I Have a Dream

In this study guide we will help you analyze Martin Luther King's famous speech "I Have a Dream". You can also find a summary of the speech, as well as inspiration for discussing it and putting it into perspective.

Presentation of the speech

"I Have a Dream" is a famous speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (or MLK for short) on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The speech is widely considered one of the most significant and memorable speeches in American history.

In the speech, King called for an end to racism and segregation in the United States, and spoke about his vision for a future where all people would be treated equally, regardless of their race or color. He spoke of a world where children of all races could join hands and live together in peace and harmony.

The most famous part of the speech is the "I Have a Dream" section, in which King describes his vision for a future America where people are judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. He repeated the phrase "I have a dream" several times to emphasize his hope and determination for this future.

The "I Have a Dream" speech is remembered as a powerful and inspiring call for social justice and equality. It played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement and helped to galvanize public opinion in support of civil rights legislation. Today, it is regarded as one of the most important speeches in American history, and its message continues to resonate with people around the world.

You can watch the speech here.

Excerpt from the study guide:

Imagery and metaphors

Throughout his speech, Martin Luther King constructs imagery (mental images) using numerous metaphors and a few similes. As mentioned in the section on antithesis above, he often uses these images to create contrasts between opposites. 

The use of metaphors and imagery is one of the most powerful ways in which King conveys his message.

He compares the Emancipation Proclamation with light to suggest the wisdom of the act that ended slavery: “This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope…” (ll. 7-8). Another simile continues the comparison, and the speaker ends with a metaphor of slavery as a night: “It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.” (ll. 9-10).

The speaker then constructs another antithesis by using two metaphors which describe isolation and poverty of African Americans in American society: “…the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.” (ll. 14-16).

Later on, MLK creates an extended metaphor of a check to describe the unfulfilled promises the US has made to African Americans, arguing that the time has come for African Americans to be given what is owed to them by the country’s founding promises: “America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds’.”(ll. 20-23); “…insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.” (ll. 34-35).

The speaker also metaphorically refers to “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism” (ll. 40-41) to express the idea that the authorities are tempted to grant only small adjustments to the Civil Rights Movement, but that King and his followers will not stand for this.

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I Have a Dream

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  • 2020-09-27
    Skriven av Gymnasieelev på Årskurs 3