Metaphors in King’s i have a Dream Speech

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Banking and seasonal metaphors in Martin Luther King I Have a Dream speech.


An artifact for analysis is a speech I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King which describes banking and seasonal metaphors. The speech was intended to improve the civil rights of the blacks and minority people in the United States. The speech urged the Civil Rights Act 1964 and the Voting Rights Act 1965 to be passed by US congress.

Luther speech is a masterwork of political rhetoric in which he uses various metaphors such as the banking metaphor to explain how black people and the minority were oppressed and denied their rights. In the banking metaphor he relates the challenges that black people face to a blank note and how the American government does not honor their obligation of encouraging that all people have equal rights to vote and be treated fairly. He uses metaphors like the food and drink, buildings and nature to explain various issues faced by the black and minority people.


Metaphors can be used as artifacts when delivering various speeches to call upon the citizen to fight to various issues in their country. The speech by king appeals the American citizen to recognize the injustices in the country and the inequity experienced by the colored people. He not only speaks about the issues that have existed in the country but also calls upon the citizens to demand for change and fight against all this injustices.

The cultural artifact by king inspires Americans to fight for equality and fairness of all people in the country despite their diverse differences. This artifact uses metaphors to influence the audience to explain to them the challenges they are facing and various actions which they can take. The artifact uses metaphoric critics to provide insight about the speech and express various influential arguments to the audience about the issues they face in reality.


The artifact has been recognized as one of the most powerful speeches in 20th century and it was a masterwork of political rhetoric. The importance of the speech has been analyzed by various individuals. The speech is a brilliant fashion but ironically it was not created well before March in Washington for jobs and freedom. King did not have all the ideas he was supposed to address to the audience and he gathered some during meeting with other March leaders (Hansen, P.68). He dedicated a lot of time to create the speech and the delivery itself. King used various metaphors in his speech to explain the issues that needed to be addressed in America. The metaphors include; banking, nature, food and drink.

The artifact explains the various political, social, cultural and historical challenges faced by black and minority people in America. The speech is a clear reflection of his life and how racial tensions affected the blacks in their education. The blacks experienced injustices such as discrimination and in his speech he quoted how he could not get a house to rent just because he was a Negro. He explains in his speech that through his diffulties he also had the support of his wife. Just like the other black people he accepted several injustices done to him, like the bombing of his house through his religious experiences (Hansen, P.68). King talked about the policy of nonviolence which the oppressed black people and minorities can use when airing their grievance to the government.

Martin Luther king Ir. was elected as the president of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) where he got a chance to move to the political governance of a fast growing public human freedoms movements.  Since he could not shy away from leadership opportunities he dealt with unwarranted arrests, police brutalities and many other issues experienced by black Americans and the minorities.

The context of the life of Martin Luther king Jr was filled with various challenges which is a representation of the struggles which back people endure in America when fighting for injustices through the Civil Human rights Movements (Hanse, P.68). King had a powerful effect which was indirect to his audience and his life was a symbolic representation of the injustices experienced by the colored people. People can use Kings Life to examine if they have made any impact to the society, if they are doing things which can make the world a better place.

The speech I Have a Dream explains about freedom as well as jobs. Audience during the delivery of the speech comprised of all races, black people and white people attended the event. The banking metaphor explained about the lack of civil rights for the colored people and minorities in America. Many people had joined movements to fight the injustices but they were given promises by the government which were never met (Hansen, 69). America has not honored the assurances they had promised the black people and they continue to oppress them through inequality and discrimination.

King uses food and drink as a metaphor to correlate the drinking of liquids to the drinking of opinions and attitudes. He advises the blacks not to fight for their freedom with violence which can consist of anger and hatred towards others. In his speech he uses multifaceted metaphors of comparing liquid to political actions of various leaders. He also used the building metaphor to indicate the progress which people can make towards attaining a common goal (Hansen, P.69-70). He uses the metaphors of doors of opportunities and crossing a threshold to describe what is necessary for making the progress on civil rights about the blacks and minorities in United States. He explains that people can stand firm and fight for the justice of the oppressed and discriminated groups.

