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An Analysis of Rhetoric Characteristics of CHANGE HAS COME TO AMERICA  

2011-01-13 19:19:32|  分类: 我的作品 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Rhetoric is one of the most vital parts in language and by which languages become colorful and interesting. Among all the styles of a language, speech, I believe, is the one reveals high skill of rhetorical device. In the history there are many masters of giving speech, for examples, Lincoln, Churchill, and Martin L. King. And there is no doubt that Barack Obama, the first and present American president with dark skin, is not only a master of English speech nowadays, but also an expert in applying rhetorical devices. This essay will focus on Change Has Come to America, one of the most famous speeches given by Obama, and analyze his rhetorical characteristics of the speech.

 

1.      Seen from the structure

Change Has Come to America is not a short speech and it was given when Obama won the election campaign. On the first sight of the speech, it will be noticed that a great amount of syntactical stylistic devices are used. It is the syntax in it helps the speech be rich infectious.

 

1.1  Parallelism in the structure

Obama started his speech as this: If there is anyone out there who still doubts that… who still wonders if …who still questions…, tonight is your answer. He uses three “who” to refer to the people who were doubtful and fearful about the future of America. He expressed his strong feeling for the nation and ingrained faith in the country. Also the beginning lays the foundation for the further parallelism. In the following three paragraphs, they all began with It’s the answer. This structure not only reacts to the answer in the first paragraph but also emphasizes the reality that today people would have hope for the further and for the country they loved again. It indicates clearly that no matter who has the doubt, today s/he will find the answer. The device of parallelism is widely used in this speech. For another example, in the middle of the speech, he talked it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by…. It grew strength from….. It drew strength from…. to describe the less promising beginning of the campaign. It focuses great on the difficulty of the first period of campaign and leads to the final conclusion This is your victory, a victory of the democracy which is spirit of America. People cheered and applauded when they heard it. Parallelism makes the language in the speech being simple but powerful and easy but unforgettable.

 

1.2  Antithesis and repetition in the structure

To make the better use of parallelism, antithesis and repetition are greatly used at the same time. For instance, It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Several antitheses are provided here and expresses Obama’s oath that he is the president of American people no matter what colors they are, what languages they speak and which party they support. Also he said to those -- to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. He conveyed his concern for the Iran and the Afghanistan war and clarified his attitude to terrorists directly. Since war issue and financial crisis remain two biggest concern of commonwealth, Obama mentioned them again in this victory speech to show that he stood together with people and would try best to revitalize the American dream.

 

And in the description of Ann Nixon Cooper, who is 106 years old now and experience a great number of changes in America, Yes, we can is repeated for seven times in the speech. In this way, Obama describes a history of change in the U.S. and implied that another grand change was on the way. Also when Obama spoke the acknowledgement, he repeated it belongs to you twice at a time. It emphases his thankfulness and shows that it is not cliché but words from heart.

2.      Seen from the vocabulary

Besides using excellent syntax devices, Obama also showed outstanding command of semantic rhetoric.

 

2.1  Metonyms in the speech

It is quite easy to find the trace of metonym in the speech, from lines in the sentence it’s the answer told by lines that… to a wall came down in Berlin. The first means people attended the speech and it was explained right after this metonym. Though lines and people mean the same, the former implies the meaning of many people because when they stand in line there are lines of them. So the former is better without doubt. And the second indicates a historical event, the union between East Germany and West Germany and the end of Cold War between Former Soviet Union and America. The expression is clear and vivid. Moreover, Obama stated that America is not a collection of red states and blue states. Here red states refer to those incline to vote for Republican while blue states refer to those vote for Democrat. The metonymy can be easily accepted by Americans and accurate.

 

2.2  Allusion and metaphor in the speech

Take the same example of a wall came down in Berlin, it is also an allusion. In the whole article, the paragraph that talked about Ann Cooper has the largest number of allusion. She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." The first clause indicates Montgomery Bus Boycott which was triggered by a black woman’s refusal to give her seat to a white man. The hoses in Birmingham in the second clause refers to Birmingham Campaign, which brings attention to the unequal treatment black Americans endured in Birmingham. While a preacher in the third clause is Martin Luther King. Also metaphor works together with allusion in the paragraph. When Obama described the Great Depression, he used the dust bowl, so it reminds people’s memory of the most significant event in American history and guides commonwealth to compare it with the finical crisis today. It gives people hope that America can overcome this crisis as it did almost 80 years ago. Furthermore, the metaphor that Mrs. Obama is the rock of the family appeals to me. From the metaphor, audience can feel the high evaluation from Obama for his wife and powerful strength and significant position of this future first lady. And it is the charm of speech.

 

Change Has Come to America is a splendid speech which employs rhetoric devices a lot. Barack Obama is a person possesses skills of how to organize and give a wonderful speech. His early speech like Audacity of Hope, then speech in G20 Summit Meeting, later the remarks at the acceptance of the Nobel Prize together with this victory speech character Barack Obama’s typical language style and give numerous inspiration to those learning rhetoric and speech skills. 

 

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