Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the foreground with other people standing attentively in the background

"I Have a Dream" Speech

by Martin Luther King Jr.

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What are two examples of alliteration, simile, metaphor, and/or anaphora in Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech?

Quick answer:

Two examples of alliteration in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s "I Have a Dream" speech are “capital to cash a check” and “dark and desolate,” while two similes are “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Two metaphors are “a lonely island of poverty” and “the heat of injustice.” Lastly, two examples of anaphora are “I have a dream” and “one hundred years later.”

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Alliteration, similes, metaphors, and anaphora are used in numerous places in the “I Have a Dream” speech. Martin Luther King, Jr. uses these devices strategically to build vivid images, emphasize important ideas, and arouse the audience’s emotions.

Alliteration is the repetition of an initial consonant sound. In the clause, “we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check,” alliteration of the initial hard “C” sound is used. King repeats this use later in the paragraph with “citizens of color are concerned.” Here is a different example, using “D”:

Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation.

A simile is a comparison between unlike things for effect using “like” or “as.” In one sentence, he uses two similes on a related theme, comparing two different abstract ideas to different types of water: “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

A metaphor is a direct comparison between unlike things for effect. King frequently employs metaphors throughout the address. In one example, King compares black lives of isolation and poverty to the nation’s overall wealth:

the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

Two more examples refer to abstract concepts with hot weather metaphors, as he describes the state of Mississippi as “sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression.”

Anaphora is a type of repetition in which the first part of a sentence is repeated. King uses anaphora in repeating “I have a dream” throughout the second part of the speech. In one paragraph, he refers to the passage of a century since the Emancipation Proclamation. King repeats the phrase that begins the paragraph, “one hundred years later," in order to emphasize the many ways in which African-American people remain unfree, poor, and disadvantaged.

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