The purpose of King’s rhetorical speech was to end racism in America and persuade the audience that everyone should have equal rights.
How does he use language to deliver a strong message?
King uses similes “until justice rolls down like waters” and “righteousness like a mighty stream” to make the reader visualise “justice” and “righteousness” as rushing water – implying that they need to be forceful and unstoppable.
Exam questions may ask you to comment on how writers use language to make an impression on the reader.
You should select words and phrases for close analysis - to show that you understand how language features affect the reader.
Below are some of the features that writers select deliberately for effect:
Naming words. They may be:
Words that describe nouns:
Someone or something, the subject of the sentence:
|simile||A comparison using 'like' or 'as' to create a vivid image.||As big as a whale; float like a butterfly, sting like a bee|
|metaphor||A comparison made without using 'like' or 'as'.||'Sea of troubles' and 'drowning in debt'|
|personification||A type of imagery in which non-human objects, animals or ideas are given human characteristics.||The jaws of the cave, the leaves danced in the breeze|
|pathetic fallacy||The environment (usually the weather) reflects the mood of the character or scene.||The fog crept evilly through the streets as he stalked his victim.|
|onomatopoeia||The sounds of words to express or underline their meaning, sensory imagery.||Crunch, pop, screech|
|alliteration||The repetition of the same sounds usually at the beginning of words.||Reuse, renew, recycle|
|assonance||The repetition of vowel sounds in a series of words.||Harsh bark, moonlit pool|
|rule of three||Repetition in a group of three to strengthen an idea or argument.||Freedom, equality, and justice|
|connotations||Implied meanings suggested by a word rather than its literal meanings.||Red is a colour - but can imply danger, anger and stop.|
|hyperbole||Over-the-top exaggeration for effect.||I have ten tonnes of homework to do.|
|repetition||Words, phrases or ideas that are repeated for effect.||This is serious, incredibly serious.|
|rhetorical questions||A question asked for effect with no answer expected.||Do you think that I’m made of money?|
|emotive language||Words chosen to bring an emotional response.||Defenceless, hard-hearted|
Avoid ‘feature spotting’ – you need to show that you understand the impact of writers’ language choices on the reader and not just list them.
You should always comment on the possible effects of language use on the reader – how it makes the reader respond eg, think, feel, imagine or visualise something.