Analysis

This analysis of Barack Obama’s 2008 victory speech is inspired by the rhetorical pentagram model. Here is a short overview of the main points in our analysis.

In what follows, we will look at the topics of the speech – responsibility, change, and hope – and the way these relate to issues in American society in 2008, such as the economic crisis and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We will present the speaker and his position as a Democrat and an African-American, and how these aspects influence the way he presents himself in the speech. We will also examine the audience – both those who watched the speech delivered live and also those Americans and foreigners who watched the speech through various kinds of media.

We will analyze how the speaker uses language tools to achieve his intentions: at how repetitions make the speech more memorable, at the choice of words and the speaker’s tone, as well as at how the speaker appeals to the audience’s reason, emotions, and trust.

We will discuss the circumstances of the speech, looking at the electoral campaign before Obama’s election as well as at American foreign policy. 

Lastly, we will connect the speaker’s intention of convincing the audience to accept him and his views on change and responsibility with language tools he uses and the circumstances and topics of the speech.

You can read the full analysis of the speech in the next pages!

Further help

Retorisk analyse

Do you need more help for analyzing speeches? Check out our Norwegian guide to rhetorical analysis here.