January 24, 2013
English 10 Accelerated
The Powerful Techniques of King’s Speech
I have a dream. What do these four words mean to you? Do they inspire you to take action? “I Have a Dream” was delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. on August 28, 1963. It was a very compelling speech conveying his passion towards the black who suffered from the segregation in the United States. In the speech, King would call upon Americans to recognize the injustices of the nation and the discrimination that colored people faced. His speech received much recognition and was classified as a success. In order to achieve his success, he had to carefully plan out his thoughts with good ideas for people and use writing techniques such as metaphor, parallelism, and allusion.
From his enthusiastic delivery, to switching from reading a manuscript to speaking extemporaneously half way through the speech, to his extensive use of metaphors, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered “I Have a Dream” in brilliant fashion. King use of metaphors helped the reader’s understanding of the speech’s purpose. “This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice...” was one of the examples that he uses as he referred to the condition of African Americans in the United States. Another example was “It came as joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.” He describes it to be a joyous daybreak after many years of being slaves in America.
Throughout the speech, another scheme King uses frequently is parallelism, the strategy of repeating similar clauses, several times. Early in his speech, King writes “riches of freedom” and “security of justice” and then “justice rolls down like waters” and “righteousness like a mighty stream.” In these two examples, King is using parallelism to express that the African American wants justice and freedom by repeating them next to each other and mentally connecting them in the reader’s mind.
King first uses historical allusion by referring to Abraham Lincoln and how, “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.” Mentioning how Lincoln fought for Negros gives King authoritative appeal in his argument. This inspired people to fight against segregation, because it made people realize that respected historical figures had encouraged them to fight for themselves. King’s final sentences are also a mixture of historical and biblical allusion. He states that by fighting against segregation “we will be able to speed up the day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!’” King states that by fighting against segregation, people will be able to unite factions of the human race that are notorious for fighting against one another. This is inspiring because it gives them yet another vivid image of unity.
The King uses powerful techniques that helped the audience understand better what the speech is about. Martin Luther King Jr. is recognized as one of the best speakers because of his use of stylistic techniques to enhance his speeches. King's "I Have a Dream" speech is one of the memorable speeches in the American history.