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Rhetorical Analysis Essay of MLK Speech ‘I Have a Dream’

Martin Luther King Jr. delivered one of the remarkable speeches in global history, namely ‘I have a dream’. The speech highlighted the emergence of a new era in African American historical records. The speech was a prime success based on the strong communication skills by inspiring and giving hope to vast demographics of the Blacks. The speech was concise and clear, giving the speech to the target audience using different styles to express the ideology for hope and a better future. In addition, Martin Luther King Junior used rhetorical appeals such as logos, ethos, and pathos to unite and inspire Americans in the civil rights movement to battle for an equitable and fair society, making it persuasive to a vast audience.

The introduction of the speech by Martin Luther King Jr. seeks to give the audience a historical review of the injustices and unpleasant conditions that have been there before. He mentions the ancient slavery with the ‘flames of withering injustices’ to explain the black community’s tragedies. He uses an aappealing tone for freedom by describing the segregation and injustices encountered by arguing that ‘sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination’. His choice of words is clear and appeals to the audience’s emotions to ensure that the subject matter is delivered effectively, as seen in the claim ‘Negro is still languishing in the corners’. The speech was meant to inspire the civilians to desire that all the US citizens would come together and live in harmony as a united community. Examples of logical appeals to reasoning are seen in the claim on ‘a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity’ showing oppression, which gives a vision of a land where people will live and interact without fear or discrimination. The introductory section also uses pathos in emotional appeals to reveal how the black’s nation faces numerous challenges in human rights facet. For instance, the speech articulate that it is ‘time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children’. The speech has several keywords repeated several times to reinforce the theme of freedom. For instance, the entire speech has freedom, and our nation repeated severally. The implication for the repetitions of the words is to ensure that the theme of freedom and inclusivity in the national community is stressed. For instance, he claims that ‘America has given the Negro people a bad check’ to show the continued challenges.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech body applies logos in use of diverse sources to support his vision and argument. This creates credibility by appealing to the ethos surrounding the argument. Additionally, the speech shares insight into the occurrences faced by vast individuals and feelings on the injustices prevailing in the US nation. Besides, in his fight for inclusivity and equity, Martin Luther King Jr. addresses how people ought to be treated equally with the assumption of living like brothers and sisters despite the challenges they face. The claim ‘underestimate the determination of the Negro’ is an attempt to evoke anger in the audience to trigger their reasoning. The body of the speech uses logical persuasion by giving a historical account of how the nation’s ancestors fought for the country’s liberation by alluding to ‘One hundred years later…’. The audience is appealed into a critical analysis of the spirit possessed by their forefathers in fighting the injustices faced and their quest to rescue themselves and future generations from the discriminative practices and segregation in the community. The speech affirmed that the nation was at the forefront of personal interests in the hope to make the US a great nation worldwide. Besides, Martin Luther King Jr. alludes to historical events where the forbears of the Black Americans persevered the mistreatment of being coerced to work in labor fields through slavery and other ill-treatments but managed to stage an initiative for change.

The use of pathos is also seen in the end of the speech to bring out the emotional trigger of comparing the blacks and whites living in the US community. A prime example is where he quotes a solid biblical verse from the book of Isaiah by alluding to the Lord’s glory revelation. The verse seeks to appeal to the audience’s emotional response by evaluating the spiritual beliefs that advocate for people standing in unity. Besides, emotional appeals are made by claims on being a parent to four children who must live in a justified community with no traces of racism as an ethos. Pathos is seen in emotional appeals of ‘My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty’. The audience gains insight into how they would admire living in such a community and support the argument. The words are used to create imagery that calls for sympathy. The descriptions trigger the audience to figure out the challenges and threats faced by the US nation if the injustices are allowed to continue. The final element used extensively in the speech by Martin Luther King Jr. is logos. The speech is supported by logical arguments that seek to reveal the reality of oppression faced by the blacks in the community in ‘Let us not wallow in the valley of despair’. The speech sums up by explaining how Americans encounter difficulties in their daily lives despite the civilization.

In summary, the speech by Martin Luther King Jr. is a remarkable masterpiece that uses rhetorical skills perfectly to persuade the audience to support his thematic concern for fairness and inclusivity in the US nation. The tone and diction of the speech are clear and evoke emotional feelings by creating the impression of an oppressed community in urgent need of liberation. At the end of his speech, tonal variation is also evident in the claims “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” to appeal to the audience of the feelings and emotions of liberty. In addition, logos, ethos and pathos are extensively used to convey the subject of injustices and discrimination, thus invoking the readers to support the dream of equality and inclusivity of all people.

Work Cited

King Jr, Martin Luther. “I have a dream speech.” Washington, DC, August 28 (1963).


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