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Wheatley's Patriotic Poem Essay

930 words - 4 pages

American independence was achieved through the unification of colonists against the British crown. This unity required cooperation among the colonies and support for the newly formed Continental Army. George Washington was the general of the Continental Army and was expected to meet the expectations of colonists eagerly awaiting freedom. To encourage the general in his endeavors, poet Phillis Wheatley wrote “To His Excellency General Washington.” Using literary devices in the poem, Wheatley promotes the merit of the American Revolution.
By using allusion, Wheatley emphasizes the worth of the American Revolution. Wheatley accomplishes this goal by alluding to figures in mythology and describing their attributes. The poet was familiar with such allusions due to their prevalence in the literature of her day. Because of this exposure, literary critic Anne Applegate notes that Wheatley’s poetry is, “…filled with scattered references to classical Greek and Roman figures, both literary and mythological… (124) that she uses to express her thoughts. Consequently, Wheatley uses mythological allusions to stress the value of the American rebellion in “To His Excellency General Washington.” For example, when describing the Continental Army, the poet states that the movement of the soldiers is, “As when Eolus heaven’s fair face deforms, Enwrapp’d in tempest and a night of storms” (Wheatley lines 15-16). Eolus is the god of winds in classic mythology and Wheatley uses this allusion to note that similar to a powerful god rolling across the earth, the Continental Army will run down the British forces in their attempt to thwart America’s sovereignty. The effect of Wheatley’s allusion works to elevate the American Revolution to a level that is godly, making it a movement that is not to opposed. All in all, Wheatley uses allusions in “To His Excellency General Washington” to stress the merit of the American Revolution.
In conjunction with allusion, the diction of Wheatley’s poem supports the value of the American Revolution. Wheatley uses many sophisticated words in her writings due to her extensive education. Literary critic Anne Applegate surmised that because of this background, in Wheatley’s poems, “Her diction is highly stylized and elevated.” (124). While this word choice often works to emphasize a specific attribute about a person or an idea, in the case of Wheatley’s poem to George Washington her diction simultaneously creates the impression that the American Revolution is an honorable cause. This effect is evidenced by Wheatley’s diction in passages such as, “Celestial choir! enthron’d in realms of light, Columbia’s scenes of glorious toils I write,” (1-2) and, “Thee, first in peace and honours, -we demand The grace and glory of thy martial band” (25-26). The wording of these passages is not only elegant, but works to reveal that the efforts of Americans in their war against...

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