|Justification/Review of Literature:
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" Speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. In this speech, Martin Luther King Jr. said he had a dream that white and black children would one day walk hand in hand and that one-day sons of former slaves and sons of former slave-owners would be able to agree to live together (Bankston).
The 1950s through the 1970s were extremely difficult times for African-Americans. They were treated different than white American’s simply because of their skin color. The laws protected the bad treatment they got. Laws requiring separate hotels, restaurants, schools, and even drinking fountains were common in many states (Mendes). “Dr.King’s speech represented one of the critical turning points in the civil rights movements” (I Have A Dream).
Martin Luther King was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, which was a drive to get more equal treatment for all Americans, not just for white Americans. This speech was important in several ways. One of the ways it was important was because it brought even greater attention to the Civil Rights Movement that had been going on for many years. King's speech was part of the March on Washington, which was a gathering of more than 250,000 people in the nation's capital. African-Americans still were not treated as equals. Marches like this one and ones earlier in Detroit and other cities called attention to these issues.
The speech was also significant because it was given in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, which is the monument honoring President Abraham Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation that freed slaves in the Southern states. By giving his speech there, Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to call attention to how things were so bad a century before during the Civil War, and how things hadn’t changed much since then. This speech brought Martin Luther King Jr. and his message of nonviolence and equality to a nation and worldwide audience. The speech was carried on radio and was reprinted in newspapers and magazines all over the United States, and all over the world (Gallagher). After this speech, the name Martin Luther King Jr. was known worldwide.
“Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech exhibits an ‘integrative’ rhetorical style that mirrors and maintains King’s call for a racially integrated America” (Vail). He called for an active movement of his listeners, requiring them to be voiced and take action for the sake of equality. Although the speech had a great impact on the listeners, it was going to take much more than just being heard to spark a change.
The “I Have a Dream” speech made Congress move faster in passing the Civil Rights Act, and this set of laws was finally passed in 1964. Many of these laws gave the African-American people more equal treatment than ever before. Martin Luther King Jr. expressed both the great changes that had already been made, but also the great changes that needed to be made if African-Americans were to be equals in American society. He explained that he saw the Civil Rights struggle as not black against white, but a fight of rights from the Constitution to all of the people of the United States. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to end segregation, and he wanted blacks and white to live as one. He spoke of the challenges that would come ahead and the goals he wanted America to achieve for family unity, civil rights, religious tolerance, human dignity and social justice (Mendes).
The rhetor, or the person that originated the original text, was Martin Luther King, Jr. King who was both a Baptist minister as well as a civil rights leader during the time of “the heyday of the civil rights and Black Power era” in the 1960s (Simmons). “Through his activism, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the South and other areas of the nation as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965” (A&E Network). “King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other honors” (A&E Network). Martin Luther King Jr. was otherwise a regular, everyday man but after delivering his message, his dream, he became the face of change.
The audience, the group of spectators at a public event, for Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech was the approximately 250,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963. In addition, millions listened on the radio and watched on television. King's words were meant to be heard by all Americans. For black listeners, the message carried hope that the goals of freedom and equality for all were within reach. For whites, King explained the goal of African Americans, wanting to be treated as equals and live the American dream. Each year, on the national holiday commemorating his life, King's message is passed on to new generations.
Martin Luther King Jr. and his speech are still relevant today as we are still trying to achieve a society that is colorblind, compassionate, and open-minded. People of all races still strive for equality. The equality has come a long way thus far, but it still has a long way to go. Through his words, Martin Luther King Jr. gave voice to those who couldn’t give theirs. Through his deeds he gave courage to those who didn’t have courage themselves. Through everything, he taught American’s the power of humanity and love.
The speech is one of the greatest examples of what we can do when we take action is what we believe in, and it gave American’s a goal to strive towards: a country that acts on its own ideals and measures itself with how it treats the less fortunate. The speech is a great example of how one person can move others to action. “Decades have passed since that risky, against-the-crowd, speech was made,” but the words that were spoken and the power behind the message will continue to be part of everyday life for decades to come (Johnson).
