Analysis of I Have a Dream Speech

Last Updated: 21 Mar 2023
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On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech that electrified a nation. In Washington D. C, King delivered his speech on the steps of the Lincoln memorial and as his powerful voice echoed out across an audience of 200,000 people, echoes of the Gettysburg address could be heard as well as the Declaration of Independence and the Bible. It has been called “masterfully delivered and improvised sermon, bursting with biblical language and imagery. ”The passionate speech is filled with rhetorical devices that help ground into earth King's demands of racial equality and outcries of social injustice.

The second paragraph of the speech starts with “Five score years ago”, an allusion to Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address. This is particularly poignant due to the fact that the speech was given on the steps of his memorial. A memorial to the president who passed the emancipation proclamation. Martin Luther King Jr. continues with comparing this (the emancipation proclamation) “momentous decree” to a “great beacon light” to those who had “been seared in the flames of withering injustice” in an example of a simile and then a metaphor.

The metaphor is expanded to call the proclamation “a joyous daybreak” to a “long night. ” The metaphors help prove King's point through contrasting two abstract concepts through tangible things. The last sentence of the second paragraph is the first of many references to the bible. In comparing Psalms 30:5 “For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” to King's line “ It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity” the parallels can be seen.

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The use of biblical references helps link the work of MLK to the bible and divine things. Southerners being in the “bible belt” and dominantly Christian, this reference to the bible strikes home to these slaveholders. The third paragraph contains a strong example of anaphora with the repetition of “one hundred years later” four times. This is used to thrust home the point of how long the suffrage has gone on. The duration is important but also the effect of its repetition makes the paragraph seem longer and drawn out- like the injustices that are still being suffered- one hundred years later.

Also a simile is used to compare segregation to imprisonment in the the phrases “manacles of segregation” and “chains of discrimination. ” The usage of these rhetorical devices relates slavery to jail and further contrast it from the biblical allusions used with equality. Paragraph four of the speech is a large metaphor for an allusion to the United States Declaration of Independence which is later cited directly. In Specific King alludes to the declaration in saying “unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. ” Which within itself is a tricolon ascends.

This allusion to such an important American document is used to support King's theme of equality by pointing out its resonance in the purely American document. Throughout this portion of the speech King makes a metaphor of these guaranteed rights saying they are a “promissory note”. This metaphor links these intangible unalienable rights to something tangible which falls into place with the rest of the expanded metaphor. He goes on the say that the Negro people have received “a bad check” and when they tried to cash this check is comes back marked ““insufficient funds. ” These metaphors feed into the larger one of a citizens rights to a promise of a bank. Martin Luther King Jr. shows his hope the country in the continuance of the metaphor in which he refuses to believe “the bank of justice” is bankrupt and that there are insufficient funds in the “great vaults of opportunity”. Furthermore he makes a metaphor of freedom to riches and security to justice. The use of all these smaller metaphors feed into the larger one and these rhetorical devices are used to link intangible to tangible.

Also this shows the realist side of the speaker, not only does he allude and reference biblical things but also he realizes the importance of equality to blacks economically. The fourth “paragraph” of the speech ends with an example of anaphora. A short hopeful phrase of “now is the time” is repeated four times back to back to back to back in the last four lines of the paragraph. These rhetorical devices have a powerful impact and add a decisive, hopeful feel. Martin Luther King Jr. in this conclusion also makes another metaphor with saying racial injustice is “quick sands” and brotherhood is a “solid rock. These metaphors also link the intangible with the tangible creating a contrast. Apples and bananas are different but the difference of good and bad is harder to see. When attached to real life objects the visualization is made. The rest of the speech contains several more independent metaphors, all used to support Martin Luther King Jr. 's points. “The whirlwinds of revolt will shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges”; making a metaphor of revolt to a whirlwind and justice to a bright day.

Yet again, metaphors are used to represent abstract ideas with concrete things to create a contrast. In another place it is seen that storm are like persecution and winds like police brutality. Tying in the earlier metaphor to imprisonment, this usage of a rhetorical device shows the vicious circle Negroes were living with. At some point it becomes repetitious all of the metaphors of justice to everything from money to the bible. But yet again injustice is metaphored to “sweltering... eat” (alluding to Richard III act one, scene one, line one) and justice to an “oasis” yet another instance in which the metaphors are used to show contrast. Later on the entire country is metaphored to as in “jangling discords” and that with brotherhood it can be transformed into a “beautiful symphony. ” This metaphor is a nice break for all of those to justice but still the same ideas ring through. This usage of a rhetorical device ties to the topic at hand to a larger more national scale. Some of the most famous parts of this speech are due to the usage of anaphora.

