English Literature » Notes » Critically appreciate Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech

Critically appreciate Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech

Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream is a memorable speech particularly for the black American people. I Have a Dream is not only King’s most famous speech but also it has become the touchstone of American memory of the struggle for civil rights. This famous speech was delivered on 28 August 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It was a clarion call for freedom and equality for the black Americans. The focal point of King’s speech is freedom and equality of black people in America.

Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream is a powerful speech. It is a masterpiece in oratory. King uses emotive language and speaks with Power and energy for the rightful demands of the black people in America. The speaker has poured his soul into the words he has spoken. He speaks with utmost conviction and urges the nation to take immediate action to grant civil rights to the black American people.in

Freedom for the black Americans is at the core of King’s speech. He is addressing a great congregation of the Civil Rights activists demanding freedom for all Americans. He mentions the Constitution of America, the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation and then points out how systematically the black Americans have long been deprived of their rights of freedom and equality. By using powerful language Luther delineates the deplorable conditions of the black Americans in the society. Negroes are virtually living “on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity” and “languishing in the corners of American society”. They are outsiders in their own society. King’s prime objective is to place before the audience the rightful demands for civil rights. Using emotive language he underscores the exigency of granting civil rights  to the black people. Throughout the speech Luther is mainly concerned about the rights of freedom and equality for the Negroes.

King’s command over the languages he uses in his speech is remarkable. He uses powerful and emotive language. He has deliberately chosen words that would stir the audience he is addressing. He speaks in plain, simple and lucid language. But he is mostly poetic. He has infused poetry with his language and his words have a poetic effect on the audience. Because of his skilful use of language he achieves maximum effect. He deliberately uses figurative language with a view to moving his listeners. His skilful use of symbols, metaphors, images, rhetorical repetitions and allusions make his speech an excellent piece of literary work.

As an orator Luther exploits a number of oratorical techniques. He makes abundant use of allusions and repetitions in his speech. He repeatedly refers to the already familiar objects of the audience. His allusions include the Constitution of America, the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Bible and others. By alluding to the familiar things he makes his subject-matter even more familiar to his audience. Another remarkable technique used by Luther is rhetorical repetitions, He purposefully makes repetitions is order to heightened effect. The repetition of a phrase at the beginning of sentences, which is called ‘anaphora’ in technical  terminology, is a common feature in the speech The repetitions of the phrases like “Now is the time.” of “I have a dream” have immense effect on the audience.

The organization of the speech is remarkable. He starts with past and refers to the nationally important documents in American history to support his propositions. Then he moves to the present and explores the deplorable conditions of the Negroes. He then moves to the future and talks about his dream of a great American nation. He has built his speech brick after brick. Even though a great part of the speech was extempore in nature, he meticulously maintained a structured organization in it.

Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” is a masterpiece. The speaker shows his supreme oratorical skills as he addresses the multitude of Civil Rights Movement activists. He speaks in plain and simple language, but his language is extremely powerful to create the desired effects. His speech is also a great literary success.

0 (0 ratings)