Therefore, the purpose of this project was to not only analyze Martin Luther King Jr. I have A Dream Speech, but to do it in depth. We use the Pentadic Analysis in attempt to understand King’s motive for giving the speech was. Pentadic analysis allows for us to analyze the act, scene, agent, agency, and purpose when we apply it to the text which isn’t something we might not think to do initially. By looking at the different components of the speech, it began to have more meaning and significance behind just the words that were being spoke.
The pentad of this speech is very clear and was easy to determine because of the fact that the speech, itself, addresses its’ audience and purpose, however; sometimes it is not so simple to locate each step of the pentadic analysis. Within a pentadic analysis there are six different categories, or steps, in the description of the artifact. According to "Tragedy in Red Lake, Minnesota: A Pentadic Analysis of Local versus National Media Coverage”, these parts of the pentad, then, are used to describe motive, and ‘any complete statement about motives will offer some kind of answers to these five questions: what was done (act), when or where it was done (scene), who did it (agent), how (s)he did it (agency)…and why (purpose)’” (Tragedy in Red Lake).
First, each artifact contains an “act” which, according to the textbook, is defined as what took place in thought or deed. In other words, the act is the part of the artifact that is what actually is taking place, whether it be a speech, a theater performance, a song or as simple as a conversation. According to “A Pentadic Analysis of Celebrity Testimony in Congressional Hearings: Giving Voice to the Voiceless”, the act is central…and refers to how a person describes what was done or what happened. The act is what is sending a message to the audience, whether it is in thought or deed; literal or physical.
Second, the “agent” is to whom is delivering the artifact. The agent is the presenter of the information, the messenger to the people, the deliverer of good news and the bearer of bad news. The agent is the person who is having the conversation or delivering the powerful speech to the mass public.
Third, the “agency”, according to the textbook, is the agent’s willful action or what the agent is trying to do or get across to the audience. The theses of the document, the punch-line of the performance, the closing argument in a debate, these all qualify as part of the agency of the artifact. At the end of the delivery of the agency, the audience will be certain of the point that the agent is seeking to point throughout the delivery of the artifact, or act.
Fourth, is the “purpose”, which is defined as the justification for the act, or how it was done. The purpose of the delivery of the artifact would be very similar to the “act”, it refers to “why an act was committed” (A Pentadic Analysis). The way that the artifact is presented is directly relatable to the audience it is being presented to.
King was able to touch a wide variety of people and connect with all of them but on different levels. For African Americans, he carried a message of hope and made them realize equality and goals of freedom were within reach. For whites, he explained the aspiration of African Americans and why it is so important and how they are equally a vital part to the American dream.
Fifth, the “scene” is defined in the textbook as the background of the act; the situation in which it occurred or why it was done. The scene is where the act takes place, or “the setting of the act” (A Pentadic Analysis). The scene plays a huge part in relaying the message to the audience. Much like the purpose, with the proper scene, the audience will already be in the mindset to feed off the message and act upon it. The placement, scene and timing of the act is pivotal in the power behind the message. The scene where the message is being delivered must be directly proportional to the situation at hand.
Lastly, each artifact must also contain a “ratio”, which allows the critic to realize why the speaker selected a certain strategy and what this means about their worldview. The critic selects the two most dominant and powerful “steps” to the pentadic analysis. For example, the critic reviewing the full analysis will choose two of the five most important or influential aspects of the artifact. The critic will choose from the act, agent, agency, purpose or scene to determine the ratio of the artifact. If the critic felt that the act and agency were the two most powerful and influential “steps” then the ratio will read either act: agency or agency: act. The next step is for the critic to decide which of the two steps had the most impact on him or her. The critic then would put that step first. If the critic determined that the agency was the most powerful part of the message and the act was simply part of making the agency so influential the ratio would read, agency: act. It is important to understand each element on its own, but it is more important to understand how they work together. The significance of the ratio is that the dominant ratio would be the tenet that has the most impact on the critic.
