King's "I Have a Dream Speech" stands as one of the most powerful and eloquent speeches in the English language. One of the reasons why it continues to resonate with people decades after it was given is because of the language and rhetorical strategies King employs to share his vision...
King's "I Have a Dream Speech" stands as one of the most powerful and eloquent speeches in the English language. One of the reasons why it continues to resonate with people decades after it was given is because of the language and rhetorical strategies King employs to share his vision of a more united America.
Often English teachers ask that you avoid repeating yourself in your own writing so that you avoid a sense of redundancy. However, when employed strategically, repetition can effectively emphasize a point and even provide a cadence to the writing. Consider the repetition in this section where King responds to those who ask when he will be satisfied with the work being done in the civil rights movement:
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 the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.
King intentionally uses the same words to begin several sentences in a row here because he wants to highlight the injustices inherent in the daily lives of Black people in America. Through repetition, he makes a compelling point that there is still much to be dissatisfied about in America and, therefore, much work that still needs to be done.
Parallelism is a technique that uses similar combinations of words and syntax to deliver a single idea. The words aren't the same, but the way they are constructed is very similar. Consider this segment of the speech:
With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
Here, King has shared some of the goals of the civil rights movement by creating a series of successive clauses that all begin with an infinitive verb and end with the word together, indicating the ultimate purpose of his work.
Together, repetition and parallelism create a convincing argument about the need for social changes in America.