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Paragraph 1 • Antiphrasis • While perhaps he did not intend it, we can assume that the intended audience—the Clergymen, may have taken offence to ‘My DEAR fellow Clergymen.’ Therefore, his friendly, non-riot-enticing way he used and intended the word is ironic. • Metabasis • Almost a thesis statement, King states what will follow in the letter. Similarly, he sets up a peaceful, non-aggressive approach to his letter. He is humble. This does not offend the reader, and therefore, keeps them reading, rather than having his letter crumpled up into a ball and tossed in the dust bin.
Anadiplosis Here, he is clearly refuting the Clergymen’s letter, by stating that he is not an outsider. He places these words close together not only to say why he is here, but that he is. 2nd Paragraph • Conduplicatio • Reiterates the fact that he is here with a reason; King did not simply show up in Birmingham with no initiation. • Historical Perspective • King is arguing against the Clergymen’s accusations of him as an outsider. He explains that his organization may be headquartered in Atlanta, but his reach extends to the entire South. King wanted the fair treatment of Blacks across the country, particularly in the South, for everyone—not just Atlanta.
I don’t really know either. • Allusion • King uses an reference to the prophets of the 8th century B.C., and the Apostle Paul because 1) he knows that the Clergymen (should) know what he’s talking about, and 2) it’s a very very similar story to his own. 3rd Paragraph • Historical Perspective • As he was locked in a jail, Black, and not much loved amoung the white community, the only reference King had… was his own. To be able to remember names, dates, stories, all at the drop of a hat, it really shows not only how brilliant King was, but also his devotion to his faith.
Antithesis • By juxtaposing Injustice and justice, not only is he emphasizing the word ‘justice’, one that he will use throughout his letter, but he also implies that the Clergymen are not doing enough. Paragraph 4 • Epanalepsis
Understatement • By understating what he believes the Clergymen feel, he removes the arrogance from a statement, the implied incrimination, and of course, the crumpling and tossing of the letter before it is ever read. Paragraph 5
6th Paragraph • Distinctio • King clearly states the steps that his nonviolent campaigns go through—this adds emphasis to the legitimacy of the campaign and also shows the non-violent-ness of the campaign. That is to say, he isn’t teaching his followers to burn and pillage. • Historical Perspective • Fortunate or unfortunate, King and his followers were not the only ones fighting for the freedom and fair treatment of Blacks in America. Some groups, such as the followers of Malcolm X, were violent extremists. And, just as one might expect, violence was rather frowned upon, giving other, non-violent groups a bad name.
Anaphora • King explains that he asked his followers if they would be able to withstand humiliation without loosing their pride. The repeated use of ‘Are you…’ adds emphasis to the extent of the work that had to be put into this ordeal. 7th Paragraph • Rhetorical Question • In context, these questions were to be asked and answered by someone other than the reader. However, King is also asking the Clergymen—could you do the things that these people have done? Could you stand up and not fall down? • Historical Perspective • It wasn’t easy to march in a non-violent protest. It was easier to partake in a violent rebellion—at least you could fight back. Law enforcement always seemed to think that petitioners could, at any moment, get violent. They sprayed people with fire hoses, beat them with Billy clubs, arrested them, assulted them, and any number of other horrible things to them. It took real pride to not fight back.
Hydrophora King asks his audience, ‘Why direct action? ‘ and he proceeds to explain why this course of action was needed in his entire letter. He needed to explain to the clergymen that they were not right by a divine order—they were simply ignorant. • Historical Perspective • Eugene ‘Bull’ Connor was and anti-Black, anti-union white supremacist with little tolerance for protesters. He had King’s protesters sprayed with firehoses, dogs attack them, and generally the Law Enforcement beat the people. However, it backfired, and the nation-wide news coveragehelp shift the public opinion of Civil Rights. • Parataxis • Adding the ‘and’ adds a sense of continuity; like it all happened at the same time, in a sequence. 8th Paragraph
Procatelipsis • King asks his audience the questions he assumes they have been asking, repeating the very important word, ‘Why?’. Not only is this word the nightmare of parents everywhere, the basis of science as we know it today, and the overwhelming and burning question we all seem to be asking Tiger Woods, but it is also the drive behind King’s push. Why. 9th Paragraph • Antithesis • By juxtaposing monologue and dialogue, he emphasizes his desire to negotiate with the white society and come to an agreement. • Historical Perspective • King was an intellectual; a man of words (as so aptly shown by this letter). He did not feel like he needed to use violence to be heard, unlike some of his counterparts. He wants to create ‘tension’ in hopes that he will be able to be heard because of that, because without a reason to, the whites would not listen.
