I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr - Poetry Analysis (2023)

The "I Have a Dream"Networkwas taken from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Delivered to 250,000 backers.I have a dreamThe speech is considered one of the defining and illuminating moments of the civil rights movement and a masterpiece of public speaking. It is constantly quoted and used as constant inspiration as the fight for equal rights continues in the United States and around the world.

Discover I have a dream speech

  • 1. Summary
  • 2 subjects
  • 3 structure and shape
  • 4 Literary and rhetorical means
  • 5 famous quotes from the I have a dream speech
  • 6 Detailed Analysis
  • 7 Frequently Asked Questions
I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr - Poetry Analysis (1)


'I have a dream'by Martin Luther King Jr. is a powerfulrhetoricalDemand equal rights for all Americans, regardless of race. It's a constant source of inspiration for those fighting to continue what the civil rights movement started.

In the opening lines of this famous speech, King discusses the Emancipation Proclamation. This is the speech that freed the slaves in 1863, a hundred years ago. Well, he still said, "the Negro is... not free." He also references the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, reminding all listeners that America is meant to be the land of the free. But in America today, freedom has not yet been achieved. The phrase "I have a dream" is used several times throughout the play. He says the United States must make changes immediately or the protests will only escalate. He also says that the black community will never be satisfied until they are granted full and equal rights with white Americans.

You can watch the whole speechHere.


In this play, King deals with themes of freedom, justice and the future. He acknowledges past and present to allude to the promise of the future. His determination that no one rests until all people are truly equal is expressed in his calls for justice and freedom.

structure and shape

'I have a dream'by Martin Luther King Jr. is an incredibly important text of study for those interested in understanding the civil rights movement and this particular defining moment. It was delivered in about seventeen minutes using numerousrhetorical mediumwhich are noted below. king usedRepetition, seen through instances ofHe killedAndEpistropheto drive his poems home. In this analysis, the speech has been divided into six sections. These are not sections created or notated by King. Instead, they are used in this analysis to make the poem easier to analyze and understand.

Literary and rhetorical means

Throughout the speech, King uses numerous literary and rhetorical devices to deliver the most effective speech possible. For example:

  • Ethos: used in an argument by referring to theAudienceby thespeakerCredibility. As a black man living in the United States and working in the civil rights movement, King is in an ideal position to speak about what the contemporary American experience is like. King also uses the other modes ofconviction,Logos, AndPathos.
  • Anaphora: the use of the same word or words at the beginning of several consecutive lines. Throughout the speech, kingrepeated"I have a dream" eight times in a row at the beginning of the line. "One hundred years later" is another example that appears at the beginning of numerous sentences at the beginning of the speech. "Now is the time," "Go back to," "With that belief," and "We may never (or may not) be satisfied" are all other phrases that begin multiple lines.
  • innuendo: In this play, King alludes to earlier American history, important political moments, and contemporary events. The latter includes protests in which he is known to have been involved. He uses phrases like "Five years ago" to refer to the Gettysburg address and "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" is ainnuendoto the Lincoln Memorial. There are also biblical onesallusionsscattered throughout the speech. Such as, “It came as a joyful daybreak to end the long night of their captivity,” which is taken from Psalm 30:5
  • Repetition: In addition to examples of anaphora, there are other types of repetition in King'I have a dream'Speech. For example,repeatedPhrases, references and calls to action. He also repeats common themes. These include: freedom, justice and the power of dreams.
  • Pictures: another powerful rhetorical and literary device. It occurs when the speaker uses phrases that engage and trigger the listener's senses. For example, "Slums and ghettos of our northern cities," a phrase that also alludes to the present moment King is living through.
  • metaphor:Comparisonbetween two seemingly dissimilar things that don't use "like" or "as". For example, in the second paragraph of the speech, King uses the phrase "joyful dawn to end the long night of their captivity." Here he links the social and political restrictions faced by black Americans and the racism that still plagues the country with a "long night of captivity." When freedom is truly given to all people, it will be a "joyful daybreak" and this night will end.
    Another example is found in paragraph 19, where he uses the phrase, "Sweltering from the heat of oppression, is turned into an oasis of liberty and justice." " compared. He usesPicturesin thismetaphorto evoke the beauty of one state of being and the pain or another.
  • Alliteration: the use of the same consonants at the beginning of words. For example, King uses "Trials and Tribulations", "Dark and Desolate", "Sweltering Summer" and "Wonderful New Militancy".

