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Rhetorical Analysis of Abigail Adams’ Letter to Her Son

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In Abigail Adams’ letter to her son, John Quincy Adams, who would later become President of the United States, she is able to continuously encourage and ease his fears and uncertainties concerning the dangers he may face on his travel abroad to France with his father, a United States diplomat. She reassures and urges her son that this journey is one that he should take complete advantage of, as it is one that will benefit him greatly. In the aspect of expanding his mind with knowledge and wisdom when acting as a witness towards the challenges, he will face and have to learn from. By applying the use of allusion, imagery and appealing to her audience’s emotions and logical appeal to the situation. Adams is able to effectively convey her persistence on the importance of experience to her son while he is on his travels by also maintaining a persistent and encouraging tone.

Adams opens her letter with the acknowledgment that her son, John Quincy Adams, was hesitant towards making the far and important voyage with his father and brother due to the “enemies or the dangers of the sea” that he may encounter throughout the journey. She is quick to contradict the thought and reminds her son that he wouldn’t have “readily submitted” to her advice to go if she didn’t think he would be favorable in partaking in the journey. She is able to demonstrate her use of allusion when illuminating how he will grow greatly by the experiences he will face with his new independence when traveling. She is able to describe how his journey will go when recalling an author representing the “traveler to a river” and how when it flows it will “improve their qualities as they pass along”. Suggesting to her son that with this journey he should take complete advantage of it in the aspect of expanding and enriching his mind through what he witnesses. Adamas is able to further confidence in her son with her example of Cicero and the hardships of being “roused, kindled, and inflamed by the tyranny of Catiline, Verres, and Mark Antony” but was able to succeed. This allowed for reassurance that this choice of going on the journey was not a mistake but an opportunity for him that he should use to benefit him in the future in order to allow growth.

She is able to further convince her son that he made no mistake in going on this diplomatic journey by boosting his self-esteem and informing him of what she expects from him to learn on this journey and in order to spread his ideas and better the country. Him being able to accomplish this by being an “an eyewitness of these calamities” on his journey with his father. The calamities being those of “War, tyranny, and desolation” throughout his country and those he will visit. Abigail recognizes her son’s potential in having a successful future, by making it seem that him learning from this journey is his patriotic duty to his country; “to owe your existence among a people who have made a glorious defense of their invaded liberties”. She is able to convince him that these advantages will be possible “under the instructive eye of a tender parent”, and to pay close attention to his surroundings by learning from them. which will allow him to grow and learn in order to have a promising future.

Throughout her letter she is able to give credibility to her argument by her use of a maternal tone to her son. When opening the letter with “My dear son”, she reassures him on his fears and expresses her concern for his safety and hesitance when expressing that she “should have not urged you to accompany your father and brother when you appeared so averse to the voyage”; if she had not thought that he would use this experience to his advantage. She is able to guilt him into feeling better about his hesitance when she encourages him that she believes he will not disappoint her as it “will be expected of you”, to not ignore the advantageous opportunities that are being offered to him on this new journey. Enticing a sense of pride and duty for her son, when Adams informs him that this won’t just benefit him greatly but it would also bring benefits and “honor” to his country. She then furthers her claim when aligning herself with her son’s values and devotion when she goes on to explain that this will also “render your parents supremely happy”, creating the sense of joy and pride for her son to be able to make his parents proud, especially his mother by following her given advice. This by understanding the importance of experience and how it will benefit him immensely to learn from what he will encounter when it is extremely dangerous or just a learning opportunity.

In Abigail Adams’ letter to her son, John Quincy Adams, she was able to effectively convey her persistence on the importance of furthering his knowledge through new experiences he will encounter on his journey. She is able to use to her advantage that she is his mother, in order to ease his mind on her advice to him. On being able to learn from all that he will see, and on how these events will allow for him to grow wiser with the gained knowledge of his travels. 

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Rhetorical Analysis Of Abigail Adams’ Letter To Her Son. (2021, Jun 09). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 25, 2021, from
“Rhetorical Analysis Of Abigail Adams’ Letter To Her Son.” GradesFixer, 09 Jun. 2021,
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