Epithet • King starts to paint a beautiful scene of a church (which they should be able to picture) in Alabama (which he has been referring to it as ugly) in order to prove that he believes justice, peace, and full Christianity can be fostered here, in this… not-so wretched state. Paragraph 30
Paragraph 11 • Onomatopoeia • The use of the word ‘rings’ implies that it is sharp; piercing. It is a stronger word and adds emphasis. • Expletive • It really shows that 1 single, 4-letter word can kill the hopes and dreams of millions. • Expletive • It draws attention to his blunt honesty. • Historical Perspective • Albert Boutwell was seen as a moderate. His election, some would say, was a response to Bull Connor’s more extreme racism and anti-Civil Rights legislation. King is right in stating that Boutwell might be better for his cause, but it would be better had blacks been able to vote. • Antithesis • He juxtaposes ‘oppressor’ and ‘oppressed’ not only to establish the difference between them, but to use powerful, historical words to emphasize his point. Blacks are oppressed now—what difference is that for a synonym of oppressed—slaves? • Antithesis • King juxtaposes delayed and denied, making a very strong statement: you are breaking both the law of the constitution but also going against your faith.
Anaphora • The general population of whites, particularly the segregationists, would simply advert their eyes to the affects of what ‘separate but equal’ really meant. King effectively uses pathos here to demonstrate why he did what he did, why he was doing what he was doing, why he was fighting for this cause. • ScesisOnomaton • Not only does it stretch out the phrase, the idea, but it also, literally, makes it seem longer—not only by day, but by night. • Polysyndeton • By using a number of ands, it is almost like an addition sign. Not only but this happen, but ADD this AND this AND this. 12th Paragraph • Epistrophe • After the end of a monster Sentence, using the same word as the end of the previous sentence reminds the reader what he was explaining. • Alliteration • This not only draws attention to the phrase, but it also adds the slightest irony—your tongue may twist and you may stammer over the repitition. • Asyndeton • By never using a conjunction between phrases, it doesn’t allude to an end until the final period. This makes the list of atrocities seem never-ending. • Epistrophe • ‘just laws’ is extremely important to him—its what he’s fighting for– and he emphasizes how important they are to society. For segragationalists, laws only had to be just for themselves, but if it was Unjust to someone else, it obviously makes the whole thing unjust, right? • Antithesis • By juxtaposing just and unjust, not only does it clearly say what he means, but it also leaves no room for anything else—no room law laws that might be just, or just to some people. • Allusion • King alludes to St. Augustine, someone the Clergymen should know, revere, and never doubt his word. It brings authority to his argument.
12th Paragraph Cont. • Enumeratio • By listing a long number of things, but always starting with the same phrase, Kings emphasizes not only what he and his people go through, but also the fact that the Clergymen really have no idea what he goes through every day. • Historical Perspective • legal segragation started with the Supreme Court’s decision on Plessy vs. Ferguson, claiming that ‘separate but equal’ (not those exact words) was constitutional. However, like many things, this also had an affect on the people of America and their mindset. Because… no one was enforcing separate-but-equal laws. And the lack of equality brought around just that.
