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Martin Luther King uses figurative language repeatedly in the “I Have a Dream” speech.
Early in the speech, he begins a metaphor with the line, “In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check.” Here the term “cash a check” means “take advantage of America’s promise of opportunity.” By employing this metaphor, he is expressing the idea that the African-American has been promised something that has not been delivered, namely freedom.
Later in the speech he warns his audience with another metaphor: “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.” Here he is expressing the idea that it is possible that the oppressed African-American will become negatively affected by the prejudice that he has had to battle against. The “cup of bitterness and hatred” is a poison that will kill their quest for freedom by changing them, by transforming their righteous cause into a hateful one.
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