In Patrick Henry’s “Speech in the Virginia Convention,” he uses the persuasive techniques of parallelism and rhetorical questions as an attempt to persuade the colonists to fight for liberty against the British. The first device Henry uses is parallelism, which is the use of the same grammatical structure when expressing an important message or idea. Using this device grabs the reader or listener’s attention through ethos, pathos, logos by either appealing to his or her ethics, logic, or emotions. For example, Patrick Henry uses parallelism when he says,
“If we wish to be free, if we mean to preserve inviolate those privileges for which we have so long contended, if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained, we must fight!” (205).
In this quote, he uses the same grammatical structure by saying that if the people wish to have freedom they are going to have to fight for it. Also, he is appealing to the pathos, or emotions of the colonists because he is trying to guilt the people into fighting for their freedom by saying that they should be eager to be free. Next, he says, “Give me liberty or give me death” (Henry 206). Here, Henry reuses the words “give me” in order to appeal to the pathos of the colonists by saying that he is willing to die for his freedom and they should be too. Overall, the use of parallelism in Patrick Henry’s speech encourages the listener to pay more attention to the words of the speaker as well as influence the listener’s emotions against the British, which cause them to want to fight for their freedom.
The next literary device that Patrick Henry uses is rhetorical questions, which are questions that are not meant to be answered; rather, these questions are meant to linger in the mind of the listener and make them think more about the topic. For example, Patrick Henry asks, “Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty?” (204). This question is not meant to have an answer; instead, it is meant to get the audience to think of how the people are struggling for liberty and light a spark inside of them to get them to fight. This appeals to the ethos, or the ethics of the people because it is not trying to get their motions flowing; instead, Henry is referring to what is right and wrong. Next, he says, “What means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us into submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it?” (Henry 204). When Henry says this, he is attempting to engage the emotions of the people, sparking the thought of how the British forced them to do what they want. By doing this, he is enraging the colonists so that they will stand together and fight for liberty. In conclusion, the use of parallelism and rhetorical questions help to persuade the listeners to fight for liberty and justice against the British by using pathos, ethos, and logos.