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Old Major's speech and Martin Luther King's speech "I Have a Dream"Looking for...

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suzannelucas | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:34 AM via web

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Old Major's speech and Martin Luther King's speech "I Have a Dream"

Looking for similiarities, differences, use of rhetoric, and  how they relate to each other.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted May 9, 2012 at 8:43 PM (Answer #9)

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It would seem strange to me if there are intentional similarities between the two, as Animal Farm was published in 1945 and King delivered "I Have a Dream" in 1963. If it is agreed that the similarities are rhetorical in nature--a good technique used by each--then it is possible to analyze similarities etc. The most obvious similarity is that each relies on anaphora, or the repetition of beginning of clauses. For example, King repeats "We must ..." and "We can ...," while Major repeats "No animal in England." Most famously, King repeats, with variations:

I have a dream that ...
I have a dream that one day...
I have a dream today ... 

Both also use strings of repeat ideas connected by commas:

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities .... (King)

He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough .... (Old Major)

What King does that Old Major does not do in the same poetic way is use figurative speech like the techniques of idiom and metaphor: "Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred."

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:49 AM (Answer #2)

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The way that these two relate to one another is that they are both messianic and utopian visions of what their society could be.  Both King and Old Major are presenting their vision of a society in which a certain type of injustice is swept away and society exists in an ideal state.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 8, 2012 at 3:40 AM (Answer #3)

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The most obvious similarity is rhetorical. Both specifically reference a "dream." Old Major describes "a dream of the earth as it will be when 
Man has vanished." And both do describe an ideal society. But Old Major's speech calls for violent revolution. King's speech suggests as an article of faith that African-Americans and whites could become reconciled, and that they could live together in equality. Old Major does not share this belief, arguing instead that "all the evils of this life of ours spring from the tyranny of human beings." He does not believe that the species could possibly be reconciled. Only by seizing power from the humans will the animals achieve equality.

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mwalter822 | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted May 8, 2012 at 10:49 AM (Answer #4)

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The rhetorical technique of allusion is also used in both. King alludes to Abraham Lincoln and the American promise of freedom and justice. Old Major alludes to a time when the animals were free, a time that was remembered by his ancestors but not the current animals. The song "Beasts of England" is a call to return to that time.

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 8, 2012 at 1:32 PM (Answer #5)

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What an interesting pair of items to compare - thank you! I'd never made the connection before.

Both review the history of enslavement by their respective species and the freedom from before that time that had been lost. Both use classic references to support their appeals for action and to encourage their followers. Obviously, the type of action being suggested is completely different!

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 8, 2012 at 1:57 PM (Answer #6)

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From a rhetorical perspective, you could also compare the speakers' use of the Aristotle's three appeals (logos, ethos, and pathos). Both King and Old Major cite factual examples of how they and the members of their audience have been oppressed (logos). Similarly, they rely on ethos to inspire a sense of duty and obligation in their listeners to take action (as Post 5 mentions, they call for a different type of action). Finally, they employ pathos (an appeal to emotion) throughout to demonstrate empathy and to inspire their listeners to create a different future for themselves than their oppressors have planned for them.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 8, 2012 at 6:05 PM (Answer #7)

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On the simplest note, they both are calls to action.  They each use the same metaphor of a dream to cement their place as visionaries.  Most importantly, each is an inspiration to others.  Each uses the persuasive appeals well.  There are strong images and emotional language in each, such as King’s “bank of justice” metaphor and Old Major’s “man is the only creature that consumes without producing” (ch 1).  In each case the language makes the listener angry and ready to act.  The language is persuasive and manipulative, as any good speaker’s should be.

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:56 PM (Answer #8)

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Each speech appeals to a notion of equality and equal personhood. Each speech works to articulate the nature of a state of oppression and points out the injustice of that state. 

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