Martin Luther King is regarded as one of the most influential thinkers and fighters for Civil Rights in the USA. His “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is one of the numerous examples of this activist’s effective addresses to people. In this piece, Dr. King responds to white religious leaders who try to undermine “unwise and untimely” African Americans’ struggle for their rights (qt. in King 1). The central theme of the letter is injustice and the need to eliminate it to make the American society follow the natural laws of morality. The author uses numerous devices to make his writing powerful and appealing. This paper includes a brief textual analysis of the letter.
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In order to make his ideas clear and persuade his audience, Dr. King employs repetition. The words injustice and justice are utilized amply throughout the text. These words are used in the vast majority of paragraphs, and they are often placed more than once in a paragraph or even a sentence. King contraposes the two notions to enhance the idea of the reigning injustice in the American society and African Americans’ sufferings. For instance, the author claims, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (King 1). This powerful statement is, on the one hand, the justification of his travel to Birmingham. On the other hand, this claim is an argument to fight against any instance of injustice. Another example of the effective use of repetition is closely related to the notions mentioned above.
The word morality, as well as its derivatives such as immoral and immorality, is also repeated almost as many times as the pair discussed in the previous paragraph. Dr. King appeals to morality and the laws of Christianity and nature to unveil the injustice existing in American society. The famous activist provides a simple formula, “An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law” (King 3). Martin Luther King argues that segregation is immoral and should be abandoned.
Apart from explaining his position regarding the injustice African Americans have to experience, Dr. King also pays a lot of attention to the instrument they employ to fight against the existing laws. Action is regarded as the most potent tool that has to be used by anyone, including African Americans and Whites. The author refutes moderate White’s arguments concerning the natural course of societal development and the need to wait until segregation dies out by stating that oppressors never give away their power (King 2). Dr. King provides his definition of the word “wait” in this context, stating that it stands for “never” (2). It is noteworthy that never is another recurrent word that is utilized throughout the paper many times to reveal African Americans’ disappointed hopes. These repetitions and clear reasons make the letter very coherent and persuasive.
In conclusion, it is necessary to note that Martin Luther King managed to provide effective arguments to justify his and his fellow citizens’ fight for their rights. The letter addresses all the claims provided by the white moderate clergymen who wanted to make acts of disobedience seem unlawful. The use of such a rhetorical tool as repetition is one of the major features of the piece under analysis that makes the letter persuasive. Dr. King shows that some American laws are not in line with the laws of God and natural morality. These arguments make it clear that segregation is unjust and unacceptable, so it has to be abandoned as soon as possible.
King, Martin Luther. “Letter from Birmingham.” 1963, Web.