Rhetorical analysis of "Death of a Soldier" by Louisa May Alcott

Essay by PSUGHigh School, 12th gradeA, January 2003

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The excerpt "Death of a Soldier," taken from Hospital Sketches by Louisa May Alcott features various rhetorical strategies to create an appeal to emotion. She exhibits the compassion of the nurse for John, even in the face of inevitable death; she displays the altruistic mindset of John, and adds depth to her words by using analogies. She uses these tools in order to inflict a deep emotional feeling and an understanding of how awful the situation actually was.

One of the rhetorical strategies of this piece is her compassion, even when seemingly futile, for the wounded soldier. The way Alcott describes John's situation as being completely helpless and doomed. The doctor's words, not having "the slightest hope" for recovery, illustrate his condition. Given this information prior to her attempt to ease his pain, Alcott shows her sheer pity for the "poor lad". "I bathed his face, brushed his bonny brown hair, set all things smooth about him."

This quote shows how much effort she put into even the slightest difference in his comfort, in hopes of inflicting a "satisfied expression" on a dying face. She "stirred the air about him with a slow wave of air and waited for him to die". She stood by him until his breath helping him bear the agony of his inevitable and anticipated death. These examples of her charity instill feelings of understanding and pity for John.

The other side of Alcott's appeal to emotion is John's mentality. John questions the nurse in reference to the battle: "...do they think it will be my last?" He is seemingly eager to return to his position and fulfill his duty. He feels loyal to his cause and indifferent to his own well-being. On his deathbed he is only momentarily worried for himself when introduced to his...