Sublimity in Martin L. King’s Speech: I Have a Dream

Since time unknown oratory has been used as a tool by the great leaders to influence the general public, and to gain a repute for themselves. Through inspirational and motivational public addresses leaders have for centuries propagated their messages to the world at large. People possessing the qualities of great oration have made their works and ideas immortal, by using the concepts of the ‘Sublime’.

It was Longinus who said (in ‘On the Sublime’) that “orators of much passion succeed.” ‘On the Sublime’ by Longinus, was one of the first works of its kind that provided insight into the great importance of sublimity and aesthetics in acquiring ecstasy, elevation and loftiness. He said that sublimity has a ‘beautiful and genuine effect’ which ‘pleases always and pleases all’. Here, the different aspects of oration in relation to Sublimity, in the famous speech of Martin Luther King Jr., ‘I have a dream’, will be explored and discussed.

The well-known speech of Martin Luther King, ‘I have a dream’ incorporates the qualities of sublimity in it. This is the reason of the speech being recognized and appreciated universally even today. Scholars from different fields of life take inspiration from King’s words and talk about the greatness of his speech.

In assessing the qualities of Martin Luther King as a successful orator, guidance can be taken from the parameters given by Longinus, declaring the characteristics of sublime writings.

As a prerequisite to any sublime writing Longinus considers, power of expression as one. Martin Luther King’s speech ‘I have a dream’ exhibits his complete control over the ability to deliver his ideas in an extraordinary expression. The speech of Martin Luther King is a combination of eloquent style and great use of words, enriched with hope and clarity of ideas. He says in the beginning of the speech, “I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” Being the first sentence of his speech it holds immense importance. Through this sentence King displays his ‘faculty of grasping great conceptions’. In the world of 1963 King stood on behalf of the black people to raise a voice for freedom. The word ‘freedom’ recurs throughout the speech as it is one of the main themes of the speech. It was this great concept of freedom that gave Martin Luther King recognition among the people of America and world over martin king luther jr speech.

His speech gained eminence as it created strong passion in the listeners. Martin Luther King addressed the audience with much fervor and force; he emphasized all his ideas in mighty sentences and thus created an atmosphere of excitement and inspiration.

The key-characteristic of Martin Luther King’s speech is the use of metaphors, to create an association of the concepts of his speech with concrete images and emotions. He says, “One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.”

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