Letter from a Birmingham Jail Analysis

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In April of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a highly structured letter to eight clergymen who attacked his work in a public statement. Martin Luther King Jr. purposefully directed this letter at the eight leaders of the white Church of the South expressing the urgency of changing segregation laws, but ultimately his views and judgments spread to America as a whole. In paragraphs 13 and 14 of Letter from Birmingham Jail, we reach the expressive and climactic division of his essay. Throughout the essay King has kept a very calm, yet passionate and objective tone, but in these critical paragraphs is where we start to see the emotion fall through the page. In order to demonstrate the urgent need for the reformation of segregation laws, Martin Luther King Jr. principally focuses on rhetorical devices such as potent imagery. This can be seen in paragraph 14 where King uses trenchant words, conjuring up distinct images, to display the need for a change in segregation laws. In this section, King is stating the harsh reality of the cruel actions towards blacks in the south. He writes, “But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown you sisters and brothers at whim…policeman curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters.” By describing the actions freely without repression, he gives the reader a powerful, gruesome image of what blacks had to face in his time period. In the quote, King talks about “vicious mobs” summoning a very rowdy, chaotic image. He brings the reader into the picture by using the word “your” to make sure the readers knows that it is not just King’s mother, father, brother and sister being beaten, but spiritually, it is their family as well. He also uses authoritative words and phrases such as “lynch your mothers and fathers”, “drown your brothers and sisters”, and “curse, kick, and kill”, to exhibit a painful image into our heads. The words and phrases he uses mentally stimulate the mind and open...
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