Rhetorical Devices In Letter From Birmingham Jail

Submitted By Jimenez8
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Martin Luther King Jr., a non-violent civil rights activist was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama during a peaceful protest against segregation. His “Letter from Birmingham” was a response to the eight clergymen who had published a letter “A Call for Unity”, in the Birmingham News April 12, 1963. In King’s letter to the clergy, he expresses his sense of urgency towards changing segregation laws through his use of a series of rhetorical devices, such as metaphors, similes, parallelism, irony, pathos in order to strengthen his argument in.
King uses several metaphors and analogies in his letter. His phrase “Disease of segregation” is used to compare segregation to a nearly incurable disease. Other turns of phrase like, “clouds of inferiority” and “mental sky” recall the rude awakening of reality poisoning the mind of the little girl with the prejudice and injustices. The feeling “nobodiness” he speaks of are of those of the “negroes” not having a say so, not having any rights, a constant battle to have what is morally right, but sad truth is that some are so used to being oppressed by the “white moderates” that segregation has sadly become a part of their “norm”. He also uses "jetlike speed" and "horse-and-buggy pace" to compare how Asia and Africa is headed towards political independence while America is in a stand still.
“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; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" ... Further on king uses many rhetorical devices to somehow “paint a picture "to not only the clergy men but the segregators or “white moderates” as well by using a personal ancedote by telling a brief story of what the everyday “negro” faces. He uses strong pathos and imagery so the readers can somehow sympathize and gain more of an understanding of how harsh and difficult life is like for them. He helps them to see things from his perspective. "It was