Rhetorical Analysis of the Martin Luther King Jr's Speech "I Have a Dream"

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1425 Words
Date:  2022-05-26

African Americans faced the greatest segregation in the civil history of the United States in the 20th century caused by the racist tendencies that escalated in the period. Ever since the end of the American slavery, it was evident that slavery had been ended, but the liberation of the African American in the social domain was necessary through the advocacy for the re-examination of pertinent laws. The rise of multiple civil and human rights organisations set the tempo for the social change campaign. Martin Luther King Junior played a massive role in spearheading activism and reformation through the legal means of protest. Martin Luther's run-up to the excellent leadership of the civil rights groups and organisation was as a result of his strong personality and firm stand on his Christian beliefs. His position as the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference gave him the dominant platform to further the cause of the African American through the church organisations which had then taken root. King is famously known for his excellent speech, "I have a dream", that he delivered at Washington during the Day for the March for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. His firm position on the social concerns expressed in the speech resonated across the United States and reignited the aggression and demand for equality and fairness.

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Martin was a natural orator who had managed to undergo rigorous academic learning and had a firm understanding of issues from the humanitarian perspective as well as the theological capacity courtesy of his theological study and predisposition. "I have a dream" explains clearly the issues through the use of stylistic approaches hidden in the speech. No wonder, Martin was able to catalyse the African American contingent while challenging the racist regime and society to reconsider the social values and norms. While studying Martin's speech, the appeal mechanism of pathos ethos and logos come out apparently. It is evident that Martin intentionally had purposed to deliver an impactful speech while staying on course with the real pressing matters and concerns faced by the African Americans. This essay examines and deciphers the instances that Luther used the stylistic approaches to delivering his excellent speech.

The speech by Martin Luther King displays a literary masterpiece filled with massive appeal to pathos. Not only does Martin embrace the appealing approach of pathos but he continually ensures the rhetoric of effect through simultaneous reference to certain words which triggered an emotional reaction from the audience. King uses the words "crippled" when referring to the black Americans with a view to triggering the emotional pity of the racial supremacists and drawing them to the cause for termination of racial discrimination. Martin Luther deeply embrace the strategy of pathos to appeal to sympathy from the authorities and government stakeholders as well as among the whites. He refers to the black Americans being under the "menaces of segregation "while also being chained by the discriminative practices against the black race. Rather than state the issues as they were plainly, Martin's ingenious oratory and leadership exposure made him push the extra mile to draw the attention of the government and the white race. Martin's reference to the racism as a "dark and desolate valley" while contrastingly referring to justice and equity as "sunlit path" was purposely meant to trigger the feeling of hatred towards racial segregation. King also appealed to the feeling of impatience and through the constant reference to the word "now is the time". In the magnanimity of the civil crusade, the struggle for racial justice was an urgent matter that needed attention and his repetitive reference aimed to emancipate the black Americans to rise up to defend themselves. Martin's reference to the future dreams about his children and a prosperous America is particularly a pertinent ethos approach to impart hope and desire to the audiences. His poetic repetition of the line "I have a dream" encroached upon the hearts of the audience and responded with enormous support because of the perceived hope of change through the reasonable fulfillment of change through constant efforts towards achieving the equality and actual liberty. From the instances expounded, it is evident that ethos appeals to a crucial component of people that attaches to feelings and emotions. On the results dynamic, it meets the consequent audience impact power hence transforming audiences into believers, followers and supporters.

Martin Luther King further uses the appeal mechanism of ethos which pertains to moral standing, ethics. The ethics in society is diverse and dynamic with common tying aspects as to logicality and rationale of a thematic issue. King's reference to the constitutional provision about the equal rights of all people points and the subsequent violation of the equality as compared to a promissory note violated refers to the ethical nature of society to keep promises. Through the metaphorical illusion created concerning the promissory note violated, King appeals to the ethical standard in American society whereby such kind of testaments is respected. King uses the essence of ethics of good faith to adjudge the racial segregation on the negative side of positive American involvement and ethics. Martin Luther's proposal for a peaceful protest approach towards the cause of civil action that it ought to be restrained in dignity and discipline is an appeal mechanism aimed at solidifying the virtue of the cause for racial equality. King wisely invokes Christian statements ", and the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together". The statement is of significance to Christian brethren who at the time were of a more significant percentage of the populace. King's reference to God in subsequent statements is a means of trying to appeal to people's reverence of the superior being hence find a universal bearing in religious virtue.

In many instances, King uses the logos mechanism as he quotes many facts and events of significant relevance to the American history. King eloquently reminds the audience of the fact that 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the Negro's are still not integrated effectively in the American society as they ought to be. Speaking about the poverty of the Negro, King makes a strong point as it was a central theme on the particular day. King goes further to explain the state of segregation of the Negros and their tribulations. The facts laid bare help create the audience synergy of a viable and worthy cause to persist with protests. Kings reference of the state of the Negro's and the concerns pertaining to the racial justice develops a strong theme for his message of hope for the audience. Facts have a strong appeal power as they are mainly things that have been experienced by most of the audiences or at least they are predisposed to the kind of knowledge. One of the reason why King's speech is memorable is due to relevant reference of the pertinent issues of fact as concerns the Negro social issues. He refers to the independence period and the constitution set that guarantees the rights of all. This kind of statement is meant to appeal to the black Americans to stand up for their valid constitutional gift of equality and equity. The statement as a fact also is set for the whites in the audience to recognize the constitutional validity of the equal rights and dignity of the black race. The reference if the Emancipation Proclamation as a fact itself creates vital interest as the many US citizens are well aware of the exploits by Lincoln who sign the proclamation and was a champion of racial integration and refuted discrimination among the races


The rhetoric stylistic tools have been canvassed in detail revealing massive literary expertise by Martin Luther King to deliver an effective speech h that went on to be the pinnacle of social change and transformation in the United States. The mechanism of pathos helped King to deliver his message as a fond concern by appealing to the horrid nature of racial discrimination. King successfully convinced the people to rise up and be able to defend their rights by the mechanism of ethos, whereby he instilled upon people the perspective that the theme of racial discrimination and segregation is an unethical standard to treat Americans who have a right to be citizens and only differ by race. The mechanism of logos fundamentally set the context for the need of change due to the juxtaposition to the years that have passed since the emancipation yet the absence of integration and has prevailed.


King, Martin Luther. I have a dream. Edizioni Mondadori, 2015.

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Rhetorical Analysis of the Martin Luther King Jr's Speech "I Have a Dream". (2022, May 26). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/rhetorical-analysis-of-the-martin-luther-king-jrs-speech-i-have-a-dream

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