In the time period 1490-1740 literature was entirely oral. Writing systems had not yet developed. This oral literature, with the first written works of the colonists, began American literary history. The Great Awakening, a series of religious awakenings led by Jonathan Edwards (sermon) attracted thousands of converts to many Protestant groups. In the time 1750-1800 no history of the period would be complete without the mention of the thoughts and writings of Patrick Henry (oratory speech) and Thomas Paine (essay). These men did not only express their ideas of the revolutionary period but helped put them into practice. Due to time these three men and their works: oratory speech, sermon, and essay have evolved through literature history.
Oratory is the art of skilled, eloquent public speaking. It is a way to spread messages, gain support, and sway opinions. Patrick used this technique for influencing colonists to resist British rule. He spread fear claiming if they did not fight Britain will take them as slaves. An effective orator uses four important devices to get his point across: rhetorical questions, restatement, repetition, and parallelism. Patrick Henry uses all four. "Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty?- (Henry 116) "Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication?- (Henry 118) these are all examples of rhetorical questions. There mostly used to get people to answer them in their minds; to think actively what the speaker is saying. When Patrick Henry says on page 118, " our contest shall be obtained "we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight!- he is using repetition. In this specific instance restatement is used. "The war is inevitable "and let it come! I repeat it sir, let it come!- This is a perfect example of how Henry restates, "we must fight!- Parallelism is also used in this oratory. Henry has repeated the same grammatical structure of semi-colons.