In several instances, besides those already listed, Martin Luther King Jr. uses this rhetorical device to sink his point deep into the hearts and minds of those who have heard it. He uses the phrase “We can never be satisfied” six times in paragraph thirteen. This powerfully blunt statement repeated over and over again is riveting and unifying. Then in paragraph fourteen King uses “go back to” six times to create a larger size to his efforts. After building up the crowd this use of anaphora disperses hope of a better tomorrow to all. No matter where, to everyone. Then in the onsecutive paragraph comes to most famous line of a speech possibly ever: “I have a dream. ”

He transitions from we, as a part of the crowd, to I, separating himself as a leader; sharing his dream. While these words may be the most famous, the speech ends with another example of anaphora that are the most important words of the speech. They are “Let freedom ring. ” After alluding to “My country 'tis of thee” and its chorus line “let freedom ring” he expands to say let freedom ring in Pennsylvania, Colorado, California, Georgia, Tennessee and “from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. This all encompassing freedom is Martin Luther King's dream and this beautiful anaphora heightens the grandeur of the allusion. The depth of Martin Luther King Jr. and his speech is seen in his many allusions. Thirteen ends with an allusion to Amos 5:24 with “But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” which echoes in King's line “No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream”.

Another biblical allusion is in I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. Which echoes Isaiah 40:4-5 “Every valley shall be exalted, and very mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. Both “And when this happens, . . . we will be able to speed up that 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” and Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. ” All of these biblical references connect the “dream' of king to the biblical writings.

There are two additional non-biblical examples seen in his referencing to “My country Tis of Thee” and “Free at last” works of American music. . Martin Luther King Jr. also makes multiple allusions to the Declaration of Independence (some emitted as previously cited before). Including the direct quote of "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. "Another very closely related allusion is seen where he says “I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream”.

In both instances, King is saying that his dream is no different than that of our founding fathers. What alluding the the Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution does is show the legitimacy of his dream: it is directly seen in both documents. While it may not be exact anaphora the repetition of words such as freedom (used twenty times) and justice (eight) must be seen as notable. What they do as anaphora (a rhetorical device) is support the key themes of the whole speech- freedom and justice.

If there is any impression to be taken from the speech it is the ideas of equality, justice and freedom for ALL. From the allusions to the metaphors and similes, the “I Have a Dream” speech is littered with rhetorical devices but what exactly is rhetoric? Rhetoric is is the art of enchanting the soul (Plato) and the faculty of discovering in any particular case all of the available means of persuasion (Aristotle). It is the use of rhetoric that sets this speech a part, makes it so famous and adds to its success in the spreading of one man's dream to change his world for the better.

Essay Summary of Becoming a Teacher

Every person has his or her own dreams of becoming somebody when he or she grows up. Some would say they want to be a doctor, engineer, lawyer, accountant, or businessman. In my case, ever since I was a child, I have been nurturing this dream of becoming a teacher. I decided to embark on this noble profession for three main reasons.

The first reason can be attributed to my wish to have an impact on people’s lives. Specifically, I wish to become a role model for the youth of today, many of whom are in need of guidance.

I believe that I can be a good example and a teacher to every student that I will be teaching in the future. By being a role model, I can help my future students grow and mold them to become better individuals—a feat that, when achieved, can certainly leave me fulfilled. Second, I want to become a teacher for a very simple reason: I want to share knowledge and make a difference in people’s lives. I seek to educate the young ones not only about the subjects that they have to learn, but also about the realities of the world and the values that they should live out.

I also wish to have the chance to help them achieve their goals and dreams in the future. By doing so, I would be able to draw out every student’s potential and help him or her lead a successful life founded on integrity. Third, my passion for and interest in dealing with children prompted me to decide on becoming a teacher.

For me, children are just like angels; being around them makes me feel happy and content in life. They are cute, sweet, and adorable. They may be stubborn, hardheaded, and noisy, but these are the qualities that make them a child, so their display of such behavior is only natural.

