Tropes and Schemes in Speech of Hope


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Tropes and Schemes in Speech of Hope

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was considered a great speaker during the early women rights movements. Her “Address on Woman’s Rights,” delivered in 1848, is  essential for understanding the rights ideology of the early women movements, and understanding the driving force behind the social movements of America’s most prominent leaders. In this speech, she addresses issues such as education, alienation, right of expression, which affect women, and how the society has shaped the position of woman in the society. She offers recommendations on what measures should be taken to ensure the empowerment of women and the girl-child in society. In her speech, Elizabeth employed figurative language and this makes the speech interesting to read and gives a reason to think over it. In this essay, the elements of tropes and schemes used in this speech are analysed.

Tropes and schemes are under the canon of style in the classical rhetoric. These are employed in speeches, poetry, and general writing, with an intention of creating particular political or social meaning by manipulating the emotions of recipients. In tropes, words, phrases, or images are used in a way that is not ordinary (Young 33). On the other hand, in schemes, the standard order of sentences is interchanged. Tropes and schemes take different forms, and are meant to make pieces of writing or speech interesting. Examples of forms of tropes include irony, metonymy, antanaclasis, pun, and metaphor (Jasinski 20).

In this speech, Elizabeth has employed figures of speech (tropes and schemes) to make the speech interesting and figurative. For example, she has used repetition, a form of scheme. She has repeated the phrase “He has” (Stanton 1-3). This is meant to put emphasis on the degree of men dominance in the society, whereby men had denied women many opportunities. She also repeats the word “resolved” toward the end of her speech. This way, she was emphasizing the capability of her recommendations to offer a lasting solution to the problems facing women in the society. Apart from creating emphasis, repetition also creates rhythm in the sentences.

Irony, a form of trope is employed in this speech when Elizabeth says, “all experience has shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they were accustomed.” (Stanton 1).This is ironical because evil is harmful to humanity, yet humanity will still tolerate it. In this quote, Elizabeth attempted to show the audience how easy it is to bring transformation in leaderships that brought evil, than to suffer under their exploitation.

“She has no voice.” (Stanton 1) This phrase has been used to show that women have less dominance in the society and that the men make most decisions. “Voice” has been used metaphorically to symbolise dominance, influence, or even power, which women lack in society. This figure of speech is a trope, as voice has been compared to power.

“He has made her if married, in the eye of the law, civily dead” (Stanton 1). This figure of speech is called hyperbole. ‘Civily dead” is an overstatement showing some exaggeration, in order to emphasize the degree of the effects of the acts involved. In this case, the woman in society has no civil life; she is dead civily since her presence does not even influence any civic decisions in the society.

“The pulpit” is a metaphor that has been used to symbolise the church. Elizabeth does not mention the word church, but instead uses pulpit to refer to the church. “The overthrow of the monopoly of the pulpit”.  This is a trope.

“Such laws as conflict” (Stanton 2) is a simile, a form of a trope. In this case, Elizabeth compares the discriminatory laws to conflicts, because that is what they are. Such laws do not result in orderliness in society; instead, they result in conflicts, women confronting men over their rights, and so forth.

“Very ill grace from those” (Stanton 3). Here, the phrase ill grace is an oxymoron, or a compressed paradox, a form of a trope, under semantic invasion. In this case, Elizabeth attempted to show the hypocrisy in the graceful acts of those involved.

“Promote every righteous cause by every righteous means” (Stanton 2) this is an antanaclasis, wordplay, which is a form of trope. Here a rhythm is formed and the sentence flows rhythmically. “Proper to be used, and in any assemblies proper to be held” (Stanton 2) is another case of antanaclasis. Specific words in sentences are used repeatedly to create a rhythm in the sentence.

“Any custom or authority adverse to it, whether modern or wearing the hoary sanction of antiquity, is to be regarded as a self-evident falsehood, and at war with mankind” (Stanton 3). In this quote, personification has been employed. Stanton gives custom and authority human characteristics of wearing and warring. In this case, customs and authority are shown to have great influence in society, if left uncontrolled.

Conclusively, this speech has highly employed figurative language of tropes and schemes. These are essential in most speeches and writings as they make have made this speech interesting to read and figurative. Repetition, symbolism, irony, hyperbole, oxymoron, personification, and symbolism have all been used to make this speech interesting as well as figurative, and boost understanding and clarity of the message in the speech.


Works Cited

Jasinski, James. “Sourcebook on Rhetoric.” Cambridge: Sage Publications, 2001.

Stanton, Elizabeth. “Declaration of Sentiments.” Speech Delivered at the First Women’s Rights

Convention 1848.

Young, Tory. “Studying English Literature: A Practical Guide” London: Cambridge University

Press, 2008.


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