Elie Wiesel Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech Analysis

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In his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Elie Wiesel strives to inform his audience of the unbelievable atrocities of the Holocaust in order to prevent them from ever again responding to inhumanity and injustice with silence and neutrality. The structure or organization of Wiesel’s speech, his skillful use of the rhetorical appeals of pathos and ethos, combined with powerful rhetorical devices leads his audience to understand that they must never choose silence when they witness injustice. To do so supports the oppressors.
Wiesel’s speech is tightly organized and moves the ideas forward effectively. Wiesel begins with humility, stating that he does not have the right to speak for the dead, introducing the framework of his words.
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When Wiesel makes it clear that he has suffered personal loss, he is evoking an emotional response from his audience. By stating that he senses their presence “The presence of my parents, that of my little sister.” the audience empathizes with him and the horror of the Holocaust is made more clear for them. They cannot only understand his feelings; they can connect to them which strengthens their understanding of the need to act whenever they witness inhumanity. His recollections about his experience as a young boy makes the horror real and urgent for the audience: “I remember his bewilderment, I remember his anguish. It all happened so fast.” (paragraph 4) The audience’s inevitable emotional response to these memories is one of deep sadness and empathy. The need for action instead of silence in the face of such horror is made even clearer. When the young boy asks, “Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How could the world remain silent”, (paragraph 5) again the audience is prompted to emotionally respond. They have to realize that it was all of them, all of us, who remained silent and that this silence must never happen again. Wiesel demonstrates a strong use of pathos throughout his speech to encourage his audience to commit to never sitting silently by while any human beings are being treated

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