In this essay, we will examine why Martin Luther Kings’ “I have a dream…. ” speech is considered to be one of the most memorable speeches of all time. King utilizes repetition and metaphors throughout the speech to effectively convey his ideas. These literary devices form the basis of King’s unique and impactful style. The use of anaphora and repetition is a common technique employed in King’s “I have a dream…. ” speech, as it helps to emphasize the pattern and enhance the rhetorical effect. The phrase “I have a dream… ” is repeated eight times consecutively, making it one of the most frequently cited examples of anaphora in modern speeches. Repetition is an effective tool for reinforcing a significant idea. Moreover, King repeatedly uses the word “dream,” which holds great personal and profound meaning. The additional phrases he appends to this imagery also bear deep personal significance. This approach is highly effective, as it enables the speech’s intended audience to visualize these aspirations becoming a reality.
Even after over 30 years since his death, when reading through the speech, one gets the feeling that things are incomplete and that King still harbors a dream. By analyzing the word frequency in King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, intriguing patterns can be observed. The word freedom is the most frequently used noun, appearing twenty times throughout the speech. This is understandable as freedom represents one of the central themes of the speech. Metaphors are an incredibly effective tool for illustrating ideas. King utilizes numerous metaphors, both large and small, to convey various concepts. “In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check.” provides an example of how King employs metaphors in his speech.
When the framers of our republic wrote the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they made a solemn commitment to all Americans. They promised that every individual would have the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, America has not fulfilled this commitment for its citizens of color. Instead, it has given them an insufficient check, indicating a lack of funds. However, we refuse to believe that justice is impossible to achieve. We reject the idea that there are limited opportunities in this country. That’s why we are here to cash in on this check — a check that will grant us freedom and justice when requested.
In addition, we have gathered at this sacred place to remind America about how important this moment is. This is not a time for indifference or gradual change; it is time to move away from segregation and towards 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 numerous metaphors to captivate the listener. King illustrates the injustice that America has imposed upon its colored citizens by contrasting the notion of moral debt (owed by the country) with a financial debt. King addresses the Americans as ‘heirs’, reflecting that they undeniably deserve their inalienable rights.
King includes various subtle details that amplify the overarching concept. He chooses to depict freedom as ‘riches’. The recurring motif of money, which is prominent throughout his speech, is effective as it aligns with the principles of capitalism in our society. People prioritize acquiring money because it is necessary for survival. The typical oppressed black individual is more preoccupied with obtaining funds to provide for their family than pursuing freedom. By employing the term ‘riches’, King conveys to this ordinary person that freedom is the key to achieving prosperity. He asserts that freedom should be the ultimate objective and represents the greatest hope for future generations.
That freedom will provide him with the chance to attain all other forms of wealth. The final statement likens racial injustice to ‘quicksand’ and brotherhood to a ‘solid rock’, creating vivid and tangible depictions of these abstract concepts. King skillfully employs numerous literary techniques, making it nearly impossible to analyze them all. This speech showcases his exceptional brilliance. The language employed within the speech is intricate, yet cohesive. The metaphors and repetition are incredibly impactful, effectively captivating the audience. These various devices collectively embody King’s distinct style.