Free Essay Analyzing Rhetoric Devices Used by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X

Published: 2022-02-15
Free Essay Analyzing Rhetoric Devices Used by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Writing Analysis Martin Luther King
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 969 words
9 min read

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King are two great leaders that were concerned with civil rights during the 1960s, and they maintained proper opposed political philosophies that involved human rights. With a consideration concerning the speech by Malcolm X "The Ballot or The Bullet," it was a speech that Malcolm gave as a response to the speech "I Have a Dream" that was given by Martin Luther King. However, both speeches deliver on powerful messages implying on the eloquence of the expressions. Also, they are poetic and memorable despite the fact that they carry their reports in differing ways. In this writing, it will focus on the rhetorical devices used in the speeches by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. It will also give comparisons on how these two speeches imply on the same problem but from different perspectives.

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Comparison of Rhetorical Devices

In "I Have a Dream," Martin Luther King Jr. and "The Ballot or the Bullet," Malcolm X, they extensively assume the use of different rhetoric devices that play a major role as they deliver their speeches. These rhetoric devices include repetitions, allusions, metaphors, among other.


Allusion involves the delivery of a message by referencing it to an event, a person, or any literature that is of relevance to the topic or a speech. In Martin Luther King's speech and Malcolm X's, they focus and deliver on several historical and other cultural allusions. For instance, King maintains an allusion to Abraham Lincoln together with the emancipation proclamation by stating, "Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation" (King, 5-7). On the other hand, Malcolm X uses allusion in his speech as he alludes to issues involving the Civil Rights Movement.

Imagery and Metaphors

Considering the addresses from Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, they both use imagery at specific points as they deliver their speeches. Malcolm X uses the mental images (imaging), in most parts of his speech which imply on the strength of emotions that are created by also the use of the metaphors. For King, he also uses the imagery which helps him deliver details concerning the critical points of the speech.

Moreover, as they continue with their speeches, they both use the metaphors and similes. King conveys his message through metaphors as he tries to compare the Emancipation Proclamation with light suggesting on the wisdom of the act as it ended slavery. He says, "This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope..." (King, 7-8). Correspondingly, Malcolm X uses the metaphor describing a boat that implies that all African American are victims of the oppression, regardless of their belief as he quotes, "we are all in the same ..."


Repetition involves different occurrences where a word or a phrase is repeated and used in several instances. For Martin Luther King, he repeated the phrase, "I have a dream," while Malcolm X, on the other hand, repeats the phrase "I am not...." In the different instances, the two characters use repetition to imply different events and occurrences in line with the context of their speeches. The audience itself echoes these words. The repetition present becomes a phrase for every black like that would understand what they meant as they gave them the courage they needed. For instance, in case the audience missed the phrase by Malcolm X, he would emphasize by using the word "you" and repeated it severally.

Moreover, the speeches also used other the rhetoric devices, for instance, the direct address. For both of them, they openly addressed their audience using direct words and implying on their targets and aims. For example, Malcolm X uses the phrases, "I am not an American, but a victim of Americanism" together with using words like "Hunkies," "Polacks," and "blue-eyed thing" (Malcolm).

Approach on the Same Problem and the Difference in Perspectives

However, these two talks deliver details that focus on a similar problem. the addresses did not only focus on solving a problem and aimed at a common goal that entailed the "actual and real freedom for the African American." Within the context of the speeches, in Malcolm X's speech, it implies on the predicaments concerning the attempts of Malcolm to frighten the white. He claims that of the political system that is "the ballot" will not give them their freedom and rights, then "the bullet" which involve civil rebellion will (Malcolm, 8). For Martin Luther King, he keeps alluding his speech and statements to the Emancipation Proclamation which played a dominant role in delivering his intentions to help the black gets the rights and equal treatment.

Additionally, the speeches are delivered from different perspectives. The differences in the perceptive come up through the delivery of the talks. For Malcolm X, he felt that the African Americans needed to get and understand that they were all together in everything. His vision was darker compared to King's. With a focus on Malcolm X's perspective, he was an advocate of violence and also a radical who was willing to destroy anything to acquire his ambitions. On the other hand, Martin Luther king's perspective was based on his pacifism.

In conclusion, I believe that the repetition rhetorical approach is more successful than the other. For both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, they used specific phrases that emphasized on the aims of the speeches. With repetition, it helped create an emphasis on the statement of the problem which also implies on the topics of the addresses.

Works Cited

King, Martin Luther. "Martin Luther King I Have A Dream Speech - American Rhetoric." Americanrhetoric.Com, 2017,

Retrieved from:

X, Malcolm. "Malcolm X: The Ballot or The Bullet." Edchange.Org, 2017,

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