Famous quotes from the speech I have a dream

Below, readers will find some of the most famous quotes from that speech.

I have a dream that one day my four young children will live in a nation where they are judged not by the color of their skin but by their character.

In this quote, King begins the most famous part of his speech, using "I have a dream" at the beginning of several lines. He looks to the future and envisions a life for his children that is different from his own.

We can't go alone. And as we go, we must make a promise that we will march ahead. We cannot turn back.

Here, King concedes that while the number they have has power, it's important that the black community doesn't go it alone. There are people of all races in the audience, men and women, who support their movement. It is crucial that they accept her support and not let resentment drive them.

If we let liberty ring, if we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and city, we shall be able to hasten that day when all of God's children, black and white, Jew and Pagans, Protestants and Catholics can join hands and sing in the words of the ancient Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God we're finally free!

These are the last lines of the "I have a dream" speech. In this paragraph, King uses anaphora to emphasize how liberty will travel across the land, bringing men and women together. All races and religions will one day join hands and be able to sing "Free at Last!"

We will not be satisfied until righteousness comes down like water and righteousness like a mighty river.

This line is King's answer to the question "When are you satisfied?". That is, when will the civil rights movement be satisfied with the freedoms it has accorded the black community. His answer is eloquently worded and encompasses more than just this one line.

Now is the time to rise out of the dark and desolate valley of segregation onto the sunlit path of racial justice.

Here King brings one into the runningmetaphorsthat's what's being said. That is, the use of the sun as an image of hope and the future, and of darkness as one of oppression and the past.

Detailed analysis

part One

I am pleased to join you today in what will be remembered as the largest freedom demonstration in our nation's history.

Sixty years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree was a great beacon of hope for millions of Negro slaves scorched in the flames of crushing injustice.


It is evident today that America is behind on this promissory note as far as its colored citizens are concerned. Instead of honoring that sacred obligation, America gave the Negroes a bad check, a check that came back marked "insufficient funds."

The first few lines of the speech contain King's initial address to the audience, numerous metaphors, allusions and iterations that introduce the key themes of the speech, justice and liberty. He talks about the "Constitution and the Declaration of Independence" and the thoughts of the "Architects of our Republic" when they wrote them. They promised that "all people" would be "guaranteed the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

In that line, it's interesting to note the moment King pauses and says, "All men, yes, both black and white men," to acknowledge before anyone has oneChanceto guess him. These political documents gave men of all colors equal rights. This is a great example of morecolloquialmoment in speech. See these lines at the end of this section for a great example of a metaphor. It says, "America wrote the Negroes a bad check, a check that came back marked 'insufficient funds'."

Part II

But we refuse to believe that the Bank of Justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there is not enough money in this nation's great treasuries. And so we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us the riches of liberty and the security of justice on demand.


will have a rude awakening when the nation returns to normal business operations. There will be neither stillness nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice arrives.

In this section of the speech, King uses some of the examples of literary devices shown above. This includes anaphora. This is evident through the use of "Now is the time" in paragraph three. The repetition of this phrase is a call to action that inspires the audience and reminds each listener that "now is the time," that the past is ending and a new future is beginning. The image of "heat" comes into play when King uses phrases like "This sweltering summer." Other natural imagery is also used, such as "letting off steam," "hurricanes," and "bright day." All of this hints at what the next stage of American justice and freedom will be like.

