An analysis of I Have a Dream

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This famous speech by Martin Luther King, Jr, in 1963 is an example of structured and impassioned rhetoric that is also carefully designed to elicit a specific response and to appeal to a wide ranging audience. The use of language and stylistic devices in the speech serve to enforce the central massage, which is repeated and built on throughout in different contexts. The central thrust of the speech lies in the demand for freedom and equality for African Americans or the ‘Negro' population. This is a carefully structured and controlled argument that begins with the necessity to rectify the injustices of the past and then, logically and emotionally, builds on the legitimacy of this demand. This is enforced by a veiled threat that the demand for equality is not to be taken lightly; which in turn is ameliorated by a reassurance that the speech is not a call to irresponsible actions. Lastly, the speech emphasizes that the issue of freedom and basic human rights for the Negro is related to the freedom of all in a harmonious and united society. Throughout the speech the use of language is concise and controlled and aimed at evoking specific responses. I will focus on the use of metaphor that dramatical Continue...

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And "Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racialinjustice to the solid rock of brotherhood". The symbolism of a"quicksands'also plays on the suggested threat of what might happen if therepresentations of the black man are ignored. "But one hundred years later, wemust face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. The thrust of the second half of the speech is one of reconciliationand a hope for the future. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. The entire speech succeeds because it is logically constructed andalso because it has the emotional impetus to appeal to various levels inthe audience. For example the reiteration of a"" "Wecan never be satisfied", "We will not be satisfied". Metaphor isbeautifully used to describe the vision or "dream" that King wanted toconvey. The sense of justice andlegitimacy is emphasized by the use of historicalBiblical terminology andstyle to emphasize the historical relevance of the speech a"" for example,the use of the phrase "Five score years ago". "It came asa joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity". This metaphor is effective in that it is veryaccessible and reinforces the central point easily. The speaker reinforces this aspect through a telling and effectivemetaphor; namely, the use of money and the "check" of historical legitimacythat has not been honored. Even more importantly, on an emotional level, the words are intendedto awaken an awareness of the injustice of the present situation. Note how the a"check' metaphor is seamlessly extendedto encompass his purpose. Thisalso serves to allay fears of black encroachment on power and privilege andrather suggests sharing and working towards a common goal.