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Rhetoric Assignment – Mlk’s “i Have a Dream”

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Rhetoric Assignment – MLK’s “I Have a Dream”

In Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream,” he uses a lot of rhetoric to make the speech more effective. He makes use of figures of speech and other techniques of composition to make his speech persuasive. One of the techniques that he employs in his speech is the use of anaphora. Anaphora is described as a figure of speech in which there is recurrence of a statement or expression at the start of consecutive sentences or clauses. This is seen in the speech as follows: “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children”. Another use of anaphora is in the expression “I have a dream that one day.” It is repeatedly used in the speech.

Martin Luther King, in his “I Have a Dream” speech uses a lot of repetition. This is a rhetorical technique that is used to emphasize a word, phrase, or sentence. As above mentioned, he repeats the phrase “Now is the time.” He also repeats the phrases “One Hundred Years Later,” “I have a dream that one day” and the most popular one “Let Freedom Ring.” Another literary device that MLK employs in his “I Have a Dream” speech is Allusion. An allusion is defined as a reference that is not direct or transitory. This is stated in his speech- “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. MLK uses this as a cultural reference to improve his argument that all American people share a common national heritage. The other rhetoric device that MLK frequently used in his speech is metaphors. For instance, he uses it to express the absurd situation in which the black people are still living in – “One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.”  

While delivering the “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King’s voice goes on changing. As he begins the speech, MLK speaks in a slow and soft tone as he provides background information. This helps in building his audiences’ concentration as he starts his speech. As the speech progresses, his voice becomes more energetic, and he increases his talking rate. He also uses the pause in his speech, which allows for applause by the audience. By the end of the speech, his voice is powerful, and he has appealed to his audiences’ emotions. He speaks with a lot of passion and authority, which helped him in persuading his audience. He uses rhetorical devices to emphasize certain parts of his speech. As above mentioned, the rhetorical devices include anaphora, repetition, and allusion.    



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