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“Letter from Birmingham Jail” Allusion Essay 

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    Martin Luther King Jr. is widely acknowledged as the leader of a peaceful movement to solve the issue of equality of all races. He is honored and celebrated as a hero for his dedication, the change that he brought unto the world and his clear, powerful speech of dreams and hopes which were shared by many people around the world into this modern day. King was imprisoned in the year of 1963 in Birmingham Jail for his participation in nonviolent protests for the injustices that African Americans had been experiencing for years.

    During this time he created his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. The letter exposes and brings notice to all of the injustices that had been happening in Birmingham and across the nation for years while attacking the segregation that had been brought unto African Americans, limiting their ability to know the concept of freedom. The letter also exposes the silence that is constantly brought upon the city when an injustice occurs. King’s power and strength as a rhetorician and passion for justice and equality is shown, using many strategies but most significantly allusions. Allusions are an effective literary device that authors use to help persuade their audience. Allusions are powerful tools which helps the audience better understand the reference from a different point of view and have a different outlook on different situations. Mr. King used allusions to his full advantage in the “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. Mr. King expressed his allusions in many ways which were with historical figures, the bible and laws that were forced upon the people. These allusions made Mr. King’s argument effective to the Alabama Clergymen and the general population.

    Ordained clergy in the Roman Catholic Church are either deacons, priests or bishops belonging to the diaconate, the presbyterate or the episcopate, respectively. Among bishops some are metro politicians, archbishops or patriarchs. The King’s audience were the clergymen in which his letter was in response to them who were famous religious leaders of the South. King knowing his audience used historical figures to his full advantage. Historical figures are of many ways Mr. King connects his writing with his audience to make sure they can look at a situation that is unfamiliar to them and connect it to someone that they are familiar with to see it from his point of view. The Clergymen or the general population doesn’t pay attention to Mr.King’s words with acceptance, his audience begins to accept his ideas because Mr. King utilizes the power of the word “extremist”. He expresses the word as being a positive characteristic than a negative characteristic in which the clergymen tried to force upon him. He does this by showing the clergymen and the general population that religious people that they follow and look up to are extremists as well. King constantly addresses extremism by using rhetorical questions to make the Clergymen and general population look at lives and what they believe differently . “Wasn’t Jesus an extremist for love?” (4.25.1) He uses rhetorical strategy to his full advantage because the Clergymen would not go against their own religious beliefs. This rhetorical question that Mr. King uses forces the Clergymen to view extremism differently because the clergymen look up to God so much. This also forces the general population that are religious and have experience with many extremists to see extremism differently. Due to this, the Clergymen and people in the generated population are forced to change their beliefs or rethink their ideas about extremism and how the situation that they are being faced is no different than the situation their God has gone through. “Was not Paul an extremist for the christian gospel” (4.25.3) King uses rhetorical strategies such as historical figure allusions to the clergymen and the generated population to show that he meant no harm but he only was an extremist for the love of equality and the love of the world.

    Dr. King was religious. He was a preacher and his powerful and inspiring sermons were one of the biggest driving forces of the Civil Rights Movement inspiring and motivating millions around the world. With thousands of people to march, boycott, demonstrate and go to jail. “Letter from Birmingham Jail’’ was written to a group of fellow Chrisitians and indirectly addressed to a highly religious country, so it’s got a ton of Biblical allusions. Dr. King makes sure his audience knows that God and himself have a powerful and strong relationship. “In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was the thermostat that transformed the mores of society”. (5.32.1) King is speaking on how the church has changed and how the current church must influence society rather than reflect it. He then speaks on the early chrisitans and how they made it their duty to follow God “Wherever the early Chrisitans entered a town the power structure dot disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being disturbers of the peace and “outside agitators”. But they went on with the conviction that they were “colony of heaven” and had to obey God rather than man.” (5.32.3) He then alludes to the passage in the book of Acts where Peter and the other disciples were preaching the Gospel of Christ then orders of religious officials and high priests. Peter then says it is his duty and more important to him to do what is right which is the will of God and offends many in the process. Due to this he is willing to sacrifice every and anything for the love of God. Mr. King uses this allusion strategy to show that he is completing and obeying the will of God’s word. The allusion then points out similarities. The high priests are the Clergymen and the religious population who find Mr. King’s doing as wrong, while Dr. King is St. Peter himself. Mr. King would rather offend the church officials than offend God. He would much rather fight for what is right and what is right is him fighting for equality of all people. The biblical allusions that Mr. King is an effective strategy. He shows the Clergymen and the religious population their faults and reveals unto them who they are acting like as people while showing them a biblical point of view on why he is acting and going about the situation the way he is.

    The general population can relate in many ways as well. Mr. King makes sure to add many laws that the colored people have to follow and this not only affects them but many others in the population as well. One law Mr. King uses is 1954. Brown v. Board. “ You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This certainly is a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in public schools…” (3.13.1). The 1954. Brown V. Board was a law that everyone had to follow. It was a series of cases of blacks who fought for segregation to abolish within schools. “ A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality” (3.14.1). Mr. King uses the Brown V. Board as an allusion to show the population that the laws that they have been forced to follow are degrading who they are. These laws and way of life forced upon them are affecting them in negative ways. This illusion will force the population to want change and to want to continue the fight no matter the circumstances that come with it because if they do not they will continue to suffer as the people.

    Martin Luther King Jr. uses allusions to make his argument to both the Alabama Clergymen and the general population to show that they shall continue this fight and they shall not stop until change comes unto them. He connects with the Clergymen and population in many ways through his allusions to let them know he means no harm but he means love, change and equality for all.

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