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Metaphors in “I Have a Dream”

During the 1960s, America was divided on the important issue of civil rights. The great civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during a critical moment in the civil rights movement. The central themes of Martin Luther King Jr’s. speech were law, hope, and non-violence.

One of King’s intended effects of “I have a dream” was to create a legal basis for civil rights and is mostly directed at the White lawmakers. In the very first sentence of his speech King alludes to the Emancipation Proclamation. “Four score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. “ In the third paragraph he used the metaphor “cashing the bad check” to compare the lack of freedom promised in the emancipation proclamation to the illegal act of writing bad checks. King also says “There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.”(5) Meaning that blacks aren’t treated like U.S citizens and they won’t rest until they are treated like the legal citizens they are.

Another of King’s intended effects is to create hope in the civil rights movement. Near the end of his speech King uses repetition of “I have a dream” followed by his vision of how great America will be once it is desegregated. The metaphor “into an oasis of freedom and justice” (13) is used to describe how Mississippi was once a state full of racism and injustices and in the desegregated America there will be a plethora of freedom and justice. “Nineteen sixty-three is not an end but a beginning” (5) is another instance when hope is the intended effect, he is implying that America won’t end because Blacks are given equal rights but that it will become more powerful and a role model for the world.

Non Violence is another intended effect of King’s “I have a Dream” speech. King wanted to keep the civil rights movement nonviolent so that it would have positive public relations “let us not satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” Is an example of this. King also uses the metaphor “we must rise to majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force” (7). He also says “conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.” The high plane means they are going to take the just route and won’t fight back when the racists come and attack them.

In conclusion, King’s speech was very important, it gave hope to those who were discouraged, calmed those who wanted to achieve freedom with violence and called the government on a promise it made during the civil war.

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