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Literary Devices in Farewell Address

Literary Devices Examples in Farewell Address:

Text of Washington's Address

6

"The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave...."   (Text of Washington's Address)

Figuratively, a “slave” is one who is under the influence of another. According to Washington, a nation bound to another nation whether through “hatred” or “fondness” is equivalent, in the figurative sense, to a slave. “Passionate attachments” to other countries cause dependency which inhibit the ability for the nation to grow individually.

"It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration...."   (Text of Washington's Address)

In this paragraph, Washington uses anaphora (repeating the word “it” at the beginning of each line) to emphasis each of the consequences of the “spirit of party.” This spirit dismantles a free government in several ways: it distracts, enfeebles, agitates, and “kindles… animosity.”

"Promote..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

Throughout this passage, Washington scatters his writing with imperatives, or commands. With his list of imperatives, he requests that his readers “promote” knowledge, “cherish public credit,” “observe good faith,” and “cultivate peace.” Using the imperative tense gives his writing a sense of insistence and urges his readers to take note of his advice.

"Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian...."   (Text of Washington's Address)

Here, Washington personifies “Liberty” as someone searching for its guardian. The guardian, he claims, is analogous to the government he prescribes, “with powers properly distributed and adjusted.” Only in this idealized, isolationist government Washington describes can “Liberty” find its place.

"the support of your tranquillity at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize...."   (Text of Washington's Address)

Washington employs asyndeton, a literary device originating from Greek and Latin literature. Meaning “unconnected” in Greek, asyndeton is a tool whereby a writer or speaker eliminates conjunctions between clauses and phrases in order to form concise sentences. Here, Washington holds that unity of government works to support “tranquility,” “peace,” “safety,” and “prosperity.” Without conjunctions, Washington lists these values one after the other without pause, indicating that each is equally integral to the nation’s well-being.

"to be clothed ..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

Washington metaphorically describes nominating a new president as covering the candidate in cloth. This image suggests that the presidency is chosen or ordained by a larger entity, such as the people. This newly elected president will be covered “with that important trust,” a bind between the office and the people he represents.

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