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2738 words - 11 pages

Literary Techniques of Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream Speech
Literary Techniques of Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream Speech

Introduction
Martin Luther King, Jr., a prominent civil rights leader, delivered a powerful speech at the historic March on Washington. The speech uses several literary techniques to engage the listener. In the speech, King especially likes to use repetition and metaphor to convey his ideas. These devices are the foundation of King?s unique and effective style.

Repetition
In I Have a Dream King uses repetition throughout. Repetition is a good tool to use to reinforce an important idea. In Dorothy Seyler?s Read, Reason, Write, she states: ?Some ...view middle of the document...

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

King uses the repetition of the title be the ?drum beating?. He uses these words and follows them with things that he knows that people are hoping for. He uses the word 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. This audience probably includes many parents, like King, making his reference to his children universal. Also, the familiarity of bible-type language (especially in the last paragraph of the example), draws the listener closer into his dream.

All of the changes to the phrase ?I have a dream? are additions to the end, except the first one of the paragraph. The first sentence in this passage includes the word ?still?. This creates an energy, because it gives the sense that the dream will not go away, it will not diminish. This is very potent, because it?s the only change to the actual small phrase ?I have a dream? throughout the whole speech. It makes the speech continue. 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.

Metaphor
A metaphor is a very effective way to illustrate an idea. King uses many metaphors, both large and small, to describe many different notions. ?Metaphors, like connotative words, are so powerful, so emotionally compelling, that we respond to the even if we are not conscious of their use.? (Seyler 56).

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. 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 color are concerned. Instead of honoring 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...

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