English II Pre-Ap
16 January 2018
Analysis of Nelson Mandela’s “I Am Prepared to Die” Speech
In 1964, Nelson Mandela was convicted of high treason, sabotage, and conspiracy against the South African government. On April 20th this black man stood in a white man’s court and delivered a 3 hour statement to the Supreme Court in his defence instead of testifying during his trial which now is known as the famous “I Am Prepared to Die” speech. Nelson Mandela seeks to convince his audience that despite the arguments in disagreement with him, he is prepared to die for racial equality in his country. Through his speech he uses strong word choice, narratives, and pathos to explain situations that help connect him to the crowd along with persuasive language to inform people about the government in his nation and how the people should be united as one.
Mandela constructed his words in ways which made it easy for the listeners to follow his case. He spoke about an African leader being jailed, how a group of African protesters were killed by whites and policemen, and the Sharpeville incident in which sixty nine blacks were killed. By using stories, it assisted in setting up his speech and bringing the crowd to a realization that the world they lived in was cruel which led him to inform that the ANC group he was a part of had a chief goal to “defend the rights of the African people,” not harm them in any way. “They had to accept the fact that they could die in their resistance of apartheid while their leader, Mandela, could be imprisoned for the remainder of his life. White listeners were forced to face the reality that members of their race caused this entire situation to unfold.” By using pathos, he emphasizes the neglected emotions and feelings of his people and that all they want to do is to live a life where everyone is treated with equal amount of respect. He claims, “The lack of human dignity experienced by Africans is the direct result of white supremacy… When anything has to be carried or cleaned the white man will look around for an African to do it.” This statement could relate to many situations that most people in the audience can relate to and feel emotion for.
Nelson takes on the role of the audience through persuasive language. He repetitively uses word choice such as “we” and “them” while speaking out just like many other politicians have done and continue to do in order to relate themselves to the audience. Mandela stated, “We believe that South Africa belongs to all people who live in it, and not to one group, be it black or white.” This statement not only uses “we,” but address all people and unites the races as one. “We hope that we will bring the Government and its supporters to their senses before it is too late, so that both the Government and its policies can be changed before matters reach the desperate state of civil war.”