The Analysis of I Have a Dream

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Abstract: On the base of the definition of stylistics, this thesis gives a detailed analysis of some the of stylistic devices used in the famous speech by the well-known American civil rights movement leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and then probes into the stylistic characteristics of speech as a style.

Key words: Stylistics, Stylistic devices, analysis, speech
As an interdisciplinary field of study, stylistics promises to offer useful insights into literary criticism and the teaching of literature with its explicit aims and effective techniques. It is very useful in the analysis of various styles of writing. In this thesis, the author tries to offer a stylistic analysis of the famous speech by Martin Luther king, Jr. I Have a Dream.

1. Introduction: Definition of Stylistics and Stylistic Analysis

As far as the definition of stylistics is concerned different scholars define the branch of study in different ways. Wales defines stylistics simply as “ the study of style” (1989:437), while Widdowson provides a more informative definition as “the study of literary discourse from a linguistic orientation” and takes “a view that what distinguishes stylistics from literary criticism on the one hand and linguistics on the other is that it is essentially a means of linking the two” (1975:3). Leech holds a similar view. He defines stylistics as the “study of the use of language in literature” (1969:1) and considers stylistics a “meeting-ground of linguistics and literary study”(1969:2). From what Widdowson and Leech say, we can see that stylistics is an area of study that straddles two disciplines: literary criticism and linguistics. It takes literary discourse (text) as its object of study and uses linguistics as a means to that end.

Stylistic analysis is generally concerned with the uniqueness of a text; that is, what it is that is peculiar to the uses of language in a literary text for delivering the message. This naturally involves comparisons of the language of the text with that used in conventional types of discourse. Stylisticians may also wish to characterize the style of a literary text by Systematically comparing the language uses in that text with those in another. Halliday points out, “The text may be seen as ‘this’ in contrast with ‘that’, with another poem or another novel; stylistics studies are essentially comparative in nature…”(1971:341). On this points, Widdowson is of the same opinion as Halliday. He says:“All literary appreciation is comparative, as indeed is a recognition of styles in general” (1975:84). Thus, we may conclude that stylistic analysis is an activity that is highly comparative in nature.

2. Related Information of the Speech I HAVE A DREAM and Its Author

Martin Luther King, jr. was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of a clergyman and the grandson of a slave. After attending several colleges he received his Ph. D. in theology from Boston University in 1955. He led the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955-1956. As president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, he then led civil rights demonstrations in many cities. In 1963 he helped organize the march on Washington, which brought together more than 200,000 people. A leader in establishing a nonviolent civil rights movement, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1964. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968, shortly before his fortieth birthday. Since then, he has become an American folk hero, and on November 2, 1983, a law honoring Dr. King was signed by President Rigan, effective January 1986, making the third Monday of January a national holiday. He is the only U. S. citizen other than George Washington to be recognized in this way.

In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in the United States. One hundred years after this decree was signed, however, the life of blacks was still “sadly crippled by the manacles of...
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