How to analyze Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech "I Have a Dream" on the basis of classic rhetoric argument analysis?Investigate under the Rhetoric guidelines of an Argument, using...

How to analyze Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech "I Have a Dream" on the basis of classic rhetoric argument analysis?

Investigate under the Rhetoric guidelines of an Argument, using standard  tools,mainly on the basis of Kairos, Logos, Ethos and Pathos. I would like you to give more emphasize on the aspect of its timeliness.

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I sense two separate issues present in this question.  I am not sure they are intended to be separate, but I think that they do lie outside of one another and should be treated differently.  In a rhetorical analysis of any speech, there is the expectation of having to analyze the speech in terms of how it says what it says.  Technique, word choice, as well as the overall verbal presentation is assessed.  I see this as separate in the assessing the aspect of its timeliness, which I see as locked in a particular context where one has to analyze what is said, as opposed to how it is said.  In this light, I would say that the speech captured a moment in time that was "superhistorical."  In my mind, this means that it spoke for a moment in time, but was conscious of the fact that it would be speaking for all time and transcend the particular moment.  "The Declaration of Independence" was much the same.  Both works spoke about timely problems in a particular geological instant of time, yet they were conscious of their transcendence of this moment and into the realm beyond.  This speaks to the speech's timeliness, being able to articulate concept of struggle and overcoming for both that time and for all time.


kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a variety of appeals within the speech, and an analysis could focus on and highlight any one of them.

If we begin with Logos, King appeals to the idea that the founders of the United States, those who wrote the constitution, made a bargain and said in that bargain that all men were created equal, that everyone was entitled to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.  So he has simply come to Washington to expect a piece of that check or that bargain to be "cashed" as he says.  Because this agreement existed, now we've come to get our share.

Another appeal is to Pathos, particularly at the very stirring conclusion of the speech.  The use of the images of white children and black children playing together is a very powerful one and generates enormous emotional appeal.