The purpose of this study was to examine Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s rhetorical motives behind his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” King faced opposition towards his leadership and his civil disobedience method due to failed events prior to the oration. His goals for his delivery of the “Mountaintop” speech included reinstating his leadership as well as reinvigorating his nonviolent approach in the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis. I employed a cluster agon analysis, which is a branch of dramatism, to the speech. This Burkean method of analysis involved the examination of “God” and “Devil” terms and how they conveyed the ultimate ideal message King wanted his audience in Memphis and beyond to follow as well as the ultimate evil message King wanted them to avoid. King offered his audience of sanitation workers as well as others involved with the Civil Rights Movement a choice of whether to accept his message or not, while using his rhetorical discourse to eliminate division among the audience and convince them to go in the direction of nonviolent demonstration for civil and economic rights. This study helps uncover how “God” and “Devil” terms help speakers persuade their audience to take action.


Bostdorff, Denise


Communication Studies; History


Critical and Cultural Studies | History | Speech and Rhetorical Studies


Key Words: cluster criticism, cluster agon analysis, Martin Luther King, Jr., “God” and “Devil” terms, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop, ” motive, Civil Rights Movement, injustice, unification

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2015 Nathan R. Lapin