Abigail Adams Letter to John Quincy Adams: Rhetorical Analysis

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In Abigail Adams’ letter written in January 1780 to her son, John Quincy Adams, she asserts that John Quincy Adams should recognize the benefits of the voyage he had taken with father, John Adams, and his brother. In order to persuade him that the voyage will allow him to grow as an individual and to motivate him to achieve his fullest potential, Abigail Adams addresses John Quincy Adams with a sincere and thoughtful tone and uses various rhetorical strategies, such as allusions and metaphors.

Abigail Adams depicts a sincere and thoughtful tone for John Quincy Adams to adhere to her words of encouragement. She begins the letter with, “I hope to see you have had no occasion, either from enemies or the dangers of the sea” (lines 1-3). She hopes that John Quincy Adams has had a safe travel thus far, which indicates her concerns for his well-being. With the role as a mother, she deeply cares for John Quincy Adams and always wishes the best for him. The sincerity portrayed from this builds her ethos because mothers often know what is best for their children. Since her credibility is strengthened, her letter becomes more persuasive to John Quincy Adams because it shows that she urged him to go on the voyage out of her best intentions.

In addition to expressing a thoughtful tone, Abigail Adams uses a metaphor to motivate John Quincy Adams to actively engage in the voyage as well. By incorporating a comparison of a “judicious traveller to a river” (lines 16-17) into her letter, Abigail Adams conveys that as John Quincy Adam travels, he will strengthen as an individual, similarly to how a stream will strengthen its flows as it travels at a greater distance. This builds logic because the purpose of going on the voyage is to allow him to gain more experience and knowledge. By defining the benefits he will receive, Abigail Adams hopes that it will incline John Quincy Adams to earnestly participate in the voyage and prosper.

Abigail Adam also uses allusion to strengthen her overall argument. The author alludes to Julius Caesar by asking, “Would Cicero have shone so distinguished as an orator if he had not been roused, kindled, and inflamed by the tyranny Catiline, Verres, and Mark Antony?” (line 30-32). She explains that Cicero succeeded as an orator despite the challenges he had encountered. Likewise, John Quincy Adams must overcome difficulties and overlook his unwillingness in order to achieve greatness. Abigail Adams hope that he understands that hard work will lead to progress and prosperity.

Abigail Adam uses a thoughtful tone, a metaphor, and an allusion to strengthen her persuasion in hopes that John Quincy Adams will take her words of encouragement into consideration in order to strive and succeed as an individual. The sincerity enables Abigail Adams to express herself from a maternal point of view, while the metaphor and allusion build logics as they are examples that John Quincy Adams is familiar with. Abigail Adams uses this combination of rhetorical devices in hopes that her son will wholly partake in the voyage. 

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Abigail Adams Letter to John Quincy Adams: Rhetorical Analysis. (2021, May 01). Retrieved May 29, 2024 , from

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