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Give me liberty or give me death

Give me liberty or give me death What do all great leaders, who have won accolades from the masses, have in common? Take the example of Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. , Adolph Hitler, …what was the common denominator in all of them? It was FORCE. These leaders had a force in their personalities, the force to change the minds of the masses who give them a patient ear. This essay is a rhetorical analysis of the historic speech by Patrick Henry, on 23 March 1775, and the analysis begins with the force as a major factor, which makes this speech very unique. This is not a physical force, which can be

visualized, but a invisible force, generated in the mind of the speaker, and brought out in a language, which is bound to have a huge impact on the listener. This speech too, is full of that force. This is evident from the very style in which the speaker admits that he would be frank and forthright in whatever he delivers. “Let us not deceive ourselves, sir”, ( Patrick Henry, Para 3, line 6 ) are the words which have considerable momentum, when listened to, in context with the British military preparations, and Americans wanting to discuss peace with them !!!! Even words like, ‘The war is inevitable–and let it come! I

repeat it, sir, let it come’. ( Patrick Henry,para 4, lines 8-9 ) have considerable force in them, to make listener sit up on his seats !! Another great feature of this speech is that the speaker sounds very convincing, and because of this, he is able to penetrate the minds of listeners, and compel them to agree with him. It is his logical approach, that appeals to the mind of the listener. This factor is basic to success of all speeches. If a speech has to gather support from the masses, it has to be logical in its contents, given the situation and circumstances of that time. Unless, it is not logical, it would not gather momentum.

All great movements have started with such strong, forceful speeches, and gradually gathered the momentum. A leader is a leader because he has the support of his followers, and followers are created only by convincing them about what the leader thinks. Unless, the argument of the leader is not based on a sound reason, he would not be able to gather support. This speech was made at a time when the British Military forces had already prepared for a war to crush the demand of independence by the Americans. On the other hand the American intelligentsia was trying to resolve the matter in a peaceful way, through negotiations.

The speaker, through a detailed analysis of circumstances, emphatically states that war is inevitable. It is the reasoning, with proper reference to context that appealed to the listener. Proclamation of war, without giving a proper reason, would have been a catastrophe!!! This speech excels, in putting forward a valid reason, before coming to a conclusion. Above paragraphs prove that this speech is ethos and logo driven. A careful analysis of this speech proves that it is pathos driven also. The speaker, after giving a detailed analysis of the recent military developments by Great Britain, manages

to touch the heart of the listener. He ridicules the idea of ‘peaceful negotiation’, and in ni unclear terms, warns the chair, to stay away from self deceit. He touches the emotions of the listeners, by saying that liberty was a God given gift and he respects it the most. Moreover, he very successfully, and with full force, goes on to state that the intentions of Great Britain were not as noble as theirs, and the population will become slave, if immediate action was not taken. He attacks the emotions of the listeners, by emphasizing on the slavery factor, in absence of an immediate action against the military built up by

Great Britain. He touches the emotion by his challenging mode of oration also, when he warns the audience and the chair not to get deceived by Britain. Apart from its Logos, ethos and pathos, this speech is also unique in many other ways. It has a very strong structure. Starting with his interpretation and advocacy of patriotism, the speaker briefly introduces the listener to the military built up by Great Britain on the Coastal waters of Boston. He simultaneously questions the validity of peaceful negotiations, under such circumstances, and warns the audience that not to get deceived by Britain and by self.

From here, he goes on to argue the against the baseless Britain’s claim that the Americans were weak. In his dramatic style, he questions the very necessity of taking Britain’s help to become strong. ‘But when shall we be stronger?… Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? ’, he asks, in his typical and sarcastic style. He then emphasizes that a ‘tit for tat’, is inevitable, and the only way out, if they want to live as a liberated nation. One more striking aspect of this speech is the crystal clear clarity with which the speaker delivers his address.

At no point, in his entire speech, does he show any sign of ambiguity or confusion. He is crystal clear about his thoughts on patriotism, and the course they should take, under the given circumstances. It is because of this clarity that he is able to issue a warning also, against the British built up. The speech also has a very natural flow. The change in the topic, as and when they occur, merge very well with each other, and the listener, never witnesses a sudden jump from one to the other topic. This is like a smooth drive. The speaker has effectively used the linguistic tools, to emphasize his point.

He is able to dramatize his opinion with linguistic tools, like figures of speech. Expressions like, ‘Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss’, and, ‘Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? ’, are sentences which put a substantial punch, through its dramatized fashion. Metaphors, puns, repetition and interrogations are the very useful tools language offers, to put an element of drama in the sentences. The end of his speech is also very dramatized, he says, ‘ give me liberty or give me death’.

Such endings, not only leave a thumping effect on the audience, but make it more popular and lend an element of longetivity to the speech. which will be remembered for a long time by others. This serves as a special attachment or a tag, in absence of which, this speech may not have been as popular as it is today. The impact of this speech was so great that at the end, “no murmur of applause was heard. The effect was too deep. After the trance of a moment several members started from their seats. The cry to arms! seemed to quiver on every lip, and gleam from every eye. They became impatient of speech.

Their souls were on fire for action. ” Writes the biographer of Henry, William Writ, ( The world famous orations, note 5 ) Conclusively it can be said that this speech is not only driven my ethos. Logos and pathos, but has many more attributes, which forces the critiques to count it a one of the most famous orations, ever made on this world. References : 1) Patrick Henry, Give me liberty or give me death, (17750, retrieved on 9 December 2008 from: < http://libertyonline. hypermall. com/henry-liberty. html > 2) The world famous orations, retrieved on 9 December 2008 from: < http://www. bartleby. com/268/8/13. html .

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