Stylistic Devices in King’s Speech

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This speech was delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. at the 1963 march in Washington D.C., in front of over a crowd of 250,000 people. The purpose of this speech was to talk about the struggles that African Americans have faced and his hopes of equality between everyone (, 2018). King starts out his speech by using a metaphor.  Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

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This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice (American Rhetoric , 2017). He is comparing the Emancipation Proclamation to a light of hope for the African Americans who have been suffering. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination (American Rhetoric , 2017).

Here he is creating a vivid picture of how cruel racial discrimination is and how it is affecting people. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day (American Rhetoric , 2017). Here he is using Parallelism by using the same group of similarly phrased ideas (Hamilton, 2015). He is stating that we will be able to do everything together with faith. King also uses repetition in his speech when he repeats Let freedom ring, I have a dream, and We can never be satisfied. When he uses repetition in his speech he is sticking it into the listeners’ minds of what his main purpose is. Repetition is also a good way to emphasize a point which King does very well. Alliteration is also used in this speech. One example of alliteration is, But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt (American Rhetoric , 2017).

Onomatopoeia is a device that uses words that sounds like their meanings, such as buzz, hiss, swish, fizz, and ring. King uses this device when he uses the phrase let freedom ring. He repeats this phrase multiple times and his voice gets even louder with enthusiasm each time he repeats it. He clearly gets a positive reaction from the crowd at this point. This was a great way to create the mood and feeling of real bells ringing (Hamilton, 2015). King uses a lot of vivid words to help us picture what he is saying. For example, Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood (American Rhetoric , 2017). Here I can picture America quickly falling into a dangerous hole if we do not change our ways. I also can picture America as a strong solid rock when we come together as a hole. Another example is Justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream (American Rhetoric , 2017).

With these vivid words I can easily picture a scene in my head to match what he is saying. I do not see any weaknesses in this speech. King uses a variety of different stylistic devices which bring his speech to life. He spoke with such enthusiasm and passion, so we knew he his words were sincere. His powerful words get the audience emotionally involved (pathos). I have a dream that my 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 (American Rhetoric , 2017). Here he is connecting to parents in the audience no matter what gender or age. All parents want the best for their children and they want the same great opportunities for their children as King does. With his tone and word choice in his speech he passed on his passion to his audience and gave them hope that equality will soon come. He kept saying we can do this together or we cannot be satisfied he made everyone feel included in his speech. I believe equality falls into Maslow’s Social Needs category.

King catered to the audience’s social needs in his speech which was another way he got his audience involved. Everyone wants to feel love, have companionship, and feel a sense of belonging to something. How can we do that without equality? Here is the link to the speech: Bibliography American Rhetoric . (2017, November 14). Retrieved from American Rhetoric: Hamilton, C. (2015). Essentials of Public Speaking. Stamford: Cengage Advantage. (2018, August 21). Retrieved from

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Stylistic Devices In King's Speech. (2019, Oct 30). Retrieved February 9, 2023 , from

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