What are examples of parallelism in the  "I Have a Dream Speech..."

Expert Answers
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Parallelism involves using similar structures for two or more parts of a sentence or sentences to create a comparison or pattern. One example in the "I Have a Dream Speech" is the four sentences that begin "one hundred years later" in the third paragraph to discuss all the ways in which African-Americans are still not free. Within one of these sentences that reads "One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination," King also uses parallelism. The phrases "manacles of segregation" and "chains of discrimination" are in parallel form, as they are three-word phrases with a noun, the word "of," and another noun.

Later, in the sixth paragraph, King begins several sentences with the parallel phrasing "now is the time to..." to speak about the agenda of the Civil Rights movement to end injustice and segregation. After he states "we can never turn back" later in the speech, he uses parallel constructions for several sentences that begin "We can never be satisfied as long as..." These sentences not only use repetition, but they also use parallel constructions, as the parts of the sentence that follow this phrase are all written in the present tense about an injustice that is currently occurring in the nation. Later, King ends the speech with several parallel sentences that begin famously with "I have a dream that..." These sentences also use repetition and are all written with the same structure, as they contain the future tense and use of words such as "will," "will be," or "shall" to express a hope for something that will happen in the near future. 

beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a number of examples of parallelism in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream…” speech. When examining a piece of literature for parallelism one looks for words or phrases that contain a similar arrangement or word pattern. These literary devices emphasize the structure and importance of the ideas presented.

In the first paragraph of the speech, Dr. King begins with the phrase “Five score years ago.” He then includes the phrase “one hundred years later” followed by the plight of the “Negros” as he continues the paragraph. Many of the sentences begin with this phrase thus drawing the reader and listener to understand that he is emphasizing the fact that even one hundred years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation living conditions for African Americans were still not based in equality and tolerance.

As the speech moves on he speaks of the “promissory note” that the Founding Fathers signed ensuring rights for all Americans. He parallels those words along with the words “check” and “insufficient funds” keeping with the monetary references.

Another example includes the phrases “we will not be satisfied” and “we will never be satisfied.” He uses those phrases to emphasize that the fight for Civil Rights will continue until acceptable conditions are established.

Read the study guide:
"I Have a Dream" speech

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question