Martin Luther King and Patrick Henry: Cry for Freedom

Robert Hernandez
English 11
October 4, 1996

Although Patrick Henry and Martin Luther King, Jr. are both skilled
orators and use similar rhetorical devices to appeal to their audiences, they
call for freedom for two totally different kinds of people. Both Patrick Henry
and Martin Luther King, Jr. show their strengths as speakers through their use
of these rhetorical devices. Among these are parallelism, allusions, metaphors,
and rhetorical questions. Both speakers use these devices well. Martin Luther
King, Jr. is infamous for using parallelism when he states, "Free at last, free
at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" Martin Luther King, Jr. also
alludes to the Declaration of independence many times in his speech. "I have a
dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its
creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal." These rhetorical devices help Martin Luther King, Jr. keep his audience
attentive and highly interested.
Patrick Henry uses biblical allusion when he states, "It is only in this
way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility
which we hold to God and our Country." Another rhetorical device that Henry
uses well is imagery. A good example of Henry's imagery is, "The next gale that
sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms!"
Henry uses these and many more devices to keep the attention and the open mind
of his audience who was mostly opposed to his viewpoint.
These two speeches were much more different than they are alike. The
main difference between the two speeches, in a general sense was that one calls
for a change through violence and war, while the other calls for a peaceful
solution. Patrick Henry's speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses calls for a
revolution against Great Britain. This must have been a difficult speech for
Henry to deliver because he was speaking to a group of people who were opposed
to his ideals. They gave the speech pre-revolution and was an attempt to
persuade the Virginia delegates to solve the colonies' problems with the British
through war.
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech was much different than Henry's. First
of all, King was asking for a peaceful solution to the problems between the
white Americans and the African- Americans. This speech was also different from
Henry's because he was speaking to a crowd that was supportive of what he had to
say. They aimed this speech, given on the Lincoln Memorial in the early 1960's,
at persuading African-Americans to solve their problems with whites through a
peaceful method.
Both Patrick Henry and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speeches had their
similarities and differences. Among their similarities are that both were good
orators. They displayed this through the good, similar rhetorical devices that
they used, and through the way their audience reacted to their speeches. Both
men were taking risks by speaking the ways and at the times they did speak.
Among the differences between the two speeches are the change that they are
causing, and the way in which the change is to be made.