In Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s rejoinder to the clergymen, King sheds light on the clergymen’s earlier statement claiming that King was “untimely” and his being there was inconvenient to them. King opens his reply to their statement with a demonstration of downplay on the clergymen’s argument by calling their point “basic”, as if their idea was too underdeveloped for him. He does this to subtly attack the clergymen and make them see him as their equal, or even their superior. This sets the stage for the next paragraphs while also adding a sarcastic tone. This sarcasm is expressed through “We are sadly mistaken” which suggests the idea that it is sad that the clergymen cannot recognize why King is there. This subtle insult only makes King look better than his opposition, and it forces the clergymen to realize that they had been blunt. King then juxtaposes “gentle” with “segregationists” in order to call attention to the extreme difference between the two words. The clergymen would then realize that they themselves, however gentle, are segregationists and cannot be both at the same time. Dr. King then creates an analogy comparing morality to “light.” Not only does this analogy offer a strong comparison of morality to light, which can already be associated with good and pure, but light can also be considered religious. Kings shows a strong sense of audience by using strong religious allusions to appeal to the clergymen’s faith. He would only do this in order for the clergymen to realize that King is a person and their lord had created them as equals.
King transitions from his previously composed style to a more indignant and emotionally driven paragraph. He expresses this transition through his strong diction choices that include, “demanded”, “Frankly”, and “Never.” These powerful word choices are found in short, staccato sentences or independent clauses. King begins this transition with his first sentence. This sentence contains parallelism through “voluntarily given by the oppressor” which is parallel and juxtaposed to, “demanded by the oppressed.” King separated these two connected ideas into separate clauses in order to emphasize each part equally and independently. Dr. King then puts emphasis on the word “Wait” through repetition, “Wait” eventually turns into “Never” which is a stronger word choice with an increasingly negative connotation. King induces this transition to draw attention to the unjust underlying meaning of the word “Wait” and justify his position further by implying that if he had waited nothing would ever be done about the injustices in Birmingham.
Dr. King opens his fourteenth paragraph with appeals to patriotism (constitution), and appeals to religion (God). The clergymen are forced into the realization that they share interests with King. They would see that they share feelings of love toward their country and their God. Through this, they would feel that they are not hating a Negro, but a fellow man of God, a fellow citizen of the United States. King turns to deliver a massive sentence in an attempt to give the clergymen real examples of what happens to black citizens. In order to emphasize this idea King repeats “When you” and places it in front of every independent clause. King’s list of injustices that the ‘white man’ had yet to understand was created to induce a sense of overwhelming grief and guilt after empathy made the clergymen place themselves in the place of King. After his long, powerful sentence, King makes analogy comparing endurance to a cup. This analogy is not only a warning, but a way for King to tie himself to a group, a whole race, in order to drive in the idea that the oppressed will either be set free, or set themselves free.