Throughout this comparative commentary I will compare and analyze two well known speeches of President John F. Kennedy in terms of content and purpose, audience, tone, stylistic devices, point of view, syntax and imagery. The two speeches I am going to compare with each other are the ‘Inaugural Address’ [text A] , which was delivered 20 January 1961 and the ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech [text B], which was delivered 26 June 1963 in West Berlin. While both speeches concern themselves with liberty and peace, one is aimed at the liberty and peace of citizens of the United States and also at citizens of the world, whereas the other is aimed at the liberty and peace of citizens of Germany in particular.
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The theme in both speeches is explicit; both speeches obviously deal with peace and liberty. The main purpose of the ‘Inaugural Address’ was to inspire the American citizens by evoking idealism and a sense of security. Especially the sentence ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.’ was inspirational to many. The purpose of the ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech on the other hand was to assure the world that the United States was maintaining its commitment to (West) Berlin and to explain that Communism was not the wave of the future . Despite Kennedy sometimes gives some facts, both pieces are claiming to be subjective and imaginative.
Both and text A and text B are both and written and narrated by President Kennedy himself. Actually Kennedy has had some help of his German interpreter with translating the now most notorious sentence of his speech ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ [I am a citizen of Berlin], but he admits this in his speech by saying ‘I appreciate my interpreter translating my German.’ The relationship to reader in text A is more of a intimate relationship that Kennedy wants to create. The reason for this is that he wants to stir the readers emotion by creating a bond between all citizen of the United States. By using a lot of ‘we’ and ‘us’ in his speech he creates this effect. This also made the audience, his fellow citizens of America, feel patriotic and positive. For example when he uses ‘our forebears’ and ‘our ancient heritage’ in text A. On the other hand, the relationship to the reader in text B is a more distant relationship. Text A has, just like text A, a first person point-of-view. But the difference is that in this case it creates some distance, instead of cohesion. Although Kennedy obliviously gives his opinion on certain matters, Kennedy is generally a trustworthy narrator in both pieces.
The tones of both speeches are not similar to each other. The tone of text A is hortative and or inspirational as well as pious. He uses for example ‘Almighty God’ and ‘â€¦the command of Isaiahâ€¦’ In text B the tone is more hopeful and ardent, especially when he repeats the sentence ‘Let them come to Berlin.’
The diction of both piece do not differ a lot. In both of his speeches he uses semi-formal vocabulary and phrasing. Although both texts are rather easy to understand, text B is a little easier to comprehend. This may be done on purpose because the audience consisted of Germans, unlike his audience of his inaugural speech which consisted of Americans. Furthermore he does not use a lot of adjectives, passive verbs and superlatives in both pieces. Something that is remarkable in text A is that he did not establish himself as the president of America; but as an citizen of the United States who was ‘born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage.’ Kennedy’s repetition in using certain diction further strengthens his purpose. For example, the recurring word ‘pledge’ [ text A] is used in places in every promising context And ‘Let them come to Berlin’ [text B] is used to weaken an argument about West Germany and capitalism.
Kennedy has only used metaphors in his inaugural speech . He uses for example ‘those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.’ to make clear that the communist countries are very dangerous. It is striking that Kennedy has not used any metaphors and similes in his ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech. Imagery can be useful in pieces that are persuasive to appeal to the audience, by formulating images in their minds. Therefore a reason why Kennedy has not used any metaphors or similes is because it otherwise would become way too hard to comprehend for the audience.
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Text a consist of long complicated compound sentences, while text B consists of rather shorter and easier sentences. An example of a sentence used in text A, which is long and complicated is the sentence ‘Now the trumpet summons us again-not as a call to beararms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are-but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”-a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.’ Kennedy did not use such sentences in his ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech because he took the audience into account. Otherwise it would be too hard for them to understand.
Thanks to Kennedy’s heightened tone, very diverse syntax, well-chosen diction, diverse vocabulary and imagine, both speeches nowadays belong to one of the best speeches in history. This is also due to the fact that Kennedy was good in writing speeches and in delivering speeches. I prefer text A more than text B because this speech is perfectly balanced. With this I mean that one statement is perfectly balanced by another. A good example of this is ‘… this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.’ The effect of the speech is strong, positive and also emotional. I believe that the way Kennedy uses affectionate words is just amazing.
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