Jennifer Bray 1302-481 Composition



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Kuangyi Liu

Jennifer Bray

1302-481 Composition

Jan 31, 2011

Rhetorical Analysis of MLK’s “I have a dream”

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King gave his the mostthe famous speech that “I Have a Dream” before the Lincoln Memorial, and this speech was given for a call to seek job too general to show the quality of your speech and freedom for black Americans (Garrow, 26). This speech is not just simple speech, but a speech which changed history. Just like what Mark Vail says “The I Have a Dream speech was magnificent, memorable, and soaring; it touched the hearts of millions and transformed a meandering march into one of America’s historic events”’” (1). How can a simple speech have such power? The “I Have a Dream” speech has reached a high position in the field of literary writing. This speech has both great effects on political and literary areas, and its unique effect made it an important speech.  focus on your punctuation .

King’s speech has a complex social and political background. Even though President Lincoln promised black Americans freedom and equality when he signed Emancipation Proclamation, black Americans were still not really free and were not treated as fair as white people (King, 1). Black Americans were discriminate against everywhere, especially in southern states. They could not find a jobs; their children had to go to special school for black children to separatedbe separated them from white children; they even had the special seats in the back of the bus. Discrimination and unfair treatment were suffered by every black Americans. At that time, civil rights were just a dream for black Americans. They strongly desire really freedom and equality. They wished their children could share same civil rights as the white children. The strength of anger had reached a peak, and then a great leader leadled them to gather in the capital to give the speech as a way to be against unfair treatment and discrimination.  good grammar.

King’s early life experience made him the leader of civil rights,rights; he was born in a pastor’s family where who both his grandfather and father were pastors. He grew to accept Christianity. Then he learned deeply about Christianity in college. During the study, he deepened his understanding of theology and explored the Mahatma Gandhi in non-violent strategy for social reform. All these experience made him a leader of civil rights. King became the leader. He united all black Americans with the “dream”. As W.A.T.E.R. says, “King addressed many social injustices that plagued Black communities across America, but the ‘Dream’ dissertation is the one that continuously gets force-fed into the stream of public consciousness”(1).  very good 

In King’s speech, he clearly appealappeals the political context that black Americans want civil rights. He mentioned the Emancipation Proclamation several times in his speech, and then he said Emancipation Proclamation is a “bad check” because of "insufficient funds" (King, 1). He did not believe that and claimed that now black Americans want to “cash this check” (King, 1). This check is civil rights.

Put aside the political level, the “I Have a Dream” is also an excellent literary output. Since King gave the speech, most famous and influential newspaper and radio made analysis and comments of the speech. As Duffy wrote in his article, “The Time Magazine article about the rally clearly understood the importance of King’s speech: ‘King’s particular magic had enslaved his audience,’ Time said of the prepared portion of King’s text, while particularly praising the extemporized section with which the speech ended as ‘catching, dramatic, inspirational’ (“Beginning”)” (186). Also the New York Daily News, and the Time Magazine gave the speech a golden opinion. This proved that “I Have a Dream” is a good article to investigate rhetorical analysis.

Logos, ethos, and pathos are three important ways of rhetorical analysis. How did King use logos to analysis his speech? King explained people why black people need to fight for freedom. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and Emancipation Proclamation signed “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir”, but this note did not come true because of "insufficient funds"(King, 1). That’s the reason why black people came to the capital and why there is a dream. At that time, thousands of black people arrived in capital were to “cash a check”(King, 1).

King also used ethos to analysis his speech. MLK speaks as the speaker of God, such as “this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:". We can find several places that he used what do "what”the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence" say to prove his idea because God, the constitution and the Declaration of Independence are most creditable. He did not say what he says, but he says what he wants to say by using God’s name and Emancipation Proclamation’s context.