Martin Luther King Junior uses various metaphors of nature in his speech such as storms, valleys and mountains among many others. In his speech he talks about the differences between the civil rights of blacks and whites and he compares them to the differences between light and shadow between a valley and the top of a mountain. He advises the audience that now is the time they can rise and fight for the injustices they have experienced for many years. He uses various metaphors to explain the difference between justice and injustice (Hansen, P.70). He compares justice to a solid rock and injustice to the desert. He states that the injustice systems can be converted to an oasis and freedom and justice. Being a strong religious person he beliefs that one day freedom will ring and all black people and minorities will celebrate together.

Method for Analysis

Metaphoric criticism is a perspective method that is used to analyze the speech and it places the various metaphors used by Martin Luther King Jr at the heart of rhetorical action. This method believes that metaphors are means by which opinions are articulated. In addition, metaphors provide perception on an audience's social reality. In metaphoric criticism the center of rhetoric are metaphors themselves.  The speech I Have a Dream is analyzed from the perspective of metaphoric criticism which allows the critics to identify how the metaphors impact the speechmaking (Burgchardt, P.305).  Metaphors are opinions to an argument but in metaphoric criticism they are explained as arguments and they are themselves influential arguments.

Audiences can be invited to analyze the meaning of the metaphors and this forces them to take the action of understanding the speech arguments. When audiences are pressed to pinpoint and practice the speech making there are greater chances that they will accept the arguments and act upon them. Artifacts can be analyzes through various steps which include; first becoming familiar with the artifact and its context, isolating the metaphors used by the rhetoric in order to develop an explanation for it.

Metaphoric criticism is applied in analyzing the artifact by Martin Luther King Jr, he used various metaphors to explain the issues faced by the black Americans (Burgchardt, P.310). The metaphors include, banking, food and drink, buildings and the nature. Different authors have explained the metaphoric criticism in various ways. The authors are certain that the key to identification of the matrix within the speech by King is by identifying the exceptional pictures as well as the interactions between the, metaphors.

Findings of the Analysis

 The speech I Have a Dream Martin Luther King Jr. greatly influences his audience and they can feel the real issues which he talks about. He makes his audience think in order to understand the issues which he addresses in the speech. He uses metaphors to express the various issues which are faced by black Americans and minority groups in America. The speech had great impact to his audience and he is acknowledged as the greatest citizen US due to his efforts to fight injustices. He stood to fight for those people who were struggling to benefit from opportunities in America for he was synonymous with faith, compassion, love and justice (Bilsky, P.136). in his social context he criticized the injustices and inequality experienced by black people in the places where he lived and also how he died was a subject to criticism in united states and also globally. He was deeply involved in movements which fought for human rights.

The speech was momentous and historic and gave the audience the fuel to fight for human rights and one of the best oral presentations that has never been seen in America up to today. The context of the speech gives perfect explanation of Martin Luther king Jr life. The speech I Have a Dream when analyzed it gives a clear understanding of the various metaphors used and the metaphorical method used to analyze it and this shows how Martin Luther King Jr was effective in his arguments (Bilsky, P.137). He describes the many injustices at the time and in current and urges the audience to take actions in order to make changes to the systems.

The best part of the speech by Martin Luther King Jr is the actual dream itself which is clear in America today. During the day of his speech he reached out to many people and he urged them to fight for what is right although they are many challenges experienced by them today and tomorrow, but they should always have a dream that the future will be better (Bilsky, P.137). The speech might remain multifaceted but the dream for the country is simple which is fairness for all and the duty of Americans to secure the rights for all and now is the time for such action.

In his speech Martin Luther King Jr. uses various metaphors to explain various issues to his audience specifically in the first part of the speech. The metaphoric criticism method uses various procedures to analyze the artifact by Martin Luther King Jr and differentiate between various metaphors identified in the speech (Carson, P.5). The metaphors can be isolated to various groups and conflicting features identified. This assists every metaphor to identify its own characteristic.

In his speech Martin Luther King contrasts various metaphors such as the metaphor light and dark which he states the various injustices experienced by the black Americans and he compares the issues to light and dark in his speech. He uses metaphors like a great inspiration of hope which is compared by the metaphor darkness. (Bilsky, P.138). Martin Luther King Jr uses the differences to state the importance of Liberation Assertion for the black people. He uses the metaphor of dark and desolate valley to contrast with the metaphor of sunlit path of racial justice. which are contrasting images to try to force the audience find the path which they value most.