Part III

But there is something I must say to my people who stand on the worn threshold that leads to the Palace of Justice. In gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongdoing.


There are those who ask civil rights advocates, "When will you be satisfied?"

In the next few lines of the speech, he reminds the audience, his "people," that if they seek justice, they must stay on the right path. It is important that they do not "drink from the cup of bitterness and hatred" and instead "fight our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline." These beautiful lines capture the fact that there are many who support King's desire for a new world of freedom, black and white. Knowing how tough this fight is going to be, it's important that "we can't go it alone," King says. One of the most famous quotes from the speech follows.

Teil IV

We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality; we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with travel-weariness, cannot find lodging in the highway motels and the city hotels; we cannot be satisfied so long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one;


the sons of ex-slave owners can sit together at the table of fraternity.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state seething with the heat of injustice, the heat of oppression, will turn into an oasis of freedom and justice.

The next few lines are some of the most cited for the speech. King asks a question which he answers. When will they be satisfied? He states that they will not be satisfied as long as "the negro is the victim of the unspeakablescareof police brutality" and "we can never be satisfied until our bodies, heavy with the weariness of travel, cannot find lodgings in the motels on the highways and the hotels in the cities." He introduces several more sentences that reflect the aims of his speech and the entire civil rights movement. In a better future, he imagines, these things will no longer be a problem.

In another powerful part of the speech, King urges listeners to go home and not "wallow in the valley of despair." Instead, "keep working with the belief that undeserved suffering is redeeming." He urges them to go to their respective states, Georgia, South Carolina, etc.

Part V

I have a dream that one day my four young children will live in a nation where they are judged not by the color of their skin but by their character.

I have a dream today!


With this faith we will be able to transform our nation's jangling discord into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With that faith we will be able to work together, pray together, fight together, go to prison together, stand together for freedom, knowing that one day we will be free.

And that will be the day.

The next section contains therepetitionsof "I have a dream", probably the most famous part of the speech. King says he has a "dream" that the future will be different and that one day his children will be "judged not by the color of their skin but by their character" and that "little black boys and black girls can be little white boys and little white boys." Girls as sisters and brothers join hands.” These images are of hopeside by sidewith the difficulty of the present moment. Take, for example, this description of the governor of Alabama and others in the state: "with his vicious racists, with his governor whose lips were dripping with words of interference and annulment."

Part VI

This will be the day when all of God's children can sing with new meaning: "My land is of you, sweet land of liberty, of you I sing. land where my father died, land of pilgrim pride,


we will be able to hasten that day when all of God's children, black and white, Jew and Gentile, Protestant and Catholic, can join hands and chant the words of the ancient Negro spiritual:

"Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty we are free at last."

In the closing lines of the speech, King says that today is the day when "all the children of God will be able to sing with new meaning" as they sing the lines of the national anthem. He repeats "Let Freedom Ring" in reference to various locations across the country, uniting listeners in a common purpose and reminding audiences of his desire for all of God's children to stand up and "join hands and sing." The last line comes from the "old Negro spiritual" that embraces the passion of the civil rights movement: "Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty we are free at last.”

frequently asked Questions

When was the "I Have a Dream" speech given?

On August 28, 1963. It was taken from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. delivered to 250,000 supporters.

Why is the "I have a dream" speech important?

It brought the civil rights movement into the public spotlight and propelled King into a public figure. It may have sped up the passage of civil rightsLaw.

Why did Martin Luther King Jr. write the "I have a dream" speech?

He wrote and delivered theNetworkto call for an end to social and economic racism in the United States.

What is the main message of the speech "I have a dream"?

King's main message is that all human beings are created equal and that while they are not currently treated as such in the United States, it is important that all continue to work toward that goal.

Wer war Martin Luther King Jr.?

King was a Baptist minister and social rights activist. He was a leader of the civil rights movement in the United States in the 1950's and 1960's. He organized the March on Washington in 1963.



