I Have a Dream Rhetorical Analysis
This speech had a profound effect on the Civil Rights Movement, because only a short time after this speech was delivered, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed, proving the true significance of this speech. MLK’s speeches and peaceful demonstrations incited change in the hearts and minds of Americans nationwide. He took an enormous risk in delivering this speech, knowing that many white folks, as well as the US government would surely want his head for delivering a speech such as this one. However, he stood tall and brave, and inspired an entire nation to change.
Therefore, through MLK’s masterful use of allusion, metaphors, ethos, pathos, and rhetorical questions, he was able to prove to all Americans that racism and segregation are not the intended foundations of America. As MLK delivered his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial he alluded to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, saying, “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. ” MLK’s reference to Lincoln established authority into his speech. Lincoln was a very powerful who played a critical role in shaping America in his time as President.
He empowered the American people throughout the civil war, gained the trust of America and established a new sense of freedom that would live on until today. MLK is invoking the authority of Lincoln to strengthen his own view on civil rights. Therefore, this quote provides a strong appeal to ethos, and establishes credibility with his audience. MLK also alludes to the Declaration of Independence to bring authority to his cause for racial equality as he quotes, ‘“unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The utilization of this quote is for the purpose of showing that MLK has a supreme authority on his side. He is stating that the American government has not lived up to this promise to all American citizens, and has neglected to safeguard its authority. By doing so, he establishes his credibility, by referring to the authority of a great American, and our own Constitution. Metaphors, another useful rhetorical device, are essential to help audiences fully understand an idea. It compares an idea with something the audience is familiar with, which brings about feelings such as ethos and pathos.
MLK used metaphors to further address his point to the audience in a clear, create, and concise manor. He uses a plethora of fairly complicated metaphors in his speech, claiming that by “the Constitution and Declaration of Independence,” the forefathers of America were “signing a promissory note” that all men, regardless of the color of their skin, were to be granted equal rights. MLK then goes on to say on behalf of the blacks, the US government has given them a “bad check,” a bad check that does not promise them the same rights that have been given to the white population.
Later on, MLK says that many equal rights activists and the passive, quiet ones too tired to fight, have been “battered by the storms of persecution” and the “winds of police brutality. ” Through this metaphor, MLK displays the supporters of the Jim Crow laws, laws that destroyed the lives of many southern African-Americans, in a negative way. Both of these metaphors are related to ethos, because the first metaphor relates to the human ethic of keeping promises between one another.
Meanwhile, the second metaphor speaks of torture, something that evokes pathos in the reader, who can feel the pain of African-Americans in their fight for freedom. Finally, MLK utilizes a variety of metaphors when affirming that with faith, it is possible to alter the “jangling discords” of the segregated US, and transform it into a “beautiful symphony of brotherhood. ” This metaphor, on the other hand, is related to alliteration, as the audience immediately feels good because the euphony created by this word choice.
These metaphors used by MLK are aimed to make the audience, as well as the world, recognize that continued racial injustice would lead to complete chaos in the future, while racial equality will lead to a beautiful society for centuries to come. Therefore, MLK convinced the world that by giving blacks equal rights, the entire nation as a whole would greatly benefit. MLK utilized a series of rhetorical questions, as well as ethos and pathos, to enhance the meaning of his speech. He used the rhetorical question, “When will you be satisfied? ” in order to stir up the feelings of black folks in attendance.
When in the middle section of his speech, MLK says that whites ask black activists when blacks will be satisfied with their position in society. He then answers this question by stating that blacks will not be satisfied as long as long as social equality is not achieved. MLK then conjures up the feelings of blacks in the crowd with his rhetorical question, by including the various examples of racial injustices towards black citizens when he answers himself. This is intended to display pathos, as it is very effective in bringing upon the anger and frustration felt by the large majority of black citizens in the crowd.
Therefore, the rhetorical question is useful to MLK, as it excites African-American’s feelings towards racism. In turn, this inspires them to do everything possible to end the injustices they have been endured for the past centuries. Through MLK’s masterful use of allusion, metaphors, ethos, pathos, and rhetorical questions, he was able to prove to all Americans that racism and segregation are not the intended foundations of America. MLK’s most famous speech was the “I Have a Dream” speech given in 1963 during one of the most famous marches in history, the 200,000-strong “March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom.
At the time, America was in the grips of racism and segregation, making the lives of many blacks a living hell. “I Have a Dream,” however, played a major step into changing that. It managed to inspire a generation of blacks to never give up and made thousands of white Americans bitterly ashamed of their actions, forging a new start for society. Even now, it continues to make generations of people, not just Americans, give up their racist beliefs and advocate for social equality. Without MLK, America would be most likely heavily segregated today.
Other than the speech’s heartwarming and moving content, King’s effective use of allusion, metaphors, ethos, pathos, and rhetorical questions clearly reveal the reason why “I Have a Dream” is a masterpiece of rhetoric. His excellent ability to blend his stirring rhetoric, with exquisite use of literary devices persuaded hundreds of thousands of people to support the blacks instead of treating them unfairly, and is why this speech changed the course of American history for centuries to come.