The metaphors of light and dark symbolize the resilient optimistic and undesirable relations for existence and development intentions. This descriptions prompt extreme judgement values which are expected to bring about important value responses from the audience. The light and dark metaphors are used together in the speech to indicate the various valued attitudes of the black and the white people.

The combination of the metaphors can be used to represent the self-assurance and hopefulness this is for the reason that both are divergent environmental potentials (Bilsky, P.138). The use of the metaphors of light and dark is quite effective in Martin Luther King Jr speech, the white people are not contented with the current injustices they are facing and they are ready to take actions of progress. Confidence and optimism are the two most important qualities which Martin Luther King Jr wanted to translate unto his audience.

Martin Luther King Jr also used other metaphors like hot and cold in his speaking. The metaphors are identified towards the mid of the discourse which he talks about the oppressive summer of the Negro genuine dissatisfaction which cannot pass not until the oppressed people fight for their freedom and equality (Carson, P, 6). The freedom is describe by various metaphors like tenor while the metaphors scorching summertime and bracing season represents the tools used. In the speech the use of the metaphors of light and dark as well the metaphors of cold have same effects in the speech. The contrast between the two metaphors can lead to empowering of the audience who can take actions. The comparisons give the audience the opportunity to live in the present or establish new prospect for themselves.

In his speech he uses various metaphors such as the soft and cold and also thirst and satisfaction metaphor. The metaphor of soft as well as cold are contrasted when Luther talks about the time which has come for the American people to rise and fight the injustices experiences by the black people and the minority groups in the country (Echols, P.5) In addition he urges the people not to seek the satisfaction our thirst for freedom by cultivating bitterness and hatred and hatred within themselves. The metaphor brings out the concepts of both thirst and satisfaction and how they can be attained. Martin Luther King Jr uses this metaphors effectively in his speech to represent his contrasting ideas.

In his speech I Have a Dream Martin Luther King Jr makes use of various symbols to compare various situations. The use of metaphors is very effective and he made his audience to think and pushed them to take actions for injustices experienced in their time in America. Coming together of various oppressed people can create Human Rights movements which can push the government towards solving the issues at hand. The speech explains various issues in the political, social, historic and cultural aspects of people's life in America.

The various injustices he experienced in his life and other inequalities experienced by black people and minority groups in America were driving forces which made him to write the speech and deliver it to the audience. In his speech he wanted to motivate the oppressed groups and show them that there is hope for freedom when they fight for what his right (Echols, P.6). The black people had been oppressed for a very long time and they feared to rise and fight against the inequalities. Martin Luther king advocated the use of nonviolent means when fighting for change as this will not cultivate hatred among themselves and the Oppressors. Although they were given many promises by the government none of them was fulfilled and the government continued to oppress those who rose to speak for the marginalized groups.


There are many things which can be remembered in the artifact by Martin Luther King Jr I Have a Dream. The artifact had great impact to the audience, though Luther delivered it with use of various metaphors to bring out the various injustices experienced by the black people and the minority groups in America. The speech brought various changes to the oppressed as they had the power to rise and form civic right movements which can air their grievances to the government. Today in America the black and minority people have the rights to vote and expresses their ideas like other white people in America. There is equality and fairness in the country which is one of the positive impacts of the speech in America and other parts of the world

Work Cited

  1. Bilsky, Manuel. I.A. Richards' Theory of Metaphor. Modern Philology, Vol. 50, No. 2 (Nov.
  2. 1952): p. 130 137. JSTOR. 6 May 2010.
  3. Burgchardt, Carl. Readings in Rhetorical Criticism, 3rd Edition. State College, PA: Strata
  4. Publishing, 2005.
  5. Carson, Clayborne. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Warner Books,
  7. Echols, James. I Have a Dream Martin Luther King Jr. and the Future of Multicultural
  8. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2004.
  9. Hansen, Drew D. The Dream Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation.
  10. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2003.



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Metaphors in King's I Have a Dream Speech. (2019, Dec 18). Retrieved July 16, 2024 , from

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