Allusions In Abigail Adams's Letter

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A child being separated from one or both of his parents to live in a faraway locale can either be perceived as a source of stress and worry or as an opportunity to grow. An important historical example of the latter occurs in the late eighteenth century, when John Quincy Adams reluctantly travels abroad with his father on a diplomatic trip to France. His mother, Abigail Adams, strongly advocates for the voyage and writes a letter to her son in 1780 advising him to continue his travels. Through her sophisticated use of an extended metaphor, allusions to prominent historical figures, and continuous emotional appeal, Abigail Adams encourages her son to take advantage of his travels and use the experience to become a better man. An important …show more content…

She asks, “Would Cicero have shone so distinguished an orator if he had not been roused, kindled, and inflamed by the tyranny of Catiline, Verres, and Mark Anthony?” Although the answer to this rhetorical question is obvious, it solidifies an important point in the mind of the reader: experience comes from challenges and difficult times. Making an allusion to an important historical figure and using him as an example will draw a connection in John Quincy Adams’ mind and add emphasis to her message. She follows up her rhetorical question with sentences that – albeit not answering the question directly – add more emphasis to her point, such as, “The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties. All history will convince you of this, and that wisdom and penetration are the fruit of experience, not the lessons of retirement and leisure.” Sentences like these reinforce her point made earlier through the use of a metaphor and antithesis: the “fruit of experience” will never come from sitting idle and can only be learned from going outside your comfort zone, such as travelling to an unfamiliar place. Although the rhetorical choices made in the follow-up sentences are certainly significant, their major purpose is to strengthen the argument posed by the rhetorical …show more content…

The most noteworthy example is the long sentence that makes up the entirety of the final paragraph and reads, “The strict and inviolable regard you have ever paid to truth, gives me pleasing hopes that you will not swerve from her dictates, but add justice, fortitude, and every manly virtue which can adorn a good citizen, do honor to your country, and render your parents supremely happy, particularly your ever affectionate mother.” Instead of giving logical reasoning as to why John Quincy Adams should continue his travels, Abigail Adams shifts to a more emotional approach. The words she uses, such as “truth,” “justice,” “virtue,” and “honor” carry a positive connotation that presents the case that her son should continue his travels not only to better himself, but because it is his duty to his parents and country to do so. The antithesis present in the quote reinforces the contrast between his two options and presents him with a clear choice. Presenting an argument through an emotional lens can touch the reader in ways that logic cannot. In this instance, Abigail Adams’ rhetoric would compel her son to take advantage of his travels in order to make his parents and nation proud. Though most prevalent in the final two paragraphs, traces of emotional appeal can be found scattered throughout the entire letter. For instance, in the third

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