Literary Devices In I Have A Dream Speech



Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights activist, made his infamous "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. on August 28th, 1963. In this speech, King addresses the lack of free will in society that African Americans have. One of the nation's biggest protests was given to thousands of civil rights demonstrators who shared a common dream of being viewed as equal people. To effectively create an impact on the audience, King carefully structures his speech to appeal to the various types of audience, supporting it with elements such as metaphors, repetition, and the use of ethos, logos, and pathos, etc. Using these appeals allows the audience to connect with the message of Martin Luther King Jr. 

Throughout his speech, Martin Luther King uses the rhetorical device of repetition as it captures attention from the audience. In his speech, the most prominent use of repetition is when he says, "I have a dream..." This expression is repeated by King as he progressively develops an idea of what his and others ideal future needs. He creates a picture of a developed country in which there is cultural unity and equality between races, it then becomes a type of anthem. An example is when he says “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” King reminds his audience that as long as they continue to have faith in the dream of equality and freedom, civil rights advocates will continue to fight for the freedom of all individuals.

 Furthermore, into the speech King quotes “seared in the flames of withering injustice,” “quicksands of racial injustice,” by saying this, he uses the rhetorical device of pathos as his voice continues to become more dramatic and more engaging. King is seeking to make the anger that years of neglect have created, noticeable. In his voice, there is a strong expression of rage at the limits that have prevented African Americans from finding peace in their lives. He aims to get the black and white cultures together and make them live as equal people. He talks of the different types of torture that the black community has gone through in its fight for equality and freedom, causing the emotional aspect in his speech to grow stronger.

Although in the beginning, middle, and end, several devices were used. I feel as if metaphors were used all throughout his speech. King says a quote that I felt summed up his entire speech, “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.”  If their demands are not met, King compares what the Civil Rights movement would generate to. He compares the day of possibly gaining  these rights to a “bright day of justice”. While the first metaphor of King's weather contains a gradual progression of events, his second metaphor involves an end to violence and destruction. The use of weather metaphors by King highlights the movement's reality that it is a problem that cannot be fixed and that must demonstrate itself through fair rights.