Martin Luther King 's Letter From Birmingham Jail Essay

Martin Luther King 's Letter From Birmingham Jail Essay

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King’s Rhetoric
Atticus Finch says, “The one thing that doesn 't abide by majority rule is a person 's conscience” (Lee 99). In other words, people make personal decisions about themselves independently of other’s opinions. In the same way, Martin Luther King Jr. pricks the conscience by addressing issues surrounding the civil rights movement. He urges Americans to reflect and decide for themselves what they believe is right and wrong. In Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King uses rhetorical devices to dramatically convey his arguments about the purpose of the government as well as the non segregational rights, moral responsibilities, and violent nature of the governed, ideas which are still relevant today.
First, King implies that the purpose of the government is to protect and defend its citizens. For example, he refutes the clergymen’s praise for the police force. To emphasize their brutality, he uses parallel structure: “I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment... if you were to see them slap and kick… if you were to observe them… refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together” (King 750). Additionally, King says that the government must not only protect the people physically but also defend justice. He says that when justice is not preserved, “[it] becomes the dangerously structured dam that blocks the flow of social progress” (744). By using this metaphor, King compares something abstract, the law, to something tangible, a dam. While “social progress” is pent up in the “dam” of injustice, it exerts pressure and friction. The longer the dam blocks progression, the messier the outcome is whe...


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...ng. To disagree with King’s words is to disagree with Jesus’ purpose on earth. King eloquently advises that, like Jesus, people should abandon violence and embrace creative extremism.
Martin Luther King Jr. uses rhetorical devices to defend his opinions on the purpose of the government and the non segregational rights, moral responsibilities, and violent nature of the citizens. King’s ideas are still relevant today. History repeats itself; the conscience is led astray by the unfair opinions of a few people. Even so, King simplifies racism into a timeless argument that is easily applied and understood. The whole purpose of his letter is to encourage individual reflection over what is right. His depth of knowledge and precise persuasion organizes his defense so the answer is clear: it is time for Americans everywhere to rise up and join the crusade for equality.

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