Rhetorical Analysis of Martin Luther King's I Have A Dream Speech

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In a period of time where few were willing to listen, Martin Luther King, Jr. stood proudly, gathered and held the attention of over 200,000 people. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech was very effective and motivational for African Americans in 1963. Many factors affected Kings’ speech in a very positive manner; the great emotion behind the words, delivering the speech on the steps of the memorial of the President who defeated slavery. And not only was this message beautifully written for the hope of African Americans, but the underlying message for white people, revolution and peace. To stimulate emotion from both parties of his listeners, King used a selection of rhetorical devices such as allusions to historical …show more content…
The simile itself is one of the relentlessness, power and inevitability of a great stream and hence, of the effects of justice as well. This is King's way of calling for an unstoppable justice to prevail. Kings next allusion to the Bible; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh see it together,” just hammers his message of equality in. Another non biblical allusion would be “sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent” which is a reference to one of Shakespeare’s plays.

In addition to King’s uses of allusions, the speech contains many contrasting metaphors and similes that influence his audience very effectively. He begins by pointing out that even though Negros are freed from slavery, they are still slaves “crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.” King then goes on about how “America has given the negro people a bad check” whereas the check in this instance symbolizes their right to equality because the mistreatment of the Negroes and racial discrimination is evident and the check “has come back marked ‘insufficient funds’” meaning they have yet to feel what they too, are guaranteed. With that understanding of human nature, Martin Luther King, Jr. compares gradualism to a tranquilizing drug, implying that people have a tendency to relax when things are “cooling off.” But he urges for his people not to relax and to take charge “to make justice in reality for all of God’s children.”
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