Letter From a Birmingham Jail
I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say wait . These were the words used by an imperative character that wrote a call for segregated individuals in the United States. The feeling depicted by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail is expressed by the use of an imperative ways of speech that create a tone of urgency in the first half of the excerpt, and the use of a more sanctimonious, and pious form of speech and tone in the second half.
In the beginning of his letter King draws the readers towards his essay by using a series of accelerated and straightforward phrases. In the beginning of his first paragraph he writes The Nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet like speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. The use of words like Jet like, speed and goals are used to describe the successful achievements of these other countries like slower and more unfavorable words like pacing and creeping are used to portray the American lack of success in the previous years. Also the expression related to the gaining of a cup of coffee doesnt depict much of an accomplishment for the people, it is more of a sarcastic view of the little progress made with the movement. To get on the more realistic side and to ensure the understanding of all the victims of segregation King writes But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whimthen you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. The use of descriptive speech in this quote creates a sense of understanding and relation between the reader and writer. The use of effective imagery in his speech serves as a way to express a sense of understanding from the author and a sense of trust from the reader. Kings use of contrasting and imperative speech and imagery in the first half of the excerpt generates a tone of urgency towards the situation.
In the second half of the excerpt King switches from his urgent tone to a more religious one. For example he writes, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. So, after all, maybe the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists The fact that King mentions the South before any other location emphasizes the fact that he is still most concerned about racial segregation. By addressing to religion he encourages pious people to be part of the extremist movement that according to him needs to take place. Kings final saying in the excerpt is We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. The combination of the words freedom, nation and will of God create a sense and feeling of unity among the segregated people. Kings use of religious speech to promote extremist movements is important because it validates the movement in the religious side as well as the moralistic side.
Although Martin Luther King keeps an urgent tone throughout his whole letter, he emphasizes to a greater extent in the first half of the excerpt. King begins by undermining previous attempts to reform, then he makes the crowd comfortable by showing them that he understands what theyve gone through and the people that are making them wait dont. After this King switches to a more straightforward tone, which encourages an extremist movement. Finally King includes a sacred meaning to the whole speech to make sure that the people arent discouraged by thinking this kind of movement would be unethical. Kings effective use of speech is reflected in the path and careful selection of words that would appeal the most to the masses.