Rhetorical Analysis on “I Have A Dream” (Draft)


“I Have A Dream” by Martin Luther King Junior is a widely known speech that demonstrates the power of rhetoric and the effect it can have on the audience. This speech was written and presented by Martin Luther King Jr. in the year 1963. He uses symbolism, metaphorical imagery, and powerful diction to create an impact on the audience. These rhetorical strategies demonstrate ethos, pathos, and logos to help the audience understand Martin Luther King Jr’s message and purpose.

This speech opens up with a very strong use of diction that creates a logical and emotional appeal on the audience. The main target of this speech is toward the African – American’s living in the United States. Martin Luther King Jr. opens up his speech stating that he is grateful for everyone who attended “the greatest demonstration of freedom”. At this point this speech is already creating an appeal of pathos. He then goes on to create a very logical appeal when stating that the Emancipation Proclamation gave “hope to millions of Negro slaves who had seared in the flames of withering injustice”. The Emancipation Proclamation was the first event where African – American’s were increasing up the ladder of social hierarchy. Dr King uses anaphora, the repetition of a word or words at the beginning of successive clauses, to create an appeal of emotion and logic. He describes that it has been one hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation but still “the life of the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination”, “the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity” , “the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land”. Martin Luther King Jr repeats the words “One hundred years later the Negro…” targeting the audience who is mostly comprised of African – Americans that they are still under oppression and that must change,

Dr. King uses many instances of symbolism and metaphorical speech to help explain to the audience that there must be equality for all races. A very clear instance of symbolism and metaphorical speech Dr King demonstrates is occurs in the second paragraph. Dr King is comparing the “sacred obligation” that America has given to the African – Americans during that time as a “bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds”.  He is stating that America has given promises to the African – Americans however, those promises are empty.

There are countless instances of symbolism that occur throughout this speech and he is attempting to really connect with the audience and demonstrate an appeal of emotion and logic. He is stating that America has given all these opportunities and chances yet Dr King believes all of those opportunities are empty, they are just words. In response Dr. King states to his audience that he refuses “to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt”, and again he uses anaphora stating that he refuses to believe “there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation”. As stated before these “insufficient funds” are empty promises that the United State of America has given to the African – Americans. Everywhere we turn to in the speech, there is a demonstration of some sort of call to action, telling the audience to rise up and demonstrate their freedom. Martin Luther King tells the audience that it is time to make “real the promise of democracy” and “it is time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice”. This statement is teeming with emotional appeal, telling the audience that the time is over to stay in the shadows of segregation, and Dr King creates this emotional appeal with a very repetitive statement to stand up and represent the African – Americans and the idea of racial equality.

Overall throughout this piece it is easy to recognize the style of diction that Martin Luther King uses to demonstrate his point of view on the subject matter. The diction is one that calls for justice and it constantly repeats itself. The most repeated word throughout the speech is the word “justice”. This word is accompanied by the request for justice and that too is constantly repeated throughout the text. However the most significant moment in this speech occurs in the closure. It occurs at a time when Martin Luther King demonstrates “his dream”. He uses anaphora combined with powerful diction to create his final emotional appeal. He asks for America to follow up on its promises to become true to its words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”

This speech had the power to move millions of people and to get them to fight for their freedom. Martin Luther King Jr achieved this with this one speech. This speech demonstrates the diction, symbolism, and metaphorical language needed to create a emotional, logical, and credible appeal that helped the nation jump on its feet and make the better of it. During a time where segregation was everywhere and the racial minorities felt like they had no freedom, Martin Luther King Jr. steeped in and helped save their freedom and individualism through this speech.

This entry was posted in Rhetoric and Civic Life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Rhetorical Analysis on “I Have A Dream” (Draft)

  1. Pingback: Tips/Strategies for Rhetorical Analysis | Mr. Nittle

Leave a Reply