Hypophora • King emphasizes throughout his entire letter the difference between justice and injustice. Here, he asks the question of his audience, and then proceeds to define it in a way that the audience has to agree. • Historical Perspective • King mentions how his people were being brought down to the status of objects. They, to the whites, weren’t ‘people,’ but might as well have been any large object in their way. Useful, perhaps, when physical labour needed to be done, but useless otherwise. Objects could be property. And under U.S. law before the Civil War, slaves were property. Just because the US government had slapped the label of freedom on the blacks, it doesn’t mean that anything was different at all. Paragraph 13
Paragraph 14 Anadiplosis In this case, King uses the phrase ‘unjust law’ not only to make it very clear what he is talking about, but to also encourage the negative connotation of ‘unjust.’ • Historical Perspective • Poll Taxes. Grandfather Clauses had been outlawed, but a poll tax could be charged to anyone so that they could vote. Not only was this offensive, but some couldn’t pay it—segregation was not just on a political level, but an economic level as well. Well-paying jobs were hard to come by, and if it came down to feeding your family or voting… the choice is rather clear.
Simile He uses the simile of a boil to imply the nastiness of the subject— Unjust laws. Segregation. Similarly, it will only be cured when it is brought to light and lanced off. Paragraph 19
Allusion • He references Socrates, and his death. Socrates drank the hemlock and died, even if he was given the chance to leave. He implies that he, and possible his people, are willing to die for their cause—much like the American Revolution. This is a very powerful allusion that one can draw many conclusions from. Paragraph 20 • Allusion • Again, King uses Jesus as a reference, the one man that the Clergymen ought to be familiar with. It reminds the audience (The Clergymen) that King is on the same plane as them—he is just as learned as they are—and it also reminds them of the divine sovereignty. King is not preaching to them, he is justifying his argument.
Paragraph 23 • Historical Perspective • Groups like the Black Panthers and the followers of Malcolm X had, unlike King, a string sense of Pride that extended beyond the belief in equality—they saw themselves as better, and would show this in violent displays. No bueno. • Hyperbole • King enphasizes the fact that Blacks aren’t going to simply stand in the shadows without freedoms. Millions might not convert themselves to violence, but certainly thousands, and that could potentially kill.
Paragraph 26 • Historical perspective • It was a paradox. The whites wouldn’t do anything about it. The black had no say—no vote—to place a black into a position of power, where he could make reforms. Who would listen to them? They needed the backing of the voters. They needed some whites. • King hits on a a group that Nixon will refer to in later years– the silent majority. The ‘average Joes’ that go about their daily lives, not as extremists on wither sides. To the cause of Civil Rights, they were, for the most part, apathetic toward it. Maybe it would happen. Maybe it wouldn’t. But they had the power to change things. • Aporia • By saying that he might have expected too much, he draws attention to the fact that it really wouldn’t be that big a deal for the whites. That, for them, it really would be a simple thing. Fish.
Expletive • By interjecting the word ‘oh!’ into his sentence, he adds a real sense of exasperation and anguish. It is much more powerful than a simple sentence. Paragraph 31 • Historical Perspective • Some segregationists used religion to back their arguments. Here, King points out that he too is a man of God, and that Christ himself would not have wanted what was happening—this is the opposite statement of what the segregationists would say.
Chiasmus • The reversal of the grammatical structure separates the two parts of the sentence, emphasizing the difference in time periods, but also bringing attention to how similar they are. • Allusion • He refers to the Pilgrims, the seekers of religious freedom—who the Clergymen should be able to relate too– who are generally considered to be the first people to arrive by 5th graders across the country. It is the first this children study in history class. • Allusion • King Alludes to the Declaration of Independence—the document that supposedly freed the country from all oppression. It’s a bit of a slap in the face. • Epistrophe • King uses ‘We were here’ at the end of two consecutive clauses to reiterate the fact that the blacks were, of course, a apart of America for just as long as the whites. It does it better than had he changed the wording because it provides continuity in the sentences. • Historical Perspective • Before the Civil War, and for a little bit afterward, slavery was needed in the South, because that was on which the Southerners had based their economy. So really, Blacks kept the South alive, not the rich whites. • Anaphora • Using the word ‘before’ at the beginning of the sentences adds a continuity—it re-iterates a point by making it additive, rather than two separate statements. Paragraph 34