Argument Description In Letter From Birmingham Jail

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Gandhi, a mover and shaker in India’s independent movement would often state, “If cowardice is the only alternative to violence, it is better to fight.” This phrase was broadcasted to the public a couple of times to make in known that there is always another alternative, there is always the way of nonviolent resistance. Martin Luther King Jr., a leader in the civil rights movement, agreed with this claim as it states in his, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” in 1963. He was arrested for leading a protest against racial segregation in a march at downtown Birmingham. Clergymen from Alabama disagreed with King’s intentions, so he wrote his letter addressed to them. He uses his letter to speak on his behalf on nonviolent resistance to oppression and racism. To get his point across he makes an appeal to his readers by using pathos, and utilizes literary devices such as allusion, and metaphors.

“Letter from Birmingham Jail,” conveys moments about the suffering of the Black community. In order for Dr. King’s argument to be understood, you have to interpret why the situation is unjust. By using pathos, he gives a clear image of what African Americans have to undergo in the segregated south. He goes on to offer a quick view into the way the criminal justice system dealt with colored people that “if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women, if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men,” (King par.42) you would not be so quick to defend policemen “if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negros.”(42) He goes on with the use of pathos trying to get into the hearts of anyone who loves children when he describes the discomfort of being a African American parent. That “you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering”(14)when you try to explain why your kid can’t go to an amusement park because it’s “closed to colored children” even though you “see tears willing up in [their] eyes.”(14) Or even when you have to painfully explain to them when they ask, on “why do white people treat colored people so mean?” (14) By doing this Dr. King is conveying to white people, a highly relatable sight into the suffering of the Black community.

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M.L.K uses biblical allusions since he was a Christian to show and connect to his authority. He states that he is “in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so [he’s] compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond [his] own home town. Like Paul, [he] must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.” (3) Martin Luther King Jr. talks about admired extremists in the bible and in history. He uses Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson as examples to demonstrate that extremism can be significant as long as you can use it for love and not hate. He then suggests that the south is in need for an extremist. “An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in external law and natural law,” (16) was stated by St. Thomas Aquinas. Dr. king mentions him because he was a biblical figure of authority to the Christians. A Christian existentialist philosopher, Paul Tillich, was also mentioned my Martin because Tillich said that separation was a sin. There is a sense of authority when King mentions Tillich, because Tillich says that separation is a sin, King implies that discrimination and segregation is also a sin.

In his “Letter” King gets together metaphors to set up the ideas in influencing language. The manner in which he utilizes metaphors makes it simpler for the reader to shape their perspective on these theoretical thoughts. He conveys the light and darkness of this essay by utilizing metaphors. He expresses the “moral light” (12) required to fight the “stinging dark segregation” (14). In a more enhanced metaphor he writes, “ Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.” (47) Racial discrimination is connected with aggressive and gloom ridden images: “dark clouds,” “deep fog,” “fear drenched.” (47) These are obstructive conditions since they cast out the light and block our capacity of enabling us to see obviously. The bluntness of these pictures is diverged from light symbolism. By looking at “love and brotherhood” (47) to stars, Martin is suggesting that there is light that can fight the obscurity of partiality, foul play, and imbalance. By making this light and dim differentiation in his analogies king positions love, fraternity, injustice, equality, and the finish of isolation in positive ter4ms reviewing positive feelings, while division, despise, foul play, disparity, and the continuation of isolation with negative pictures and negative feelings.

King additionally utilizes the metaphor of ailment to discuss racial treachery. King makes reference to the “disease of segregation” (13,32) twice in his letter. He additionally looks at the certain demonstration of savagery of segregation and compares it to a boil: “Like a boil that can never be so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.” (24) Here king is attempting to pass on the result of a quiet dissent, contending that this conspicuous pressure is important on the off chance that we are going to determine the issue of treachery. He analyses imbalance of segregation to a rotting sore that must be uncovered. By and by disparity, and segregation are displayed as destructive and harmful, though the work he is doing is recuperating and supportive. The metaphor here interfaces isolation with negative feelings while social liberties activism is appeared with an increasingly positive effect, which makes it simpler to shape, in the reader, a positive impression of king’s contention.


In conclusion Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” confesses that he feels highly dissatisfied with the white community that disregards the suffering of African Americans, who assure equality but after all cannot fulfill their oath, of the police force instead of enforcing the laws disobey the laws, and the clergymen who do not enforce the divine laws. He had an outstanding impact on his readers because he could merge two important parts in this essay the emotion and logic. In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” king uses emotion presenting just how strong appeals to pathos can be. By doing this he gives examples of how white people mistreated colored people. Then he used logic with evidence expressing the truth using religious allusions, and emotionally laden metaphors, he attempts to convince his audience of the injustice segregation and to urge them to support the civil rights work he is doing. The combinations of these elements had as a result a direct and concise essay that can prove their arguments to the generality of its readers. [1256]

Works Cited

  1. Martin Luther King Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” April 1963
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Argument Description In Letter From Birmingham Jail. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 23, 2024, from
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