Rhetorical Devices In Letter From Birmingham Jail

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Martin Luther King Jr., born on January 15, 1929, fought for the injustices of his brothers and sisters throughout his life. While being an active activist, Martin Luther King was imprisoned in Birmingham jail due to his participation in a nonviolent demonstration against segregation and discrimination in Alabama. During his sentence, he wrote a letter, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” to counter the criticisms of his actions from the clergymen by claiming that “An unjust law is no law at all”(par. 12), “Injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (par. 4), and “‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never’” (par. 11). Throughout the story, he uses many rhetorical devices, mainly allusions, to emphasize and develop his claims. King stated …show more content…

12). This means that there are 2 types of law: unjust and just laws. While the just laws should be followed and enforced, unjust laws must be changed in any mean and should not be followed. For example, King stated that, “Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. Any law that uplifts human personality is just” (par. 13). This means that laws are supposed to follow the, “Moral law, or the law of God” (par. 13), and are supposed to help the people, not harm them. He also stated that, “There are instances when a law is just on its face and unjust in its application”(par.16). This means that while some laws have good intention around it, the way it was enforced was not the correct way and could be considered unjust. He gives evidence of this such as, “Now, there is nothing wrong with an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But when the ordinance is used to preserve segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privileges of peaceful assembly and peaceful protest, then it becomes unjust”( par. 16). This means that even though needing a permit for a parade is a just law, the way it was being unenforced are unjust because it encourages segregation which makes it an unjust law. Using this way of thinking, King defends his willingness to break the law that he was accused of by basically saying that the laws are not meant to be and people should openly advocate …show more content…

This is evident because allusions, logos, pathos, metaphors, repetitions, and more are included in his story to develop his ideas. For instance, King stated, “Consciously and unconsciously, he has been swept in by what the Germans call the Zeitgeist…”(par. 23). By alluding to the Zeitgeist, which is a dominant set of ideas and beliefs that motivate the actions of the members of a society in a particular period in time, King allowed us to visualize the idea that oppressed people cannot remain oppressed because we can compare the urge to freedom as the set of ideals and belief in the Zeitgeist. Another example is that King stated, “It has been a tranquilizing thalidomide, relieving the emotional stress for a moment, only to give birth to an ill-formed infant of frustration”(par. 11). King uses this metaphor, comparing the tranquilizing thalidomide to the whites saying "wait", to help emphasize the fact that the African Americans cannot wait much longer. Thalidomide will lose its effectiveness when it is used too often and will not solve a problem, just like how the whites say "wait" will gradually lose its effectiveness and does not solve the problem the African Americans are facing. Another example is that King stated, “I say it as a minister of the gospel who loves the church, who was nurtured in its bosom, who has been sustained by its Spiritual blessings, and who will remain true to it as

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