Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" Speech - Critical Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  878 Words
Date:  2022-07-08


"I have a dream" by Martin Luther King Junior is ranked as a highly successful and influential speech in history. The speech was given to a crowd of over 200, 000 people on 28th August 1963 at the height of civil right activism to end racism. In the modern world, the speech is still recognized as one of the best masterpiece due to the mode of presentation, delivery as well as the effects it had on the audience; all anchored on a well organized and state of the art language and eloquence. This paper will discuss various aspects that led to the success of "I have a dream" speech by Martin Luther.

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Use of metaphorical as well as vivid language in the address is an important factor that made the speech a success. Some speeches fail to make an impact due to the use of the wrong language without taking proper consideration of the target audience. A speech may be focusing on an important issue like the one presented by Martin Luther on the prevailing inequality, but the use of complex language comprising of jargons and technical terms lenders the speech infective and fail to achieve the intended purpose. Martin Luther used vivid and evocative language to create a strong message that in turn created strong memorable images to the audience. He addressed the importance of black community gaining freedom but at the same time warns that the process should take gradualism route. To emphasize on the importance for the fight against racism and black people segregation, Martin paints a vivid picture of the pity state of the black Americans by stating that they are living in an isolated island of poverty which is in the middle of an extensive ocean of success (Luther). He consequently touches on his faith which he states will hew the mountain of despair and restore hope to the people (Luther). At one point, Martin Luther cleverly uses evocative extended metaphor to refer to the American constitution as a check that was given to the people to go and cash, but the black people check was marked insufficient funds upon presentation to the bank. He states that the African-American should not believe the bank has insufficient funds for the blacks to mean that the constitution is enough to protect and give equality to all citizens if followed and obeyed by all including the people in authority.

Martin Luther used repetitions to reinforce his key points in the speech. Every speech has an important message which presenter wants to drive and stick into the audience's minds. Such messages will not stick by just mentioning them once in the speech. Repetition helps the important message to stick in people's minds. Besides, it improves the presentation flow, structure, and rhythm in a manner that is easy to understand and remember. One of the repetitions in Martin's speech is seen in how he repeats the phrase "now is the time" (Luther). This phrase was intended to make the audience understand that the time to act has come. This repetition occurs in a poetic form with a proper and a simple rhythm to the audience.

The rhetoric presentation by Martin Luther gave an ideal way to emphasize his message. The speech can be divided into the rhetorical avenues; dynamic spectacles, prophetic voices and voice merging. Voice merging in the speech is seen in the way he combines his own voice with the view of others mainly his religious predecessors. Martin was a preacher and a strong religious man and thus brought his prophetic abilities in the speech. Prophetic voice refers to the use of rhetoric to talk to the people. In essence, the title of the speech talks of a dream which is equivalent to prophesy (Chanelle 126). Prophesies have a strong, appealing ability to people; thus move people to act and the mention of God in the speech makes people to keenly listen to Martin not only as a preacher but also as a leader and a person who they perceive as a man with a message from God. The dynamic spectacle in Martin's speech is seen in how he relied on external factors to create an aspect of urgency. He states that, "now is the time to act." This statement emphasizes on the urgency of gaining freedom and achieving equality across America.


In synopsis, it is evident that Martin Luther exploited various aspects to make his speech a success. First, he used metaphorical and vivid language that was ideal for his audience, a factor that makes the message to be easily understood. Second, Martin Luther used repetition to reinforce his message making it more memorable. Finally, he used rhetoric in his speech to present an appropriate ground to emphasize on his message. These platforms formed the main base of the speech that has historically remained significant for several decades and can be used as an example of one of the most successful speeches in history.

Works Cited

Chanelle, Rose. "A Review of "King's Dream: The Legacy of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" Speech." History: Reviews of New Books, 38:4 (2010), 126-127.

Luther, Martin. "Speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King At the March on Washington." National archives. 28 Aug. 1963. 13 Aug. 2018.

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Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" Speech - Critical Essay. (2022, Jul 08). Retrieved from

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