Rhetorical devices

Rhetorical devices are used to make a speaker’s arguments appealing and memorable, helping them achieve their intention of creating a connection with their audience and encouraging the audience to accept their arguments.

Barack Obama uses a number of different rhetorical devices in his 2008 victory speech, which you can read about bel…

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Alliteration

Alliteration means repeating the same letter at the beginning of successive or connected words, with the purpose of creating a sound effect that makes ideas more memorable. The speaker uses alliteration in the following examples to emphasize the idea that his campaign was supported by the people: “Our…

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Antithesis

Antithesis is a contrast or opposition that the speaker uses to create memorable images while underlining an important idea (such as why one thing is better than another.

One example of antithesis is “…the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching h…

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Direct Address

The speaker uses direct address in different sections of his speech. In the thank you section, he expresses his gratitude to all those who helped him win the elections (family, staff, voters): “To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics you made this happen, and I am forever grateful…” 

As the speech progresses, the speaker addresses the American audience seve…

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Enumeration and repetition

The speaker often relies on a combination of enumeration and repetition which gives structure to his speech and makes it more memorable.

The most relevant combination of these two rhetorical devices is when the speaker lists different historical events that show America’s ability to overcome hardships. Each of the events listed is followed by the repetition of Obama’s slogan “Yes we can”. By repeating this phrase, Oba…

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Imagery, metaphors, and hyperbole

Obama uses hyperbole (exaggeration) to emphasize the idea that the challenges the US is facing are no ordinary ones, and require an extraordinary response: “the enormity of the task that lies ahead”; “the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime”.

The speaker creates imagery (mental images) by using several metaphors throughout his speech. For example, to describe the bravery of Americans, he creates an image describing their power to change history: “…to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more tow…

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