Hence, I, as a teacher, should start teaching children during their formative years so that they will grow up to become principled individuals. These are the reasons why I am very eager and enthusiastic to become a teacher.

Teaching is a very challenging profession. Thus, in order to survive and become a successful and effective teacher, I believe that teachers should possess the following characteristics and skills. First of all, a teacher should have compassion, a trait that entails empathy, kindness, and benevolence.

Teachers with compassion possess a genuine desire to help students. Hence, being compassionate is one of the most important traits that a teacher should have. Another quality that is crucial to teachers is dedication. Teaching is not just a profession; it is a commitment that an individual takes due to his or her great intention to help others and pass on the knowledge and skills that he or she has. Teachers should also have confidence in themselves in order to be an effective teacher. They must know what they are doing and have the courage to lead every student to the right path.

Strength is also another important trait that teachers should possess in order for students to regard them with respect. Moreover, teachers should exhibit enthusiasm in order to motivate the students to learn and develop. They should also be approachable and have good communication skills in order to prevent misunderstandings or miscommunications with and among their students.

Open communication is imperative in a teacher-student relationship so that the teacher will know whether there is development or problem in his or her students.

In addition, I also believe that a teacher should demonstrate a good attitude and character to his or her students. They should always be a good example to their students and always show positive feelings and emotions (Glenn, 2001). Finally, the most important personal characteristic that a teacher should have is a lot of patience. Patience is said to be a virtue, a virtue that is very hard to keep and maintain. Being a teacher requires having a lot of patience because of all the responsibilities that he or she has to fulfill, such as making sure that the students learn and develop their skills.

Considering this list of the personal characteristics that a teacher should possess in order to become effective, one may perceive the profession as very difficult and complicated to fulfill. However, knowing that the purpose of teachers is to help and change other people’s life for the better does not hinder me to fulfill my dream of becoming a teacher someday. There are different types of schooling in the society nowadays. One of these is special education. Special education is a very different setting compared to a normal school.

It is a school or a place where various special and additional services are provided for children or people with disabilities, including blind, deaf, mute, and mentally challenged individuals, among others (Watson, 2003). To stay updated in the field of special education, teachers can attend seminars or taking a special course that directly provides information especially relevant to this field. This may involve taking a course that offers different techniques and strategies in teaching and handling special children.

Learning that is based on personal observation could be helpful as well in this field. Keeping one’s passion sounds very easy especially if it is something that a person enjoys doing. Nonetheless, in the field of teaching, it might appear very difficult to keep a teacher’s passion in teaching, for it is said to be a very stressful and difficult career. However, in my opinion, maintaining my passion for teaching is easy. There are a lot of things that I can do in order to maintain my strong will and desire in teaching.

Being innovative in my teaching style, combined with a positive attitude towards this profession, would keep me happy and satisfied with this job. Dealing with children, getting to know different students, and gaining love, respect and care from students are also rewarding reasons to be passionate about being a teacher. Building relationships and fostering creativity within my students, which are some of many exciting things that I am looking forward to achieve when I become a teacher, would perpetually rekindle my passion for teaching.

In addition to this, keeping in mind that the students future lies on my hands would certainly maintain my passion and keenness to be a great teacher and a role model to every student I will have. Indeed, having a career in teaching can be considered as a blessing and an honor to an individual. It is one of the most noble and respected jobs in the world, and its intangible rewards will always arouse the passion that I have always possessed towards teaching.

I believe that a great teacher has the responsibility to bring out the best in every student. A teacher should have an open mind, positive attitude, and high expectations everyday as he or she goes to school. This is my educational philosophy. When I become a teacher, I would gladly and proudly become an inspiration to every child. I would like to be an instrument that will make these children grow and succeed in their lives. I wish to live a life of service to other people most especially to children.

I want to be a teacher to be able to nurture children and instill all the necessary knowledge and values that one should have in order to have a blissful and rewarding life. Teaching will always be my passion, and I will never harbor feelings of regret in choosing this career path. References Glenn, R. E. (2001). Admirable Teaching Traits. Education World. Retrieved January 28, 2009 from http://www. education-world. com/a_curr/curr387. shtml. Watson, S. (2003). What is special education?. About. com. Retrieved January 28, 2009 from http://specialed. about. com/od/idea/a/Special101. htm

Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Dream within a Dream”

Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Dream within a Dream” (1849) is a poem dramatizing the losses of a man, and his reflection if his life is real or unreal. The narrator is reflecting about the elusiveness of things and people he value, since they all seem to disappear. The poem questions if reality is fantasy, thus the title, “A Dream within a Dream”. Since this was published in the year of Poe’s death, some assume that the narrator is talking about the death of his loved ones, and the troubles in his life.

