Letter from Birmingham Jail Analysis

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Tommy Bellone
7th hr
5/17/13
Letter from Birmingham Jail

Martin Luther King wrote the letter on the 16th of April in 1963. He was responding to his fellow clergymen after they called him unwise and untimely. King was arrested for his civil disobedience in the protests and marches that he led. Martin Luther King's audience in the letter were the clergymen who are men of religion. Therefore King alludes to religious figures in order to appeal to the clergymen. He speaks in a respectful tone so they believe that he is a civil man and does not mean to offend them. In response to the clergymen's first claim that King is a an extremist, he uses allusions that appeal to the clergymen as well as anaphora and a rhetorical question. He refutes the claim that he is a lawbreaker by allding to religious figures and human rights. The clergymen also claim that King's actions are untimely. Martin Luther King responds to this with charged words and anaphora that are meant to refute their claim.

In response to the claim that he is an extremist Martin Luther King uses allusions and compares himself to religious extremists and shows that extremism is not exclusively negative to appeal to the clergymen's religious values and to prove that he is a positive extremist. When King claims, “was not Jesus an extremist for love... was not Amos an extremist for justice,” he is making an allusion to religious figures who fought for the greater good. This comparison appeals to the clergymen because he uses allusions they can relate to and also uses anaphora to stress the importance of his point. Another response to their claim King makes is “Will we be extremists for hate of for love?,” which proves that it is not necessarily negative to be an extremist. In asking this, Martin Luther King uses a rhetorical question to make the clergymen reconsider their claim and their definition of an extremist. King effectively counters his audience's accusations about extremists with...
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