In his acceptance speech for the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, Martin Luther King Jr. likens his experiences in the Civil Rights Movement to traveling on a road. How does the use of a road as a symbol...

In his acceptance speech for the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, Martin Luther King Jr. likens his experiences in the Civil Rights Movement to traveling on a road. How does the use of a road as a symbol for his experiences impact the meaning of the speech?

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charsteph88 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Martin Luther King Jr. used the timeless metaphor of a road in order to both make a powerful impact on his audience and to make it easy for people to get the meaning of his statements about the Civil Rights Movement. In his speech, he says,

"The tortuous road which has led from Montgomery, Alabama to Oslo bears witness to this truth. This is a road over which millions of Negroes are travelling to find a new sense of dignity. This same road has opened for all Americans a new era of progress and hope. It has led to a new Civil Rights Bill, and it will, I am convinced, be widened and lengthened into a super highway of justice as Negro and white men in increasing numbers create alliances to overcome their common problems."

In many ways, this is a metaphor that anyone can understand, whether from Alabama or Oslo. All of us as human beings have walked down a road or a path or a highway, and thought to ourselves that whatever comes along, we have to deal with it; no matter how difficult, we have to keep moving, keep fighting, keep surviving. Because of this shared experience, we are able to connect with Dr. King on a deeper level, and this was his intention for comparing his real-life journey to a metaphorical road.

If we think of the characteristics of a road, we can see clearly Dr. King's motives for choosing this metaphor. Roads become easier to walk down, to navigate, when people walk them together. The same is true for Dr. King's journey. When he was joined by others, he and the millions of blacks fighting for equality in the United States didn't have to fight alone; they had each other. It is torturous at first, yes, and difficult, but because so many people traveled down it first, others will be able to follow more easily. This simple comparison effectively demonstrates to an open audience the power of people working together, walking together in the same direction. The subsequent "widening" and "lengthening" of the road makes room for others to join in the crusade, making it a "super highway of justice." This is both an incredibly powerful and simple to understand metaphor.