Pathos is used in King’s speech also. King said this sentence which is “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges”(2). He compared the strength of anger with “whirlwinds of revolt”, and compared civil rights with “bright day of justice emerges”(King, 2). His speech follows listeners’ feeling and promotespeech follows listeners’ feeling and promotes the feeling. “I have a dream!” appears many time in his speech, and he made examples that what the dreams are. These dreams are his feelings. He wants to spread the seeds of dream to every Americans. Emotion is a strong power. King has successfully spread his dreams.  good

There are three appeals of rhetorical analysis: Rational Appeal, Ethical Appeal, and Emotional Appeal. MLK explains why black people were not free, why black people should be free, and then he used a word "check" to explain the situation. However, the "check" is a bad check. By using this specific causal logic, King explained that this speech and meeting were legal and reasonable. Also by saying in this way can touch citizen’s sympathy and understanding. This is the rational appeal.  too short

MLK used what Lincoln had done and spoken to make his speech more ethical and credible because Lincoln was present and also he was a person who has a great ethical character. In his speech, we can find several sentences with “God”, such as “God’s son” (King ,2). Based on his career and character, he tried to make his voice become Lincoln’s and God’s. In this way, listeners are more willing to accept his speech because Lincoln is a great president people believes, and most Americans believe in Christianity at that time. These are the examples of ethicalof ethical appeal.

Pathos is one way to use emotion appeal. MLK used “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges”(” (2). Also he claimed several times that” I have a dream” in his speech. In this way, he spread the seeds of “dream” to every listener. His emotion successfully infected others. It worked well because MLK was the leader of black people, and he knew what black people had suffered. He wanted black people to fight for their rights, and he tried to get his audience to feel angry. He was born leader. His career and his fame made his speech credible.

Again, King’s speech is a great research topic of rhetorical analysis, so his speech considered the other writing elements such as audience, voice and situation. First, King’s speech considered the big issues around March such as “the nature of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom itself reflected many of the characteristics of voice merging” “the vehicle for integrating secular and sacred issues inherent in the struggle for civil rights” and “the ‘dynamic spectacle’ of the March” (Vail, 52). Also the speech “draws on an ‘integrative rhetoric’ that was consonant with the integrationist aims of the nonviolent direct-action civil rights movement” (Vail, 52). King’s tone was bold and serious when he gave the speech. His tone was sometimes fast and sometimes slowtone was sometimes fast and sometimes slows just like winding river touched listeners’ heart. Syntax is one important way that King used in his speech. He used a lot of parallel sentences to strengthen his speech. The most soul-stirring part is when he describedescribes his dream, “I Have a Dream Today! I have a dream that one day in Alabama… … I Have a Dream Today! I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted… …” (King, 2). Through his words, every listener seesees his dream, feels his dream, and touches his dream.

Rose quotes this sentence in her book review article that “King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech has become one of the nation’s most sacred texts(texts (10)” (1). Is the dream still a dream? Black Americans have had better life, and are unfair treatment and discriminations already disappear? No, discriminations continue and gap between black life and white life still exists (Eddings, 1). At the end, after the lapse of time, wish that children “will not be judged by the content of their skin, but by the content of their character” (King, 2).

Working Bibliography

Duffy, Bernard K., and Richard D. Besel. "Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” and the Politics of Cultural Memory: An Apostil." ANQ] 23.3 (2010): 184-191. Academic Search Complete.EBSCO.Web. 25 Jan. 2011.

Eddings, Jerelyn. "`I Have a Dream'--30 Years ago and Now." U.S. News & World Report 115.9 (1993): 10. Academic Search Complete.EBSCO.Web. 25 Jan. 2011.

Garrow, David J. "KING THE MARCH THE MAN THE DREAM. (Cover story)."American History 38.3 (2003): 26. Academic Search Complete.EBSCO.Web. 25 Jan. 2011.

King, Jr., Martin Luther. "I Have a Dream Speech." Essential Documents: I Have a Dream (2009): 1-3. Academic Search Complete.EBSCO.Web. 26 Jan. 2011.

Rose, Chanelle. "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. Academic Search Complete.EBSCO.Web. 25 Jan. 2011.



Vail, Mark. "THE "INTEGRATIVE" RHETORIC OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.'S "I HAVE A DREAM" SPEECH." Rhetoric & Public Affairs 9.1 (2006): 51-78. Academic Search Complete.EBSCO.Web. 25 Jan. 2011.

W.A.T.E.R., 17. "Is King's Dream Still an Illusion?." New York Amsterdam News 99.4 (2008): 1-41. Academic Search Complete.EBSCO.Web. 25 Jan. 2011.


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