August 27, 2013Figurative Language, Media, Metaphorsfigurative language, martin Luther King, media, metaphors, politicians, politicsAndrew Gallagher

This comes Wednesday will mark the 50th anniversary the Dr. Boy name Luther King Jr.’s “I have actually a Dream” speech from august 28th, 1963. The speech was the high point of the march on Washington to visit by around 300,000 people, to plan to enhance civil civil liberties for blacks and also minorities in the unified States. Dr. King speech and also the march spurred the U.S. Congress to happen the Civil civil liberties Act the 1964 and the Voting civil liberties Act that 1965.

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Now well-known as among the most an effective speeches that the 20th century, Dr. King speech to be a masterpiece of politics rhetoric. For the past couple of days, historians and also television pundits have actually been analyzing the importance of the speech and also the march. Ns would prefer to add a brief evaluation of the metaphors provided in the speech. Dr. King to be not only academically trained – that earned a Ph.D. In theology from Boston university – the was likewise a Baptist minister. His education, along with his skills as a preacher, helped him become one of the many gifted orators of modern times. He was also a understand of making use of metaphors to do a allude in his speeches. The “I have a Dream” speech is a “goldmine” of metaphors. I will break down some of his most essential metaphors into semantic category such together banking, food and also drink, buildings, music and nature. I will highlight the metaphors through boldface and italic type.


One the the many explicit metaphors he offers to make his point about the lack of civil rights is a banking metaphor. He says that the hundreds of marchers have concerned Washington to cash a inspect  while he insurance claims that the government has given the world of color a examine with insufficient funds, or a promissory note that no one has actually paid.

An actual check made the end to cutting board Jefferson…

“It is evident today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar together her citizens of color are concerned. Rather of honoring this spiritual obligation, America has given the Negro human being a bad check which has actually come back marked “insufficient funds.”

Food and Drink

We space all familiar with the experience of eating and also drinking. Dr. King supplies metaphors of drinking in numerous instances to correlate drink a fluid to drinking mindsets or opinions. Dr. King suggests:

“Let us not seek to accomplish our thirst for flexibility by drink from the cup of bitterness and also hatred.”

Later he supplies a complicated metaphor compare a fluid to politics actions, speaking of George Wallace, the branch of Alabama at the time who to be a solid proponent of segregation.

“I have a dream that sooner or later the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips space presently dripping v the words of interposition and nullification, will certainly be transformed right into a instance where little black boys and black girl will have the ability to join hands with small white boys and white girls and walk with each other as sisters and also brothers.”


The idea of start a building is provided metaphorically to indicate progress being made toward a particular goal. We frequently speak of having doors of opportunities or crossing a threshold to with a new goal. Dr. King supplies both of these metaphors to explain the work vital to make progression on civil legal rights in the united States. Dr. King additionally makes a to compare of the distinctions in civil rights to the distinctions of a typical house compared to a palace.

“Now is the time to open the doors that opportunity to all of God’s children.”

“But over there is something that I must say to my world who was standing on the warm threshold which leads into the palace the justice.”


By far the most common metaphors used in the speech room those of nature. Dr. King supplies metaphors the mountains, valleys, deserts, oases, stones, solid rocks, quicksand, islands, oceans, waters, streams, wind, whirlwinds, and storms.

Dr. King explains an America almost 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation:

“One hundred years later, the Negro resides on a lonely island of poor in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

He compares the distinctions in civil legal rights to the distinctions in light and also shadows between a valley and a mountaintop.

“Now is the moment to rise from the dark and also desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.”


“Again and also again we must rise come the majestic heights of conference physical force with heart force.”

“Let united state not wallow in the sink of despair.”

In another visually an effective metaphor, the compares unjust to gift a desert when justice is an oasis that water.

“I have actually a dream the one day even the state that Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the warm of injustice and also oppression, will be transformed right into an oasis the freedom and justice.”


He additionally describes justice as being solid rock while injustice is quicksand.

“Now is the time to elevator our country from the quicksands of racial injustice come the solid rock the brotherhood.”

In a very an effective metaphor, he explains justice as water in a mighty river.

“We can never be satisfied as lengthy as a negro in Mississippi cannot vote and also a black in brand-new York believes he has nothing because that which come vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not it is in satisfied till justice rolls down like waters and also righteousness like a mighty stream.”


He provides his support for the countless marchers who knowledgeable discrimination very first hand in their own lives by compare this differentiate to solid windstorms.

“Some of you have actually come from locations where your search for liberty left friend battered by the storms that persecution and staggered through the winds the police brutality.”

Dr. King likewise uses contrasts from nature based on light and also dark and different periods of the year.

“Five score year ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree come as a an excellent beacon irradiate of hope to countless Negro servants who had actually been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It come as a joyous daybreak to end the lengthy night of captivity.”

“This sweltering summer the the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass till there is one invigorating autumn of freedom and also equality.”

Music and also Sounds

The final collection of metaphors that Dr. King provides in the decided is pertained to music and sounds. After spending many of the speech making use of visual metaphors, the adds a few based on hear metaphors the sounds and music.

“With this belief we will have the ability to hew the end of the mountain of despair a stone the hope. V this belief we will have the ability to transform the jangling discords that our nation into a beautiful symphony that brotherhood.”

More importantly, the finishes the speech v a powerful an allegory of a bell ringing, take out loan a phrase, “let freedom ring” from the national song, “My country ‘Tis of Thee.” We typically associate the ringing that bells through churches, however they have likewise been supplied historically in communities to signal emergencies or celebrations. In the song, and in Dr. King speech, the ringing the the bells is meant to signify the echoing that the sounds all throughout the country. In a rhetorical style usual to Baptist preaching, that repeats the phrase many times for effect, in fact, a full of twelve times.

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“And when this happens, once we permit freedom to ring, once we let the ring from every town and every hamlet, from every state and also every city, we will be able to speed up the day when every one of God’s children, black color men and white men, Jews and also Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and also sing in the words of the old negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! give thanks to God Almighty, us are free at last!””

You have the right to read the entire text the the decided at or watch the decided at It is moving to watch the speech after all these years. Watch exactly how the audience reaction to few of his phrases. Note too that he reads native his notes for the very first part the the speech yet then walk the last five minutes from memory together he gets an ext and more inspired. Pretty amazing!

Comments and questions room welcome!

Update! Update! Update!

I have actually a second analysis that this famous speech in another post – young name Luther King’s “Dream” Speech, part 2. Please review this post as fine to complete your research.