"The Words That Remade America" by Garry Wills is truly a remarkable document. In one sweep, it covers all aspects of the Gettysburg Address: physical and intellectual events leading to the address, the great power of the rhetoric, current and later impact, as well as the who, what, where, when, why, and how of all three. This remarkable document also informs a great deal concerning the man known as Abraham Lincoln, the writer and orator behind that world-changing speech. Readers are provided with background into his life, an appreciated glimpse of the man behind the symbol. That information is far from straight and hard fact, however; Wills' views and opinions seep in through the cracks, like sand through a sifter, after which, if one looks carefully, they may be regarded and determined.
What then are these opinions? What is Garry Wills' view of Abraham Lincoln? It could be said that Wills' entertains a duality.
His opinions exist on two levels. The first occurs when considering Lincoln as an individual entity. When Wills takes this perspective, he operates in a relatable plane. Lincoln is a human being, just like any other. He is capable of strife and improvement, grief and pain, failure and error. He can never attain perfection; he can merely reach toward it. The second level of opinion occurs when Lincoln is placed side by side with the Gettysburg Address. Now Abraham Lincoln takes on a new face. When Lincoln is coupled with such an etherealized document, he too becomes larger than life. In the mind of Wills, Lincoln no longer reaches for perfection; he attains it. He becomes a symbol.
Evidence of Wills' initial and humanistic view is abundant throughout the article. In specific, Wills provides evidence of his own opinion in several ways: his...