Martin Luther King Jr.’s Rhetoric Speech Analysis

Rhetoric Speech Analysis

Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C, altered the course of American life, making him one of the most influential figures in US history. The youthful minister spoke to a gathering of 200,000 individuals who had traveled to the capital to make a noble statement regarding civil rights. King Jr. spoke about three main issues: the Declaration of Independence, Gettysburg, as well as the Bible. The civil rights icon has since been praised for its masterful delivery and intelligent improvisation. King Jr.’s speech was filled with imagery and biblical language. In addition, the address incorporated several rhetorical devices that were instrumental in establishing the foundation for advocacy that centered on eradicating social injustices and racial inequality.

The beginning of Luther’s speech includes an ethos reference to one of the greatest American emancipators, Abraham Lincoln. The reference takes the audience to the year in which the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by Lincoln, freeing all slaves. By referring to the emancipation event, Luther manages to showcase the aspect of segregation that divided Americans according to their skin color and how it was still relevant on the day he addressed the crowd. Despite that proclamation a century earlier, African Americans were still suffering from racial bondage.

King Jr. also quotes the Independence Declaration in his speech. He reminds the crowd that according to the document, every individual would be guaranteed the right to life and liberty, as well as happiness. However, such emphasis contrasts the present situation in which the ideologies he advocates are still unfulfilled. This divergence stirs the audience immensely, motivating them to continue to fight for equal rights. Even though the minister aims to appeal to the crowd’s emotions, his address also interests their logic by reminding them of America’s founding principles.

King Jr. establishes goals for the movement via themed pathos. In the process, he also uses repetition when explaining the lack of satisfaction with the state of affairs. In this case, the status quo is the belittlement and mistreatment of the Negro. The minister also combines ethos and pathos in his emphasis on equality. Luther states that color should not be the basis of division as God views everyone equally no matter the color. King Jnr. urges his audience to fight for a society that creates equal opportunities for everyone.

Towards the climax of Luther’s speech, he begins to use repetition. His use of anaphora epitomizes his idealism particularly when he utters the phrases “We cannot be satisfied” and “Now is the time.” Furthermore, he also uses repetition when explaining his lack of satisfaction with America’s present predicament. As aforementioned, such state of affairs involves the institutional oppression of African-Americans. In the process, he calls for action against Negro mistreatment.

The second potion of the speech rhetorically emphasizes emotion due to the tone. King Jr. outlines his classical illustrations of pathos via exquisite application of anaphora while denoting his dream of living in a nation of racial harmony and equality. Moreover, “Now is the time” and other repetitive words are used as forms of amplification. Specifically, “Now is the time” amplifies the vitality of creating a movement against racial segregation and inequality.

The speech also contains a chiasmus. Luther repeated the phrase “Let freedom ring” to illustrate the weight of freedom in society. This statement is meant to help his message span racial, geographical, age, and governmental boundaries to establish ultimate freedom to the oppressed. Furthermore, the final sentence establishes a concluding pathos meant for the nation. The emotional appeal is that this being America, freedom, and equality should be guaranteed for everyone.

The speech that Martin Luther King Jr. gave is considered as one of the greatest orations in history. In addition to uniting millions of Americans, King Jr.’s use of several rhetorical appeals makes the speech relevant today. Notably, repetition, tonal variation, and other rhetorical devices are carefully structured into the address. Through seamless incorporation of rhetorical appeals, King Jr. was able to provide two distinct speech parts. The sections set the stage for exposing racial injustice and then created one for fighting against inequality and racism.



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