I Have a Dream Metaphoric Criticism

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Rhetoric lies at the center of our human experience and facilitates human interaction. It consists of language (made up entirely of symbols) that ultimately allows us to construct our reality. A significant component of rhetoric is rhetorical criticism.

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Rhetorical criticism analyzes artifacts of communication; from images to phrases to films and speeches. It serves as a qualitative research method that strives to investigate and find an explanation for the true meaning behind these artifacts and their impact on our society. The entirety of this paper centers around the application of Metaphoric Criticism to the legendary I have a Dream speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, allowing us to surpass linguistic embellishment and acknowledge the injustice faced by the African American community. It elaborates on the context of the artifact, expands on the chosen rhetorical critic method, and significantly, showcases discoveries from applying rhetorical criticism to the artifact.

         Beginning with an elaboration on the context of the chosen artifact, Martin Luther King stands as not only one of the most significant figures in American history but one of the most influential figures in the world. Fueled by the injustice surrounding segregation, African Americans began the fight for racial equality with the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King, a young pastor from Atlanta, Georgia, stood at the center of this movement. His I have a Dream Speech (the most notable speech he gave throughout the course of his activism) put the Civil Rights Movement on the map. The speech was given in 1963 during the March on Washington, an event where hundreds of thousands of people gathered to advocate for freedom and jobs. After directing a nonviolent protest (the march), Dr. King took center stage at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and began sharing his hopes and dreams for the American population. He identifies the role the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln played in freeing the American population and highlights how the change must continue until equality has been established. While countless inspirational artifacts exist in our society, this speech, as a result of its effective incorporation of metaphors, truly exemplifies the power of rhetoric and the role it plays in moving a nation.

         Now that the context of the artifact has been elaborated upon, let’s discuss the chosen rhetorical criticism method. Metaphoric Criticism revolves around the use of metaphors in artifacts to convey the underlining message of the artifact. A metaphor can be defined as a figure of speech in which an action or phrase denoting a symbol is used in comparison to another as a way of illustrating meaning. There are two components to a metaphor, the tenor and the vehicle. The tenor can be described as the topic or subject that is being explained, while the vehicle is the mechanism or lens through which the topic is viewed (Foss,

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