Kenneth Burke came up with the Dramatistic Pentad to figure out the motivational reasons behind what people did. He used the tools of literature, philosophy, economics, linguistics, psychology, sociology and communication to come up with his Pentad. The Pentad has the different elements that were discussed above. His Pentad can be easily understood because essentially it is asking the questions of who, what, where/when, how and why.
Dramatism is an absolute reflection of reality so it focuses on the role of person doing the study and uncovering the speakers motives. Any statement about the motives will present some information to the five questions. Even though each component of the Pentad is important, it is vital to understand how the elements work together and come up with the ratio. There are ten possible ratio’s within the Pentad. An example may be Scene-Act, describing which has the most influential effect on the study.
Not only can the Pentad help you investigate the motives behind the speech, but it can also help you discover places where the speeches strong points were and even the parts that could have somehow been improved. It has been used for several years because of its effectiveness.
Researching the individual part of the pentadic analysis, we found that each part of the pentadic analysis was found in the “I Have A Dream” speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. that day.
The act, or what took place in thought or deed, of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech was a speech about civil rights given at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. In this speech, Martin Luther King Jr. said he had a dream that white and black children would one day walk hand in hand and that one-day sons of former slaves and sons of former slave-owners would be able to agree to live together. It was simply a speech aimed towards all people in the hopes that one day we can all live together; all people, all races, all colors- all people can live as equals.
The agent, or the person or kind of persons delivering the speech was Martin Luther King, Jr. King who was both a Baptist minister as well as a civil rights leader during the time of “the heyday of the civil rights and Black Power era” in the 1960s (Simmons). He gave this speech because he saw there could be a future in equality among races, and hoped for his children that they would see that someday.“Through his activism, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the South and other areas of the nation as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965” (A&E Network). “King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other honors” (A&E Network). Martin Luther King Jr. was otherwise a regular, everyday man but after delivering his message, his dream, he became the face of change.
The agency, or Martin Luther King Jr.’s willful action, is change. A change in which “all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (Huffington Post). A change in which he dreams of, where (his) “four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” (Huffington Post). This change will be only accomplished by determined individuals of all kind, demonstrating “soul force” against “physical force” in the highest dignity and discipline (Huffington Post). With the words during his speech, he referred to many other famous speeches and documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, the United States Constitution, and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Anaphora, the repetition of a phrase at the beginning of sentences, is a rhetorical tool he used throughout the speech. Some of these phrases include “Now is the time,” “We must,” and “I have a dream” (Campbell).
The purpose, or the justification for the speech, was a need for change and the time had come that something was done! Martin Luther King Jr. repeats on four different occasions that “Now is the time”, now is the time to do something different. King’s purpose is to remember the “American Dream”, and to one day “be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to climb up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day” (I HAVE A DREAM). It was to bring greater attention to the Civil Rights Movement, which had been going on for many years. King's speech was part of the March on Washington, a gathering of more than 250,000 people in the nation's capital. This speech brought Martin Luther King Jr. and his message of nonviolence to a nation and worldwide audience. It has been reprinted and heard all over the world, even now after many years, students learn about this speech in school. It’s purpose was to bring attention to inequality not only with African-American’s, but all American’s not being treated fairly (Johnson).
Taking place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C, during a time of the massive “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”, the scene was a huge advantage for delivering a powerful message to the audience. The speech “showed the country that there was a large gap between the rights provided to African Americans and those provided to their white brothers and sisters. It also showed the country that people of all races and background were coming together to support civil rights and equality and that these goals could be advanced without resorting to violence” (I HAVE A DREAM). Had the speech been delivered at any other time at any other place, it would not have made this impact on the nation. The speech being given in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, the monument honoring President Abraham Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the Southern states, had a huge impact. By giving his speech there, King wanted to call attention to how things were so terrible a century before, during the Civil War, and how some things hadn't changed much in 100 years. Martin Luther King Jr. had captured the attention of our entire nation and being at the center of the controversy already happening allowed him to speak directly to those people in a very intimate, personal and captivating manner.
This speech was one that we had to read over multiple times. We thought the words were more meaningful than any speech we have previously read, due in part that they came right from King, himself. The words he spoke to the people listening came straight from the heart and every time we read those words, we knew that they were his hopes, his wishes and they truly were his dreams. The ratio we chose for this speech was difficult because we could not figure out which parts of the speech had the biggest impact on us while reading it.
