Martin Luther King Speech Analysis

Martin Luther Kings’ “I have a dream…. ” speech is one of the most memorable speech’s of all time but why? In thi s essay we’ll have a look at why it’s such an effective speech. In the speech, King especially likes to use repetition and metaphors to convey his ideas. These devices are the foundation of King’s unique and effective style. Anaphora and repetition are commonly used in Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream…. ” speech because repeating the words and phrases helps to emphasise the pattern and increase the rhetorical effect. I have a dream… ” is repeated in eight successive sentences, and is one of the most often cited examples of anaphora in modern speeches. Repetition is a good device to use to strengthen an important idea. He uses and repeats the words dream, because it is such a personal and deep commodity. The phrases he adds to the end of this representation are also very personal. This is so effectual because the target audience of this speech can see these visualizations become reality.

Even now, over 30 years after his death, reading through the speech gives the reader a sense that things are not complete, and that King still has a dream. If you count the frequency of words used in King’s “I Have a Dream”, very interesting patterns emerge. The most commonly used noun is freedom, which is used twenty times in the speech. This makes sense, since freedom is one of the primary themes of the speech. A metaphor is a very effective way to illustrate an idea. King uses many metaphors, both large and small, to describe many different ideas. “In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check.

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When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of colour are concerned. Instead of honouring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds. But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.

Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand’s of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. ” The above passage includes many metaphors to engage the listener. King illustrates the injustice that America has placed upon its coloured citizens of colour in the contrasting of the idea of moral debt (owed by the country) to a financial debt. King refers to the Americans as ‘heirs’ to which this debt is owed, signifying that the people are unquestionable entitled to their inalienable rights.

King adds many small touches that enhance the larger idea. He refers to freedom as ‘riches’. The money theme, which is prevalent through the speech, works well because this is a capitalist society. People are concerned with getting money, because money is needed to live. The average oppressed black man was concerned more with getting money to feed his family than freedom. King using the world ‘riches’ which shows this average man that freedom is the key to these riches. That freedom should be the real goal. That freedom is the best hope for his future generations.

That freedom will give him that opportunity for all other riches. The last sentence refers to racial injustice as ‘quicksand’ and brotherhood as ‘solid rock’. This gives great visual and physical representation to these non-physical terms. King used so many literary techniques effectively, that analyzing them is almost impossible. This speech illustrates his true genius. The language within the speech is so complex, but it is all interconnected. The metaphors and repetition are very powerful, and really engage the audience. All of these different devices are what represent King’s unique style.

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Martin Luther King Speech Analysis. (2016, Dec 10). Retrieved from