Essays On Success Is Counted Sweetest

Rhetorical Analysis Essay examples

842 WordsOct 29th, 20144 Pages

Rhetorical Analysis
Abraham Lincoln’s “Second Inaugural Address” and Emily Dickinson’s “Success is Counted Sweet,” are two inspirational pieces of art that fall under two different types of discourses. The “Second Inaugural Address,” is a great example and definition of what Rhetoric is. It encompasses all four resources of languages- argument, appeal, arrangement, and artistic devices. “Success is Counted Sweet,” doesn’t cover the four resources of language that apply to rhetoric; therefore, it is categorized as a poem. According to the chapter, “rhetoric addresses unresolved issues that do not dictate a particular outcome and in the process it engages our value commitments.” (15). We see how Lincoln’s inaugural speech tries to engage…show more content…

He states how both, the North and South, “read the same Bible and pray to the same God,” and neither the North nor South expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it attained. Lincoln also maintains an optimistic tone throughout the speech and invokes unity with his parallel structured sentences.
Emily Dickinson’s “Success is Counted Sweetest,” doesn’t cover all four resources of language. It is a poem that does not call for action but does create an emotional appeal for the people. Throughout her poem, she created an emotional appeal for success and its value and the desire and want for success. We see how she creates such emotion when she states, “The distant strains of triumph break, agonizing and clear.” What Dickinson means by this is that gaining success can be the most beautiful accomplishment but at the same time, agonizing to reach. This creates an emotional appeal for those who are living through the Civil War, making the people have a desire for peace, but they have to go through bloodshed in the process of gaining success. Emily Dickinson carries out artistic devices throughout her poem, which also creates an emotional appeal for the audience. She uses metaphors to describe success by stating, “Success is counted sweetest.” Dickinson also uses her poem to recreate what was occurring at the time of the war. She speaks of the “purple Host” which is the representation of the Army and “capturing the

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This poem’s message, carried forth in a few different metaphors, is that those who succeed never truly appreciate it—it is only those who fail, or who lack something, that can truly appreciate how wonderful it would be if they did succeed. The dilemma presented by this poem is that it is not just those who strive for longer before succeeding that can appreciate it more, it is only those who “ne’er succeed” who can count it “sweetest” to succeed. This means, then, that no one ever truly appreciates success to its full desert, because those who could, once offered the chance, lose the ability to.

The next metaphor changes the scope of the poem slightly; it is no longer just about success, but about want and desire, too. Here, for someone “To comprehend a nectar,” that is, to truly understand all the wonderful aspects of nectar, and to be satisfied by it, not just to scarf it down, “Requires sorest need.” That is, only the starving can truly appreciate food. Again, we have the dilemma that as soon as one has their first bite, they are no longer starving, and they quickly lose their ability to appreciate it.

The final two stanzas elucidate one last, more extended, metaphor. Here Dickinson has taken us to a battlefield, and she compares the perspectives of the winning and losing sides. Not only can the soldiers in the winning army not feel the same appreciation of victory as the losing soldiers, but they cannot even truly understand what it is. Those soldiers left “defeated” and “dying” on the battlefield, however, can, as they must listen to the other side’s celebrations of their victory.


Fame, or success, and their lack—failure—often occurs as a theme in Dickinson’s poetry. Ironically, this poem, extolling the virtues of failure, was one of her very few poems to be published (although after heavy editorializing). Yet while this poem’s publication may complicate the issue, it can still be read as being largely about Dickinson’s own failure to publish her poetry, even though she removes the poem and its failures from herself by using only third-person narration and an distant, unemotional tone.

Although during her lifetime her poems were not published, there was something to be gained in this ostensible failure, and that is what she explores in this poem. Beyond just liking paradoxes, Dickinson regularly sees pain as having the positive side of adding to one’s experience, and this is another example of that paradox. Not only can a successfully published poet not understand the true joy of that publication, as the winning soldier cannot, but they also lose their ability to empathize with failure generally, as the victorious soldier strides off to loud fanfare, completely ignoring the dead and dying on the other side of the battle field. Nor can they see the true beauty of success, and thus, they lose part of their emotional vocabulary for their poems. In this way the experience of success may actually lead to less truly successful poems—they may be published, but they are not as profound, or so Dickinson seems to believe.

This can be read as a reason that Dickinson did not try harder to get her poems published, although it is more likely that had to do with her repeated failures to do so, and the agonizing changes editors made, even when her poems were accepted. This poem, then, is more of a portrait of the frustrating ironies of life, rather than a single extended metaphor for the good side of her failure to publish, for the examples in the poem show that true happiness cannot be ultimately available, if one cannot appreciate success unless one does not have it.

Dickinson is careful to avoid directly discussing the successes or failures of publication, just as she is careful to keep herself out of the poem as a character or even a visible speaker. The opening two lines deal with success directly, followed by two metaphors; starvation and loss in battle. Of these, the battle metaphor gets by far the majority of the lines, which seems to emphasize the fact that success often requires the failure of another.


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