Analysis of Oratory (part 9)

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Feb 26, 2009 00:59
Analysis of Tecumseh’s Adress to the Osages (1811)
The Shawnee chief Tecumseh became famous for his efforts to unify the Native American tribes against the Americans (Goltz [n.d.]). In 1809 he started his journey in order to proclaim his requests. Two years later Tecumseh reached the Osage Nation in the region of Oklahoma and tried to persuade them with his political agenda. Tecumseh wanted them to join the pan-Indian confederacy. Together with other Native tribes and the military help of the British troops, the Shawnee chief called on the Osages to enter war against the Americans. His speech gives evidence of Tecumseh’s political intentions.
In order to make his oratory powerful and persuasive he reasonably structures his speech as it is typical for Indian speech acts. Tecumseh’s speech follows the six-part pattern concerning the inner structure. First, he addresses his audience by making a reference to the Great Spirit (l. 1-3). Within the second part Tecumseh states the major issue of the gathering and calls on the Osages to unify with his tribe in order to survive the aggressions of the Americans (l. 4-7). He elaborates on the historical facts and gives a brief outline of the relation between the Natives and the Europeans, focussing on the negative development of the Whites attitude towards the aboriginals (l. 8-21). Next to these historical explanations the orator gives a mythological approach when referring to the Great Spirit and his history of creation (l. 22-25). The following section is concerned with the present situation of the Indians, and Tecumseh gives strong arguments for the Osages to unify the pan-Indian confederacy (l. 28-47). The penultimate paragraph refers to the will of the Great Spirit who supports Tecumseh’s idea of punishing the Whites (l. 48-60). The speech ends with a final appeal to the Osages to follow Tecumseh’s tribe into war against the Americans as it is the will of the Great Spirit (l. 61-63).
The following further analysis of Tecumseh’s speech tries to figure out, how the orator’s highly persuasive intentions are reflected within the use of tropes. Furthermore, the above outlined theory on the different functions of figurative language will be adopted and will help us to classify the most striking images within the speech.
Tecumseh’s aim is to convince the Osages to join the pan-Indian confederacy. In order to reach his political intentions he artfully employs imagery language. During his speech he tries to create a unifying atmosphere between his tribe and the tribe of the Osages. Therefore, he uses tropes, referring to traditional images. At the beginning of his speech he states that they “belong to one family” (l. 1) using the metaphor that they “are all children of the Great Spirit” (l. 1). This traditional and furthermore religious image shall remind the audience of their common cultural background. It shall bridge the gap between the two different clans and shall catch the audience’s goodwill. Addressing the Osages throughout the speech as “Brothers” (l. 1, 4, 8, etc.) further conveys Tecumseh’s idea, that he does not feel superior to his listeners, but that they are all equal (Sanders/ Peek, 1974: 248). Next to the use of traditional images, he tries to influence the natural order with harmonious descriptions of the relations between the two tribes. The following expressions “we walk in the same path; slake our thirst at the same spring; and […] smoke the pipe” (l. 2-3) have the function to create a harmonious atmosphere and they shall exert influence on the natural order. While referring to similarities of both tribes Tecumseh wants “to secure order, harmony, and balance” (German, 1998: 35).
On the one hand the speaker tries to unite the Osages with his tribe through his use of images; on the other hand he builds up a concept of the enemy that evokes feelings of hatred and fear of the Whites. He compares the Whites to “poisonous serpents” (l. 13). This image gives evidence of the bad experiences Tecumseh and his fellows made with the Europeans. He further alerts the Osages of the bad strategies of the Whites which seek to separate and antagonize the Indian tribes. The orator mentions white runners, who act like “devastating winds, or rushing waters” (l. 40 - 41) in order to illustrate the dimensions of the settlers’ malicious actions. Moreover he characterizes the Whites as avaricious when painting the picture, that the settlers only whish for peace when they are “on the bosom of [the Indians’] mother” (l. 27).
When referring to historical facts, Tecumseh uses imagery language to demonstrate the whole extent of the Europeans’ settlement. At the beginning of their arrival in America the whites “asked for land sufficient for a wigwam” but now insist on the whole of the Indians hunting grounds “from the rising to the setting sun” (l. 18-19) In order to make his urgent request for unity more forcefully, he reminds the community of the reams of dead Indians by referring to their blood which “has run like water on the ground” (l. 5). This image illustrates the “masses of people” (German, 1998: 31) that died and further clarifies the cruelty of Whites against the Natives. Next to tropes which depict mass nouns, Tecumseh uses images in order to reach his listeners’ emotions. The speaker’s feelings of revenge are reflected in cruel images of hatred and determination. He proclaims that his men “will make [the hatches] fat with blood; they will drink the blood of the white people” (l. 31-32) and “will stain the earth red with their blood” (l. 47).
Besides the persuasive use of imagery languages, Tecumseh employs rhetorical questions (l. 45) in order to address his audience directly.
The passion and power with which the orator brings his arguments forward is not only reflected in his vivid and emotional pictures but also indicated by the use of exclamation marks (l. 3).
The argumentative structure of his speech further supports the use of imagery language and makes the oratory an “engine of persuasion” (Bahr, 1996: 107).