Rhetorical Analysis of the I Have a Dream Speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Cheers echoed throughout Washington D.C. August 28, 1963 as Martin Luther King Jr. paved the path to freedom for those suffering from racial segregation. It was the day of the March on Washington, which promoted Civil Rights and economic equality for African Americans. In order to share his feelings and dreams with the rest of the nation, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his speech encouraging all to overcome racial segregation. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech was very effective due to the use of metaphors, repetition, historical and literary references, and poetic devices.
Metaphors
Metaphors found throughout the speech created images in the minds of those in the audience and helped make his points stronger. With the
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He used repetition again as he let the audience know that it was time to rid the nation of racial segregation. Martin Luther King Jr. repeated “We cannot be satisfied” while making the point that until the Negros were free, nothing would make them content. One of the most emphasized parts of his speech was when Martin Luther King Jr. declared, “I have a dream” (King, 1963, para 13-20). He concluded his repetition by saying that with their faith, the Negros would one day be free (King, 1963, para 21).
Historical References
Martin Luther King Jr. began his speech with “Five score years ago” referring to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (King, 1963, para 2). He spoke of how the Emancipation Proclamation brought hope to millions of Negro slaves. As he continued, Martin Luther King Jr. referred to the Constitution and Declaration of Independence when saying, “All men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (King, 1963, para 4).
Literary References
A bit further into his speech Martin Luther King Jr. made a Biblical reference to the Israelites as he stated that the Negro was still languishing in the corners of American society and found himself in exile in his own land (King, 1963, para 3). Martin Luther King Jr. created a Biblical reference to Psalm 23 as he compared segregation to a dark and desolate valley, which referred to the valley of the shadow
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