Rhetorical Analysis Of Letter From Birmingham Jail

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Martin Luther King Jr. was a key leader in the civil rights movement, and is well known for his Alabama bus boycott as well as many other nonviolent forms of demonstration against segregation. He wrote “Letter from Birmingham Jail” from his jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama after being arrested for peaceful protesting, in 1963. This letter is a response to “Statement by Alabama Clergymen,” in which various members of the clergy criticized King’s efforts to take a stand against discrimination. Throughout paragraphs 13 and 14, King uses metaphors, antitheses, as well as a somber tone in order to appeal to pathos, to argue for the priority needed to change segregation laws. In paragraphs 13 and 14, Martin Luther King Jr. uses metaphors to appeal …show more content…

In order to express why he is taking direct action in the fight against racial discrimination, King states: “we know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed” (King, paragraph 13). The use of the words “oppressor” and “oppressed” create an antithesis which uses two opposite words to create a parallel sentence structure. In this case the “oppressor” can be viewed as the unfairness of the laws discriminating against African Americans and everyone who supports these laws, including the clergymen. The “oppressed” are the African Americans, who constantly have to face injustice. The use of the words “given” and “demanded” also creates an antithesis in which King explains how freedom will not be simply given by those who are taking the freedom away in the first place, but rather, that the ones being stripped of their rights have to demand to have them back. King also uses an antithesis when he writes “when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society” (King, paragraph 14). The use of the words “poverty” and “affluent” show the extent of the injustice faced by Black people. King describes Black people as being stuck in a cage to show that their rights have been deliberately stunted, and whilst everyone else in the …show more content…

In paragraph 14, King pulls from his personal experience to describe the constant discrimination Black people have to face on a day to day basis: “Living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”- then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait” (King, paragraph 14). When King describes how Black people have to deal with feelings of being outsiders and not knowing what life would throw at them next, King appeals to pathos and successfully triggers an emotional response from the readers. In his quote, King also writes “then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait” (King, paragraph 14) emphasizing his argument that the present segregation laws need to be changed now, and that the Black people cannot wait for justice any longer. A sense of anger and impatience can also be seen in this quote, in which King explains that the oppressors do not know and will never know what it is like to go through life as a Black person, and that they will never know how difficult it is to wait because they have not been through the same hardships. The overall tone of paragraphs 13 and 14 is somber as well as angry, which King uses to amplify the hardships of an African American in

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