Devices Used in Letter from Birmingham Jail

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In the Letter from Birmingham Jail that was written by Martin Luther King Jr. He is defending himself against eight clergymen accusations to which he explains the reasons for the civil rights demonstration and tries to justify the need for nonviolent protest in the Civil Rights Movement. He supports in his letter the idea that there everywhere is injustice. He uses repetition, analogy, allusion, and rhetoric appeals. The use of words, and feeling of emotions builds trust to get his message across. By describing how the Negros are treated badly and tortured he applies these devices to his letter.

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King uses pathos by stating, Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Saying this causes the readers to think about how injustice is a threat because of how it affects everyone even without them knowing. He uses pathos another time by saying that, We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. His statement is saying that you cant wait for freedom to be given to you, you need to go and take it and that is the whole meaning behind the civil rights movement. The way he uses pathos in his letter is showing how King really feels about the movement and how much they need to rebel.

King incorporates repetition by saying, But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; 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 and goes on for the whole paragraph with each sentence starting with when you. By using this technique, he is building an emotional case about how the Negror’s cant wait no long for justice. The many example he makes of the idea of waiting terrible. He is also making the readers feel bad for how bad they were treating the Negror’s by saying all these things that these white men did to the Negror’s. He is trying to tell everyone that they have names, jobs, and lives like everybody else.

King uses analogy by stating, Just as the prophets of the eight century B.C. left their villages and carried their thus saith the Lord far beyond the boundaries of their home towns Kingr’s uses of analogy helps the reader understand what King is doing in Alabama. Like the prophets went around Jerusalem and spread the gospel of Jesus, King is going around Alabama with the civil rights movement to help people understand that segregation laws are bad and they need to get rid of them. By using analogy King is appealing to the reader by making them think that the civil rights movement is just as important as the prophets were to Jesus.

King uses allusion by saying, A just law is a manmade code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. This line is an allusion because it refers to the Bible. He is saying that a just law should be like the ten commandments that God made which is otherwise known as the law of God. This allows the reader to understand how unjust laws should be correct to just laws like the law of God. This also gives some point to why King thinks they should change the unjust laws.

Concluding, MLKr’s letter to the clergymen made his points clear. His use of literacy and rhetorical devices helped him get his point across. His letter had a major impact on the Civil Rights Movement. Without all the emotion King put in his letter, the letter wouldnt have been the same. It would have stopped the movement and made people think if King was the right man to lead the movement.

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Devices Used In Letter From Birmingham Jail. (2019, May 28). Retrieved December 10, 2022 , from

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