The poem begins with an image of parting and addresses a specific person. This person is only mentioned in the first stanza; the second stanza does not mention any person at all. Others interpret this person as abstract, meaning that the narrator talks to life or love personified, or any abstract idea, and not a real person. The narrator, talking to this person, ponders whether his “days have been a dream”, and speaks of losing hope. He sees his life as if he is trapped, as shown in the lines, “All that we see or seem/Is but a dream within a dream”.

But first, to define the word “dream” is relevant in understanding this poem. A dream can either be images, ideas or sensations while sleeping, an aspiration or ambition, or an illusion or trance. Upon reading the poem, there is no question that the definition of the word “dream” in the poem is the last one given above, an illusion, but not necessarily a beautiful or happy illusion. There is no mention of sleeping or daydreaming, so then it is safe to assume that “dream” meant an illusion.

One of Edgar Allan Poe’s well-known poems, the poem uses rhyme and meter, but it has inconsistent rhythm. Repetition is also used to emphasize the feeling of sadness and frustration, as in the fifth, eleventh, and twenty-fourth lines. These poetic elements and romantic characteristics such as the dramatization found in the lines, “O God! Can I not grasp/Them with a tighter clasp?” and the use of simple but powerful images, make this poem compelling when read aloud.

The images, especially in the second stanza, are striking and memorable. The lines, “And I hold within my hand/Grains of the golden sand/How few! Yet how they creep/Through my fingers to the deep,/While I weep— while I weep!” might be alluding to either time or material wealth. The “grains of the golden sand”  is said to have been referencing to the gold found in California in 1848 (Silverman 402).

This image of grains slowly trickling down evokes a feeling of frustration over the elusiveness of things that the narrator values, and that might or might not include money and personal possessions. Time could also be an allusion due to the fact that Poe had lost his loved ones in the past. The narrator might be saying indirectly that he is already feeling his death nearing.

The last six lines of the poem express the desperation to “grasp” and “save”  the things he value. There is also a feeling of helplessness as the narrator watches the grains creeping through his fingers, and he cries, as shown in the line, “While I weep— while I weep!”

However, in the end he seems to question, not to state that he is in “a dream within a dream”. Unlike the ending line of the first stanza in which the line is written as a statement as though the narrator really believes that his life is all a dream, the last line of the poem is written as though the narrator is in doubt, or perhaps there is a little bit of hope in him.

Some say that Poe wrote this poem after the death of his wife from tuberculosis, and that the person that the narrator is talking to in the poem is a woman. But that might not be, because this was published long after his wife’s death, unless he did write the poem from way back. Whether or not Poe wrote this because of his troubles or his depression is not certain.

What is certain is that the poem tells of a person’s thoughts about what is real and unreal. Losing all the things he values makes him think, out of sadness, and perhaps, denial, that his life is just “a dream within a dream”.

Works Cited

  • Poe, Edgar Allan. Poetry and Tales. Ed. Patrick F. Quinn. New York: Library of America, 1984.
  • Silverman, Kenneth. Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991.
  • Sova, Dawn B. Edgar Allan Poe: A to Z. New York: Checkmark Books, 2001.


Related Questions

on Analysis of I Have a Dream Speech

What are the 3 main ideas in the I Have a Dream speech?
The three main ideas in the I Have a Dream speech are the need for racial equality, the importance of freedom and justice for all, and the power of hope and faith in achieving these goals. Martin Luther King Jr. emphasizes the need for a unified society where everyone is treated equally, regardless of race, and calls for an end to segregation and discrimination. He also emphasizes the importance of freedom and justice for all, and the power of hope and faith in achieving these goals.
What is the main argument in I Have a Dream speech?
The main argument of the I Have a Dream speech is that all people should be treated equally, regardless of race, and that the United States should strive to create a society where everyone is free and has equal rights and opportunities. Martin Luther King Jr. also argued that the civil rights movement should be peaceful and non-violent.

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