What is the analysis of I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King, Jr? ›

Throughout this piece, King engages with themes of freedom, justice, and the future. He acknowledges the past and present as a way of alluding to the promise of the future. His determination that no one rest until all people are truly equal comes through in his calls for justice and freedom.

What are the 3 main ideas in the I Have a Dream Speech? ›

In his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. describes the founding promises of America (freedom, equality, and justice for all) and the nation's failure to keep those promises, particularly to Black Americans.

What are the main points of the I Have a Dream Speech? ›

The main idea of the speech is to protest against discrimination and to fight for freedom and equality. It is like a sermon with references to the Bible, the US Constitution, and the Declaration of US Independence. Martin Luther King has used many examples from history.

What is the message and tone of King's I Have a Dream Speech? ›

Answer and Explanation: The tone of the I Have a Dream Speech is buoyant and hopeful and all with a sense of determination. King begins by saying he is "happy to join with you today" in a demonstration for freedom, so prized in the US yet not fully matured for all at the time.

What is the imagery in I Have a Dream? ›

Throughout “I Have a Dream,” King uses imagery of hills and mountains to invoke the future of the civil rights movement. Just as climbing a mountain requires enduring pain and difficulty in order to reach… Tanner, Alexandra. "I Have a Dream Speech Symbols." LitCharts.

What literary devices are used in I Have a Dream? ›

In “I Have a Dream”, Martin Luther King Jr. extensively uses repetitions, metaphors, and allusions. Other rhetorical devices that you should note are antithesis, direct address, and enumeration. Rhetorical devices are language tools used to make speakers' arguments both appealing and memorable.

What is the central idea of was it a dream? ›

Theme. The theme of this short story is the blind flattery of a person and the glorification of their image out of ignorance or naivety thus resulting in the loss of truth.

What is the conclusion of I Have a Dream? ›

The conclusion of speech was the most forceful part of the speech. King ended the speech with these words: “From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

What is King's point of view in his speech? ›

So all in all, this movie is a clear third-person omniscient narrative with a strong gravitational pull toward Bertie. This omniscience remains right up until the final disclaimer, which says, Lionel and Bertie remained friends for the rest of their lives.

Why does King use pathos in I Have a Dream speech? ›

Pathos is the use of emotions to persuade an audience. King does an excellent job of using pathos to appeal to his audience's emotions. For example, he talks about the dreams that he has for his children and how he wants them to be judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin.

What is the tone and mood of a dream within a dream? ›

“A Dream Within a Dream” features an unsettled and existential tone. The poem's unsettled quality stems primarily from its formal features. For instance, the twenty-four lines of the poem are not evenly distributed across its two stanzas.

What is an example of repetition in the I Have a Dream Speech? ›

King uses a technique known as “anaphora,” the repetition of a phrase at the beginning of sentences, as a rhetorical tool throughout the speech. An example of anaphora is when King urges his audience to seize the moment: “Now is the time…” is repeated four times in the sixth paragraph of the I Have a Dream transcript.

What is an example of hyperbole in the I Have a Dream Speech? ›

Hyperbole in "I Have a Dream" Speech

When America has racial justice, all imperfect formations will be perfected: "I Have a Dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight."

Is I have a dream rhetorical? ›

Rhetorical devices are abundant in the “I Have A Dream” speech. Most noticeable, and frequently used, is anaphora, which our dictionary defines as “the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses”: Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.

What is the central idea or message of the speech? ›

The central idea of a speech is very similar to a thesis statement in a written essay. It is a specific and detailed statement which informs the audience of the goal or purpose of the speech. A central idea, also known as the main idea of the speech, represents the specific objective of the speech.

What was the main point of the I Have a Dream speech by Dr Martin Luther King Jr quizlet? ›

Martin Luther King Jr.'s main purpose in 'I have a Dream' speech is.... To urge all people to peacefully work together for racial equality.


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