Critical Study on Abraham Lincoln's "The Ghettysburg Adress" and Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" Speeches.

Essay by lyrembCollege, UndergraduateA+, October 2005

download word file, 4 pages 5.0

There's more than one way to skin a cat, likewise, there are numerous ways to interpret a text. It is crucial that we engage it from different perspectives, within different contexts, and value it for its various qualities. Using the Post-Structuralism reading and by looking through different contextual windows, we can give Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address and Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream speech', innumerous permutations of meanings. We can also choose to set aside the different contexts, and appreciate it for the skill of the speaker and the artistry for which the speech has been written, by taking the New Criticism approach. Every reading is just as valid as another, and ultimately it comes down to the responder.

The nature of Post Structuralism is that the texts have infinite number of interpretations. The meaning we give the text is subjective and is a directly related to the context from which we are viewing the text.

The dominant reading is drawn from the most powerful people in society. As the North has just won a decisive battle at Gettysburg, Lincoln's people became the dominant group, and he was rendered an icon. As a consequence, his speech was given tremendous value. It was a speech of patriotism, encouragement and hope for the people. But as we read the speech from a different perspective, our interpretation changes accordingly. From the Southerners point of view, they are taking a resistant reading to the text; being strongly opposed to the abolition of slavery, the speech is threatening their way of life. On the other hand, from an African American perspective, Lincoln did not go far enough. Lincoln's talk of Liberty and 'the proposition that all men are created equal' were not consistent with their treatment by society, and they demand more to be...