I’m a writer blog

Guidelines for writing Poems, Stories and Tales

What are the allusions in I Have a Dream Speech?


Allusion (from Latin allusio: romp, play) is a figure of speech that refers to or represents people, places, events, literary works, myths or works of art, but indirectly or by implication. Allusion can make use of other figures such as metonymy, metaphor, symbol etc. It can also be defined as the evocation, without explicitly naming them, of persons, events (historical reference), facts or texts supposedly known.

What allusions does King use in his I Have a Dream speech?

I Have a Dream is the name of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speech, when he spoke of his desire for a future in which black and white people could coexist harmoniously and as equals. This speech, delivered on August 28, 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was a defining moment in the American Civil Rights Movement. It is often considered one of the greatest speeches in history, and ranked first among 20th century speeches according to rhetorical scholars.

Widely hailed as a masterpiece of rhetoric, King’s speech resembles the sermon style of a black Baptist minister. It appeals to iconic and widely respected sources such as the Bible, and invokes the U.S. Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the U.S. Constitution. Through the rhetorical device of allusion, King makes use of phrases and language from important cultural texts for his own rhetorical purposes. Near the beginning King alludes to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address by saying, “Five score years ago…” a particular way of saying “one hundred years…” in English (for score is 20 years and 20 x 5 = 100).

Biblical allusions are also common. For example, King alludes to Psalm 30:5 in the second stanza of his speech. He says in reference to the abolition of slavery articulated by the Emancipation Proclamation, “It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.” Another biblical allusion is found in the tenth stanza, “No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream“. This is an allusion to Amos 5:24 – “But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream“. King also quotes from Isaiah 40:4 – “I dream that someday the valleys would be exalted…

The speaker’s religious background is clearly perceived as he uses the expression “children of God” three times, speaks of “the glory of God will be revealed, and the whole human race will be united“, gives encouragement to his people by telling them a Christian message “Continue to work with the conviction that suffering that is undeserved, is emancipating” and closing the speech with “Free at last! Free at last! Thanks be to almighty God, we are free at last!

Anaphora, or “using the same opening phraseology in a sequence of statements or phrases to add emphasis, order, or climax to an idea” (Campbell & Huxman, 2002, p. 177), is a rhetorical tool employed throughout a speech. An example of anaphora is found near the beginning when Martin Luther King Jr. urges his audience to seize the moment “Now is the time…” is repeated four times in the sixth stanza. The most cited example of anaphora is found in the phrase “I have a dream…” which is repeated eight times as King describes to his audience an image of an integrated and united United States of America.

What are the allusions in I Have a Dream speech to the Declaration of Independence?

King’s allusions to the Declaration of Independence and the Bible occur as follows; “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir”, and “I have a dream that one day

What is allusion example?

Common Examples of Allusion in Everyday Speech

  • His smile is like kryptonite to me. …
  • She felt like she had a golden ticket. …
  • That guy is young, scrappy, and hungry. …
  • I wish I could just click my heels. …
  • If I’m not home by midnight, my car might turn into a pumpkin. …
  • She smiles like a Cheshire cat.

What kind of intertextuality is found in I Have a Dream?

Although Martin Luther King Jr. focuses on racism and equality in his “I Have a Dream” speech, he explores intertextuality through allusions and metaphors. Martin Luther King Jr.’s focus of his speech has been equality.

Why did Dr. King use allusions?

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. uses metaphors and allusions to enhance his speech and make his point clear.

What is an allusion figure of speech?

In literature, an allusion is a figure of speech that refers to a famous person, place, or historical event—either directly or through implication. The origin of the word allusion is in the Latin verb “ludere,” which means to play, mimic, mock, or deceive.

What is allusion in intertextuality?

Allusion is a passing or casual reference; an incidental mention of something, either directly or by implication. This means it is most closely linked to both obligatory and accidental intertextuality, as the ‘allusion’ made relies on the listener or viewer knowing about the original source.

What are the 4 types of allusions?

Types of allusion

  • Historical – An allusion to a historical event or period. …
  • Mythological – An allusion to a mythological figure or story. …
  • Literary – An allusion to a literary text or figure. …
  • Religious – An allusion to a religious text, story, or figure.


What is a famous example of an allusion?

“Chocolate cake is my Achilles heel.” The allusion here is to “Achilles’ heel,” or the Greek myth about the hero Achilles and how his heel was his one weakness. In this case, the speaker’s “weakness” is chocolate cake. “He’s a cool guy, but he becomes a lovesick Romeo every time he’s around her.”

Why is allusion used in speeches?

“I Have a Dream” Allusions

Why did Dr King use allusions in his speech?

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. uses metaphors and allusions to enhance his speech and make his point clear.

What rhetorical devices are used in I Have a Dream Speech?

In “I Have a Dream”, Martin Luther King Jr. extensively uses repetitions, metaphors, and allusions. Other rhetorical devices that you should note are antithesis, direct address, and enumeration.

What are 4 forms of figurative language that Martin Luther King uses in his speech?

In that speech, MLK Jr. used several different types of figurative language/rhetorical devices in order to convey his message to the people on a deeper level. These devices include personification, allusion, symbolism, hyperbole, metaphor, simile, and anaphora.

What is allusion in rhetoric?

Allusion. —A figure of speech which makes brief, even casual reference to a historical or literary. figure, event, or object to create a resonance in the reader or to apply a symbolic meaning. to the character or object of which the allusion consists.