Rhetorical Devices In Letter From Birmingham Jail

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If a person was in jail for peacefully protesting against an injustice in society, only to have their cause attacked and ridiculed by white religious leaders in the city’s religious community, would the person write a moving and inspirational speech in response? Martin Luther King Jr. did in his speech, “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. In his letter, King gives the counterargument of the time was right to take direct action in Birmingham and that King had all the reason to be there. King furthers this purpose by developing and refining claims that strongly support his position against his fellow clergymen’s beliefs through the use of rhetorical devices such as imagery, metaphors, pathos, logos, ethos, and others. In the beginning of his speech, …show more content…

In his argument on why time is not the answer to the problem of oppression and racism, King calls time a neutral force, one that “can be used either destructively or constructively” (par.21), and gives the reasoning of “human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability” (par.21). King uses both contrast and metaphor in these two pieces of his reasoning. By contrasting the words “destructively” and “constructively”, King emphasizes his belief that time is not a force that is either evil or righteous but is in fact neutral and can be used for either causes. He also emphasizes this through the metaphor of progress rolling in on the wheels of inevitability. This metaphor supports his claim by showing that change does not happen on its own, it needs to be fought and won with struggle and sacrifice. And in order for the activists to make a change against the discrimination in the South, they need to struggle and sacrifice, not sit idly by and twiddle their thumbs. King also claims that his cause is not a bad one, and that he is in fact the middle ground. King reasons that if he wasn’t there and taking action, there would be more violence …show more content…

continues to strongly advance his purpose in writing the speech directed towards the clergymen by giving the claims of the fact that the white church and leadership have failed in leading the fight towards positive change in their society and that the demonstrators will achieve justice in the end. King strikes hard at the clergymen by accusing that “all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows” (par.28). This reference of “stained-glass windows” references the church and religious leaders to the point that it could only be more obvious if King called them out by name. The “stained-glass windows” reference also describes through figurative language that although the clergymen are not physically hiding from the world in their church, they are figuratively by avoiding the harsh realities of discrimination and not fighting to make a change against it. King also furthers the claim that the white church has failed in leadership by bringing up the idea that many of the religious leaders have “commit themselves to a completely otherworldly religion which made a strange distinction between bodies and souls, the sacred and the secular” (par.30). The parallelism at the end of King’s sentence strengthens the idea that the church is focusing more on the skin color of a person’s body, not on their moral spirit or soul. By strengthening this idea through

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