Analysis of Excerpt from Martin Luther King’s “Why We Can’t Wait”

Topics: African American, Black people, Martin Luther King, Jr. Pages: 2 (760 words) Published: February 11, 2009
America in the 1960’s was a dark, despairing environment for African Americans, or Negroes. Conditions in all areas of life were poor, chances of success were slim to none, and appreciation or acceptance in the community was barely a dream. Negroes of this time were downtrodden, disrespected, and poorly treated. In his book, “Why We Can’t Wait,” Martin Luther King uses historical allusion, emotive imagery, rhetorical questions, and juxtaposition to convey the negative, daunting poor social conditions of Black Americans in the 1960’s.

The first literary device utilized by King in his work is historical allusion. The subject matter which he presents to achieve his rhetorical purpose of depicting the dreadful situation of blacks in 1960’s America from firsthand experience is mostly historical in nature. King often references times in history in which African Americans have helped the nation greatly. He states that, “for two hundred years, without wages, black people brought to this land in slave ships and in chains, had drained swamps, built the homes, made cotton king, and helped, on whip-lashed backs, to lift this nation from colonial obscurity to commanding influence in domestic commerce and world affairs”. This historical reference illustrates how black people have really been helpful to this nation, yet are receiving awful treatment in the present day. King alludes to other significant events in the history of America involving Negroes to help prove his purpose as well. Certain heroes that represent the Negroes accomplishments such as Crispus Attucks are mentioned as well. King uses historical allusion as a literary tool to accomplish his rhetorical purpose.

Another literary device exemplified in this passage is emotive imagery. The image given by King to the reader captures the desolation and grim circumstances for the average Negro in 1960’s America. However, at the same time, King expresses the underlying hope of a brighter future for...
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