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By Cindy N. Carroll

Sermon-Style StructureIn Sermon at the Execution of Moses Paul (execution sermon), Samson Occom uses narrative structure to convey the main message of the text. The Sermon is based on personal stories and history, emotional appeal and dramatic elements (evangelic sins, horrors, fears and anguish). The narrative structure of the Sermon helps readers to understand background and problems faced by native citizens, their grievances and hardship. As the most important, the Sermon does not impose the author’s opinion on readers but teaches them how to behave and why. In Preface, Samson Occum he addresses the audience stating that he uses “common, plain, everyday talk”. The narrative structure sets in a frame that elaborate a certain doctrine, then illustrates a series of propositions and show their practical application. Part of the satisfaction of the sermon comes from the combination of the formal symmetry of its structure with the apparent freedom and randomness of its episodes. Necessities are used as an explanation for our capacity to seek and achieve the approbation of our fellow human beings, and hence to form objective moral norms and rules of justice as internal and external guides to conduct. Also, it is possible to say that the text follows the outline structure which helps readers to grasp the idea at once.

This structure is effective because it helps readers to follow plot development and main themes expressed in the sermon. The main audience of this Sermon was uneducated readers, and for this reason the narrative style and structure helps them to understand the meaning of the work. The remarkable feature of Samson Occom’s structure and style is that he appeals to whites, blacks and Indians: he addresses the nature of people rather than their race or ethnicity. “God made us men, and we chuse to be beast and devils, God made us rational creatures, and we chuse to be fools” (101). Whatever intensity is achieved must be an intensity of the illusion that genuine life has been presented. To give dramatic descriptions with intensity, to make the imagined picture of reality glow with more than a dim light, requires the author’s finest compositional powers. Control of powerful feeling intensifies emotional appeal and adds dramatic effects.


  1. Occom, Samson. (1992) Sermon Preached by Samson Occom at the Execution of Moses Paul, an Indian.” [1772.] Ed. Studies in American Indian Literatures 4.2-3: 75-105.