many different rhetorical devices such as appealing to pathos, and includes a higher power within.

On March 23, 1777, Patrick Henry addressed the 122 delegates from the colony of Virginia in St. John’s Church in Richmond. He uses multiple different rhetorical strategies. He asked questions such as “Shall we try argument?” and “Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty?” Referring to the fact that if they want to be independent they have to be willing to fight for their own independence and liberty. If not may as well just give up now. This entire speech was constructed to basically state a call to action, that they must fight and must not hold back if they plan to get anywhere, war is the only option left.

Henry also appeals to pathos when he says that fighting is the only option left, saying that if theres nothing else we can do, it’s either fight or basically become a slave to the British. Henry uses allusions as in “ The dangerous ‘Sirens’” and “Betrayed with a kiss” . He’s referring to the Odyssey and the even to Judas. Henry even uses metaphors such as “Our chains are forged. They can be heard  clanking in the plains of Boston.” Because he’s celebrating the creation of a powerful U.S. navy which is about to sail from Boston harbor and attack the French, which is why the clanking can be heard in Boston. Henry is also using repetition, when stating “We must fight” and when he’s naming off all of the different things we’ve tried.

In December 1776, Washington’s army was fleeing before the British through New Jersey, Thomas Paine began writing the The Crisis. In Thomas Paine’s speech he uses many rhetorical devices such as appealing to pathos, metaphors, he asked rhetorical questions, parallel construction, and even makes historical references. When appealing to pathos he states “Look on this picture and weep over it” He’s challenging them, he knows that war will be difficult, but Paine knows that we can do it.

He goes from being general to personal, from starting with saying that the British are going to come in and just take over, and bringing it to personal, by saying that them not fighting back is like saying that if a robber was to come in and try taking over, would you just sit back and watch them come in, terrorize your family, and take your personal belongings. No! You’d fight back. Paine uses dashes to refer to when he’s pausing, which adds effect to the speech while addressing the crowds. By using parallel construction by naming off all the things that they’ve tried such as “We have petitioned, we have…” He stated each, the same way, repeatedly.

Both Paine and Henry’s speeches were both very persuasive. Although Thomas Paine tried to trigger a sympathetic emotional reaction, where Patrick Henry focused on people’s anger and was more aggressive in his speech. Paine states in his speech that he isn’t a supporter of war and find it equivalent to murder, but states that it’s necessary in this situation, due to self defense. Henry is more or less using their contempt for the British to persuade the colonists to war, he  even uses a very distasteful statement, “For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery.” Patrick Henry spoke in a manner that seemed angry and rash, but its understandable because Thomas Paine wrote out his words.


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