Guest Gitel Posted February 2, 2012 Share Posted February 2, 2012 (edited) Hello. I have a 16 year old son who is taking AP English Language (11th grade) thru the local school. He seems to be doing well but I am wondering if the grading is on target. I would hate for him to find out on the test that he was led astray, we still have time to work on essay writing. By the way this is not an essay that was written under a time constraint. It is an essay that was assigned to compare two works and was done as a homework assignment. It is pretty long. Anyway, would you tell me what number grade you think it deserves. Comments on problems or things he could do better would also be appreciated. (for example not end 3 of his paragraphs with the word "powerful" ;) ) Thank you in advance. Prompt: Compare the Declaration of Independence with MLK I have a Dream Speech in terms of the level of language, style and content. Are they equally powerful and resonant? Cite specific passages to illustrate your responses. Response: Historical Parallels: The Declaration of Independence and â€œI Have a Dreamâ€ The Declaration of Independence and Martin Luther King Jr.â€™s â€œI Have a Dreamâ€ speech were two of the â€œgreatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation,â€ (King 411). Deriving his argument from Enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke, Jefferson, in the Declaration, set forth some of the most famous phrases in our nationâ€™s history. Similarly, Martin Luther King drew on phrases from the works of those who had influenced him, such as the Declaration and Abraham Lincolnâ€™s Gettysburg Address. Although the level and type of language varies between the Declaration of Independence and Martin Luther King Jr.â€™s â€œI Have a Dreamâ€ speech and, at the time, each resonated with people differently, their similar style and content cause the texts to be equally powerful. The congruencies in the authorsâ€™ style, content, and structure make the texts equally powerful because both texts effect equal justification of their thesis through these components. For example, as he lists wrongs done by the king, Jefferson anaphorically makes use of the phrase â€œhe hasâ€ repeatedly and conjoins it with a descriptive verb, thus clearly, concisely, and correctly proving his thesis (Jefferson 408-9). This parallels Kingâ€™s use of anaphora in the phrase â€œI have a dream,â€ as he lists his desires for racial equality, demonstrating the power of his argument. As a build up to the anaphoric section, both authors introduce their topic prior thesis statement, which they place directly before that section. In doing so, both authors quickly reveal their style and tone, ensuring that the reader is utterly aware of the purpose of the piece. Furthermore, authorsâ€™ style discloses that they were wholly unsatisfied with the world they lived in. For example, phrases like â€œthe Negro isâ€¦sadly crippledâ€ and â€œdesolate valley of segregationâ€ (King 411-2) in Kingâ€™s speech parallel Jeffersonâ€™s lamentations of â€œabsolute Despotismâ€ and his desire for â€œfuture securityâ€ (Jefferson 407-8), all of which emphasize the inherent power of their argumentative skills. Since neither text is a work of fiction there is no plot, yet there is, to some extent, a denouementâ€”a final unraveling of the authorâ€™s purpose. Throughout both pieces, it is clear that both men wish to reject â€œgradualismâ€ and any temporization as well as eschew all pragmatic approaches to their respective dilemmas and free themselves and their compatriots from oppression. The inherent similarity in the content and purpose is particularly apparent in Kingâ€™s allusions to the Declaration, especially in the phrase â€œwe hold these truths to be self-evidentâ€ found in Kingâ€™s thesis statement (King 413). Another clear parallel part of their content and purpose is when they advocate for solidarity, which is clear in the diction of the phrases â€œjoin handsâ€ (King 414), â€œUnited Colonies,â€ and â€œpolitical connectionsâ€ (Jefferson 410). The arguments of both men are quite linear and never truly ramify, which helps the audience to truly focus on the information they are promulgating and thus, on the whole, the arguments are equally tenable and powerful. Though the similarities between the pieces plainly highlight the equality in power between the two pieces, the disparities between the texts also emphasize their comparable power. One of the most obvious differences between the two texts is the audience to which the authors direct each piece. Written by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence was read first by other members of the Second Continental Congress in 1776, who were, on the whole, well-educated and, to some extent, â€œdemigods.â€ Its other audience was the members British Government, who were at least as educated. In contrast, Kingâ€™s speech was addressed to a conglomerate of over two hundred thousand ordinary people who appropriately gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial as part of the March on Washington during the Civil Rights Movement. Because their audiences differed, particularly in education, their level of language naturally differed as well. More importantly, however, the type of language differs primarily because Kingâ€™s language is much more passionate than Jeffersonâ€™s. Jeffersonâ€™s logic comes through in his language and his use of words like â€œself-evident,â€ â€œFacts,â€ and â€œdictate,â€ and his use of the word â€œthereforeâ€ to transition into the final part of his conclusion demonstrate his syllogistic reasoning and help to emphasize his inductive evidence (Jefferson 407-9). On the other hand, Kingâ€™s language is much more emotional and he occasionally uses series of passionate rhetorical tropes with parallel structure like â€œ...tranquilizing drug of gradualismâ€¦desolate valley of segregationâ€¦sunlit path of racial justiceâ€¦quicksands of racial injusticeâ€¦solid rock of brotherhood...â€ to lend pathos to the piece and spur the audience to action (King 412). Though their level of resonance was similar, Kingâ€™s speech resonated with the emotional self, while the Declaration resonated with the logical self. Generally, difference in language caused this disparity; however, it is important to note that despite this difference, the timeline of events surrounding the reading of each text were quite parallel. Both texts came in the midst of tense protest of oppression: the American colonists in 1776 were transitioning from protest and boycotting of the British, to fighting them and the Civil Rights Movement was escalating around the time of Kingâ€™s deliverance of the speech. Following each came another document that solidified the temperament of each of period of protest: the Constitution in 1783 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Despite differences in the type of resonance and language in the texts, because the reactions to both texts were similar and their language helped to express their thoughts effectively and concisely the texts are equally powerful. Clearly, regardless of the disparities between the Declaration of Independence and Kingâ€™s speech, their use of level of language, style, content, and resonance are appropriate for each context and effect equally powerful arguments. The inherent similarity in purpose drove Kingâ€™s speech forward, and despite a more passionate approach, King knew his speech would be on par with one of the greatest documents in our nationâ€™s history, the Declaration of Independence Edited February 2, 2012 by Gitel Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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