A paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of “I Have a Dream” which emphasizes what your students can learn about how to write an argumentation essay from King’s brilliant speech. In the handout your pupils will examine his rhetorical strategies in the introduction to his speech (which has a lead-in, a thesis sentence, and a statement of procedure), the logical, ethical, and emotional appeals used in the body paragraphs of “I Have a Dream,” and King’s skillful tying together of his plea for racial equality in the speech’s succinct and moving conclusion. His use of analogy, of anaphora (a form of repetition), of firm but diplomatic rebuttal, and political and religious allusions in the speech are also discussed.
Incorporated into the answer key, but not a part of the student’s handout, are notes on the background of the speech, the textual differences between the speech and its printed versions, and the two distinct audiences to whom King was speaking—information which may be helpful if your class will also view the TV broadcast of the original speech.
Through this handout your students should realize that “I Have a Dream” has an intricate structure and deep texture that far exceeds the several memorable quotes which young people typically associate with the speech.
My handout, which has blanks that your students can fill in, is suitable for a homework assignment or as an in-class activity. As mentioned, an answer key with copious notes is provided on four separate pages at the end of the handout.
Prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.