The Power of Pathos: Analyzing Lincoln's Use in The Gettysburg Address

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 732 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Mar 8, 2024

Words: 732|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Mar 8, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Defining Pathos
  2. Pathos in the Gettysburg Address
  3. Conclusion

The Gettysburg Address is one of the most memorable and significant speeches in American history. Delivered by President Abraham Lincoln in the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War, the speech is a masterpiece of rhetorical persuasion that uses pathos, ethos, and logos to communicate its message. In this essay, I will focus on the use of pathos in the Gettysburg Address and analyze its effectiveness in moving the hearts and minds of the audience.

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Defining Pathos

Before we proceed, it's important to define what pathos is and how it works. Pathos is an emotional appeal that tries to evoke certain feelings and sentiments in the audience. It employs various rhetorical devices such as metaphors, imagery, anecdotes, and rhetorical questions to create an emotional connection and resonance with the listeners. Pathos can be used to inspire hope, fear, anger, compassion, or any other emotional response that fits the rhetorical purpose of the speaker.

Pathos in the Gettysburg Address

In the case of the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln primarily used pathos to convey his message of national unity, sacrifice, and remembrance. He began his speech by acknowledging the historical significance of the place where they were standing: "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." By invoking the memory of the American Revolution and the founding principles of the country, Lincoln established a sense of continuity and identity that would resonate with his audience.

Then, he shifted to the present moment and reminded the listeners of the sacrifices made by the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg: "But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract." By using the rhetorical device of antithesis ("we can not...but the brave men...have"), Lincoln contrasted the humble role of the living with the heroic status of the dead. He elevated the soldiers to the level of martyrs who gave their lives for a noble cause and inspired the listeners to honor their memory and emulate their example.

Moreover, Lincoln used pathos to appeal to the audience's sense of purpose and duty. He challenged them to continue the unfinished work of the soldiers who fought in Gettysburg and the larger war: "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion." By using the rhetorical device of anaphora (repeating the phrase "it is for us..."), Lincoln emphasized the responsibility of the living to carry on the legacy of the dead and fulfill the promise of the American Dream.

Finally, Lincoln used pathos to evoke a sense of hope and confidence in the listeners. He envisioned a future where the country would be reunited and redeemed from the wounds of the war: "That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." By using the rhetorical device of parallelism (repeating the phrase "that...shall"), Lincoln created a sense of momentum and progress towards a better future. He appealed to the listeners' desire for a better world and offered them a vision of what could be achieved if they worked together towards a common goal.

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In these ways, Lincoln used pathos to great effect in the Gettysburg Address. His emotional appeal was not manipulative or superficial but rather a genuine expression of his beliefs and values. He spoke from the heart and touched the hearts of his listeners. He showed that pathos can be a powerful rhetorical tool when used in a responsible and ethical manner, and that it can contribute to the moral and intellectual enrichment of the audience. The Gettysburg Address is a testament to the enduring power of pathos in the art of persuasion.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

The Power of Pathos: Analyzing Lincoln’s Use in the Gettysburg Address. (2024, March 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from
“The Power of Pathos: Analyzing Lincoln’s Use in the Gettysburg Address.” GradesFixer, 07 Mar. 2024,
The Power of Pathos: Analyzing Lincoln’s Use in the Gettysburg Address. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 May 2024].
The Power of Pathos: Analyzing Lincoln’s Use in the Gettysburg Address [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 07 [cited 2024 May 30]. Available from:
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