Assonance in "I Have a Dream" Speech: an Analysis of Literary Devices

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 785 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 785|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This powerful address has become one of the most memorable moments in American history, known for its emotional appeal and visionary rhetoric. Within this speech, King masterfully employs various literary devices to captivate his audience and convey his message effectively. This essay will focus specifically on the use of assonance, a technique that involves the repetition of vowel sounds, in King's "I Have a Dream" speech. By analyzing the instances of assonance in the text, we can gain a deeper understanding of the impact and significance of this literary device in conveying King's message of hope, unity, and equality.

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The opening lines of King's speech immediately grab the attention of the audience through the use of assonance. He states, "Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation." In this sentence, the repetition of the long "o" sound in "score," "proclamation," and "today" creates a musical quality that resonates with the listeners. This repetition not only engages the audience but also emphasizes the significance of the occasion and the historical context in which they stand.

Moreover, the use of assonance in the phrase "symbolic shadow" enhances the emotional impact of King's words. The repetition of the short "i" sound in "symbolic" and "shadow" creates a sense of unity and solidarity, as if all those present are standing together in the shadow of the great American who signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This assonance reinforces King's message of collective responsibility and the need for unity in the fight against racial injustice.

Throughout the "I Have a Dream" speech, King's use of assonance contributes to the rhythmic flow and musicality of his words. For example, he states, "We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one." In this sentence, the repetition of the short "o" sound in "cannot," "long," "mobility," and "from" creates a melodic effect that draws the listeners in and holds their attention. The deliberate use of assonance in this sentence adds a musical quality to the speech, making it more memorable and impactful.

Additionally, King employs assonance to create a sense of harmony and unity. He states, "With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together." The repetition of the short "e" sound in "together" emphasizes the importance of unity and solidarity in the struggle for equality. This assonance creates a sense of togetherness among the audience, inspiring them to join the fight for justice and equality as a united front.

One of the remarkable aspects of King's "I Have a Dream" speech is his ability to create vivid imagery and evoke powerful emotions through his words. The use of assonance contributes to this evocative quality. For instance, King declares, "Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York." The repetition of the long "e" sound in "freedom," "ring," "the," "be," and "New York" creates a sense of euphony, enhancing the emotional impact of his words. This assonance not only appeals to the audience's senses but also emphasizes the universality of the struggle for freedom.

Furthermore, King utilizes assonance to evoke a sense of hope and optimism. He states, "This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with." The repetition of the long "o" sound in "hope" and "go" creates a soothing and uplifting effect. This assonance reinforces King's message of hope and reinforces the idea that change is possible. By utilizing this literary device, King inspires his audience to believe in a brighter future and to continue fighting for equality.

In conclusion, Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech is a masterful example of the effective use of literary devices, particularly assonance, to convey a powerful message. By analyzing the instances of assonance in the speech, we can see how this technique enhances the emotional appeal, rhythmic flow, and evocative imagery of King's words. Through the repetition of vowel sounds, King engages his audience, creates a sense of unity, and inspires hope for a more just and equal society. The skillful use of assonance in "I Have a Dream" demonstrates King's remarkable ability to harness the power of language and rhetoric to ignite change. As we reflect on this iconic speech, we are reminded of the enduring impact of literary devices in shaping our understanding of historical events and inspiring social progress.


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- King Jr., Martin Luther. "I Have a Dream." National Archives and Records Administration, 28 Aug. 1963.

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Dr. Oliver Johnson

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Assonance in “I Have a Dream” Speech: An Analysis of Literary Devices. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 24, 2024, from
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