Cheers echoed throughout Washington D.C. August 28, 1963 as Martin Luther King Jr. paved the path to freedom for those suffering from racial segregation. It was the day of the March on Washington, which promoted Civil Rights and economic equality for African Americans. In order to share his feelings and dreams with the rest of the nation, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his speech encouraging all to overcome racial segregation. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech was very effective due to the use of metaphors, repetition, historical and literary references, and poetic devices.
Metaphors found throughout the speech created images in the minds of those in the audience and helped make his points stronger. With the use of metaphors, Martin Luther King Jr. caught the attention of his audience and made the speech much more pleasing to hear. Using a phrase such as “flames of withering injustice” was more interesting than just saying “hell” (King, 1963, para 2). When speaking of the life of a Negro, he compared segregation to a manacle and discrimination to a chain. He claimed America did not find Negros to live up to their standards and stated that the Negros received a bad check marked “insufficient funds” (King, 1963, para 5). He then encouraged the audience to “cash the check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice” (King, 1963, para 5). When speaking of Mississippi, a past slave state, Martin Luther King Jr. referred to it as a desert state sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, and claimed that it would be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
Martin Luther King Jr. emphasized his points by using repetition. The first of his repetitive phrases was “One hundred years later,” as he revealed how difficult life remained for the Negros of his time (King, 1963, para 3). He used repetition again as he let the audience know that it was time to rid the nation of racial segregation. Martin Luther King Jr. repeated “We cannot be satisfied” while making the point that until the Negros were free, nothing would make them content. One of the most emphasized parts of his speech was when Martin Luther King Jr. declared, “I have a dream” (King, 1963, para 13-20). He concluded his repetition by saying that with their faith, the Negros would one day be free (King, 1963, para 21).
Martin Luther King Jr. began his speech with “Five score years ago” referring to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (King, 1963, para 2). He spoke of how the Emancipation Proclamation brought hope to millions of Negro slaves. As he continued, Martin Luther King Jr. referred to the Constitution and Declaration of Independence when saying, “All men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (King, 1963, para 4).
A bit further into his speech Martin Luther King Jr. ...