The March on Washington Address

Martin Luther King Jr (28 August 1963)

The Use of Metaphor as a Rhetorical Device

Like most rhetorical speeches, King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech uses a lot of metaphors.  (King was a Christian preacher and it is easy to see the influence of the Bible in his imagery: dark/light; breaking of chains; levelling of mountains; etc.)

The metaphors below are all taken from the speech.  Together with a partner, try to complete the blank spaces with suitable words.  Later, you will have a chance to read the text of the speech itself.

  •  This momentous decree [the Emancipation Declaration, which ended slavery] came as a great _________ of hope to millions of Negro slaves...  It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long _______ of captivity.  One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the _________ of segregation and the _________ of discrimination ...   ... the Negro lives on a lonely _________ of _________ in the middle of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
  • [The Constitution + Declaration of Independence = a check which America has failed to honour, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds' ...]  But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is _________ ...  So we have come to _________ this check.
  • Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the _______  _______ of _________.  Now is the time to open the _________ of _________ to all of God's children.  Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the _________  _________ of brotherhood.
  • The _________ of revolt will continue to shake the _________ of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
  • But there is something I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the _________ of justice.  Let us not satisfy our thirst for freedom by _________  _____  _____  _______ of bitterness and hatred.
  • I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an _________ of  _________ and _________.
  • With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful _________ of brotherhood.