When we read this speech we had little impact from the scene, because we were not in attendance to feel the passion behind his speaking or to be impacted by the atmosphere during the time. We knew what the agency was, in a sense, however; we never got the chance to interview King to hear his own words as to where the inspiration came from. None of us are part of the minority, being Caucasian females, we never experienced those horrible, horrible things which King was risking his life for dreaming of better treatment and better times. We felt that the way the artifact was presented, the act, was appropriate and it was the best way at that specific time to address his audience, but when it came to the most impacting and powerful part of the “I Have A Dream” speech, the ratio, for us, was purpose: agent.
The purpose of the speech was clear throughout his entire heart-felt message, not one second was there an ounce of confusion as a listener, never once did we lose focus, and not once did we lose empathy for those that the speech was focused on. The dream that Martin Luther King Jr. had very quickly became a dream that we all possessed. We wanted to make a change; King impacted us to make a change for our future and for the future of those who had to face these struggles every day. Martin Luther King Jr., the agent, became such an inspiration. The delivery of his speech was so personal and so vulnerable that if it had been delivered any other way or by any other person, it would not have had the same impact on us as readers. Therefore we feel that the dominant ratio we determined had a huge impact on the message that Martin Luther King Jr. intended to send to his audience.
More than forty years after the speech was given, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech still stays in the minds of all Americans. It is one of the most famous speeches in American history. King’s vision of racial harmony still serves as a vision in the minds of many Americans, of what we can and should be.
This speech still holds a lot of power, and excerpts from the speech are still played on television and in classrooms across America. The clips are replayed enough that children born decades after the speech still know the meaning, and can even recite parts word for word. The speech is still analyzed in schools and is known as a significant event in America’s history.
He spoke of the challenges that would come ahead and the goals he wanted America to achieve for family unity, civil rights, religious tolerance, human dignity and social justice (Mendes). Many challenges still exist and many goals have not yet been reached. Martin Luther King Jr. and his speech are still relevant as there are still many dividing lines in society today that could be erased with better communication and less prejudice. King knew that the speech wasn’t going to solve all the problems, but he believed that anything was better than nothing.
He was not afraid to stand out and speak even if there weren’t many to hear him. He would speak anywhere that anyone was willing to listen. This included hotels, restaurants, or wherever a crowd may be. This showed his true dedication and passion and people respected him because they knew it was something that was coming from their heart.
The speech emphasizes that change begins with us and that any one of us can help change the world. Martin Luther King, Jr., one man, inspired a nation to change itself and begin living up to the meaning of the Constitution. We too can strive to be better, as we can serve our nation and for other Americans. It is too easy to be concerned with only our own lives, and the lives of our family and close friends. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired us to reach out to those that are in need. He was able to put us in the mindset of imagining if we were in that position.
The speech is significant in the classroom, and after years have passed, it is still extremely influential. Kids aren’t huge fans of black and white video clips, but it doesn’t take long for the words and charisma of King to exceed the boundaries of any media. Fighting for what is right and just what most people desire, though they are sometimes difficult to act upon.
Our world has a long way to go before eliminating racial hatred, discrimination, segregation and ethnic conflict. Unfortunately, there is not an easy to fix. Anything that inspires people to act and do better is a plus, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, is a noteworthy example. These worthy causes still exist today. Progress is being made, but it is up to each one of us to carry them forward, no matter how small or how large the gestures being made are.
We believe that this speech was also so influential because each part of the Pentad had strong points. We wonder if the speech would have had such a large impact if the agent, agency, act, purpose, or scene had been changed. For example, the fact that the speech was given in front of the Lincoln Memorial made a huge impact that probably had for the people that were there to be able to hear the speech. Another example would be that it was given by a black man, and the impact and message could have changed if it were given by a white man. Each part had an important role in making the speech as well known as it is today. Martin Luther King’s message has been passed on for so many years and we predict that it will be passed on for many more years to come.
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