Friday, April 8, 2011

Anaphora, Alliteration, Allusion, Ethos, Pathos in King's Speech


Anaphora is a rhetorical term for the repetition of a word or a phrase at the beginning of connected sentences, especially to emphasize the repeated phrase or word. Using anaphora creates a strong emotional effect, because the speaker or the writer uses anaphora to move on to the climax of the speech or the passage. In Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, anaphora can be found in this part of the speech,
           I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."”
In this example, the phrase “I have a dream” is repeated in eight sentences. The reason why Martin Luther King Jr. repeated this phrase several times is to make an emphasis on his dream and thus to go on to an emotional climax. It can be seen that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream initially was limited to the local society of Georgia and Mississippi. However, as he repeats the phrase “I have a dream,” his dream expanded to the dream of the glory of the Lord being revealed. As the repetition went on, the speaker’s dream was elaborated and eventually there came the climax of the speech. Thus, the effect of anaphora in this particular part of the speech could be summarized as the emphasis of the “dream” and also the pathway to climax.


Alliteration is repetition of initial consonant letters or sounds in two or more words in successive sentences. Alliteration could be divided into two types: Immediate juxtaposition, which takes place when the second consonant sound comes right after the first one, and non-immediate juxtaposition, which occurs when the consonants are repeated in nonadjacent words.
Writers and speakers frequently use alliteration to emphasize certain phrases and facilitate the understanding of the readers and audience. Martin Luther King Jr. also used alliteration in his speech. He said “we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check.” It is obvious that he used alliteration in this sentence to emphasize why the black people gathered at Washington D.C. Moreover, by saying that black people gathered to cash a check, Martin Luther King Jr. intended to make the audience easily understand what he was talking about. Since talking about virtues from the beginning of the speech would make the audience feel boring, King used alliteration here to make the audience pay attention to what he was talking about. It is similar to the rappers using various types of rhyme – King also wanted the audience to keep track of what he was talking about.


           Allusion is using a brief reference to a famous person, historical event, place, or any kind of artwork like books. In most cases, the sources that are referred to are well-known. These sources may include myths, quotes from books, and the Bible. Contemporary issues could be also referred to. However, in his speech, Martin Luther King Jr. generally referred to the Bible. Allusion was made in following sentences: “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream” and “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” The former one comes from Amos 5:24 in the Bible and the latter one comes from Isaiah 40:4-5 in the Bible.
           The allusion in King’s speech made the whole speech sound more credible and sensible. Since most of the audience believe in Christianity and thus know well about the Bible, King referred to the Bible. King said that if the black people become free from segregation, then the things said in the Bible will eventually take place. This made the audience understand what King was talking about and moreover, believe in what he was talking about. The allusion simply justified the black people’s reason for struggling for freedom.


           Ethos is a persuasive appeal based on the character of the speaker or writer. In other words, it is an appeal based on the social authority that the speaker or writer has. Aristotle developed this idea and said that the chief components of ethos are good will, practical wisdom, and virtue.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a minister of a church. As a minister, he was respected because of his knowledge about the Bible and God, and also because of his character itself. Also, since his job was to tell people about the truth and faith, Martin Luther King Jr.’s general tone was similar to that of a teacher talking to students. For instance, he said “But there is something that I must say to my people.” He called the audience “his people.” This implies that King thought that the audience shared same opinion with him and was ready to follow his directions. King knew that the audience respected him. This is strong evidence that King tried to persuade the audience with his social authority, minister.
           Ethos, in this particular speech, made the whole speech sound more credible because it was delivered by a reverend. Martin Luther King Jr. was a minister, so people respected what he said and believed in what he claimed.


           Unlike ethos, pathos is more related to people’s emotion. Pathos is an appeal to the audience’s emotions. This appeal can be achieved through a metaphor or through a great passion throughout the entire speech. By this, the speaker can make the audience sympathize him. Eventually, due to pathos, audience thinks as the speakers thinks; the audience is completely persuaded by the speaker.
           In his speech, Martin Luther King Jr. also used pathos. He used the metaphor of “cash a check.” Also, he showed a great passion at the last part of his speech, when he talked about the song from the old Negro spiritual. Since most people know better about cashing a check than gaining freedom, Martin Luther King Jr. used the metaphor to facilitate the audience understand. Also, this made the audience feel that gaining freedom is necessary and urgent as cashing a check is.
When he talked about the words of the old Negro spiritual, he showed great passion. We can see this from the video clip of King delivering this speech. Also, it is clear that most black people know the words “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” from the traditional Negro spiritual. Since most of the listeners knew it, shouting out these words aloud would make the audience feel hopeful about gaining the freedom. This probably made the audience feel the same as Martin Luther King Jr. Thus, using pathos also increased the credibility and reasonability of the whole speech.