Tone & Mood
Martin Luther Kings’ speech does not have a uniform tone. The speech begins with a disheartening and accusing tone, shown by using two different phrases to express the same meaning: ‘five score years’ and ‘one hundred years’. Even though the two phrases both mean a hundred years; ‘five score years’ seems to have a much shorter time span than ‘one hundred years’; as if the date when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed is still vivid in minds, but after a hundred years, a long period of time, the proclamations’ intension is still not fulfilled, thus conveying a sense of accusation and disappointment. King then used the repetition of ‘one hundred year later’ to culminate the solemn and empathetic mood the audience experience. ‘crippled’ emphasizes that segregation and discrimination are like manacles and chains that literally handicapped Negros’ lives, but it also has the connotation to call on sympathy for the suffering Negros. The contrast employed in ‘lonely island of poverty’ and ‘vast ocean of material prosperity’ visualized the inequality in the society. The speech’s tone then becomes determined. The usages of ‘we must not’, ‘we must’, ‘we can’ indicate King was determined in transforming the nation into one without discrimination. These phrases also persuade the audience to agree with him unconditionally as the audiences believe that these are what they should do in order to solve the problem. The tone then shifts again, becoming more positive and hopeful. By employing the repetition of ‘ I have a dream’, King passionately delivered his hope that one day everyone can be brothers and sisters. ‘I have a dream today’ stresses the idea that equality is not an impossible dream, even though it is a dream ‘today’, one day it must be realized. The speech ends with an uplift and optimistic mood as audiences are left believing in a dream that will finally come true.
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