In Tom Paine’s “What I Believe,” he uses a number of rhetorical devices to get his audience to agree with him on his point that tolerance must be lent to those who share different religious beliefs. These devices convince the audience of Paine’s authority and the validity of his arguments. At the same time, Stanton’s “The Book of Genesis from The Women’s Bible” creates a much more extreme argument, using rhetoric to claim that her opinion is more valid than the opinion of her opponents. In this paper, we will examine both rhetorical techniques and determine the ways in which they attempt to convince their readers.
In the case of Paine, alliteration, assonance, irony, metaphor, onomatopoeia and the like are all employed to create a visceral, convincing argument that is extremely readable and sticks closely with the reader. Metaphor is used liberally throughout Paine’s work – he calls someone who does not acknowledge the opinion of others a “slave of himself to his present opinion” (Paine, p 99). he is not literally a slave, of course, but using that metaphor denotes a negative connotation to ignoring other’s opinions, making it an undesirable thing, and therefore easier to switch to another. He uses repetition and assonance to hammer home his repeated points, as evidenced when he states his beliefs; the phrase “I believe” is used to preface each of those statements, making it definitive and confident. After that, he goes over what he does not believe, including the specific doctrines of other organized churches (Paine, p. 100).
These devices are extremely appropriate for his argument. They are gentle but passionate, and they have the effect of making Paine’s opinion hold weight, while at the same time it prevents others from feeling as though they are being attacked. The use of these rhetorical devices grant him a moderate measure of success – while they are very effective in their usage, and they certainly have the effect of lending credence to his arguments, they are not used extremely often. His stance of still lending credence to his opponent’s opinions, while having the effect of creating greater sympathy and affection, makes it less of an option for his opponents to side with him.
Conversely, in Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “The Book of Genesis from The Women’s Bible,” she represents God in a somewhat different way than he is seen in Matthew Chapters 5 through 7. He believes that woman was made by God with the same consideration that was given man; instead of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, she believes it makes more sense to have “a Heavenly Father, Mother, and Son” (Stanton, p. 106). She wishes to argue for a more equal-opportunity consideration to be made for women in the Biblical canon.
Words such as “true,” “ideal,” “equal,” and the like are used by Stanton to help cement the point that it makes the most sense for her viewpoint to be accurate. Placing the caveat “If language has any meaning” before her main thesis statement (The Book of Genesis clearly states that men and women were given equal thought by God), she implies that to disagree with her would be to state that language has no meaning; she says it is stated clearly in the text, and therefore it must be so, or else language has no meaning. When discussing the possibility that it is wrong, she uses repetition and assonance to emphasize all the things that we would be without if that were true – the word “no” prefaces a long list of things, like “growth or development in the animal, vegetable or mineral kingdom” and other things we appreciate and understand to be important (Stanton, p. 106). The importance that Stanton places upon the validity of her argument is, in fact, tied to the whole of human creation, and therefore she makes it seem extremely important. In this way, her argument is entirely effective.
In conclusion, rhetorical devices are used by both Thomas Paine and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to make their remarks appear valid. Paine is gentle with his detractors, stating that he simply does not believe their opinion, though theirs is still reasonable. On the other hand, Stanton takes her opponents to task, stating that if they do not agree with her, then language has no meaning, and many of the things that make up this Earth simply do not exist. Stanton’s argument, when weighed against Paine’s, is more effective, due to this more extreme condition that is placed upon her opponents.
Paine, Tom. “What I Believe.” 1794. Print.
Stanton, Elizabeth Cady. “The Book of Genesis.” The woman’s Bible . New York: Arno Press,
1972189598. 105-106. Print.